Answered: 6 Questions You Have for Vegans

For those who aren’t sure what the term means, “vegan” refers to absolutely anything free from animal products. Lots of foods and products people commonly buy are naturally vegan. But veganism is a lifestyle in which a person only consumes animal-free products. This post will focus on food, but it’s worth noting that vegans also don’t wear animal products or engage in activities that harm animals.

I’ve been a vegan since I was a teenager. When I first embraced animal rights as an important value, people responded with skepticism to outright hostility. Going against the flow makes people feel judged, and I get that. The concept of veganism was still very new to the vast majority of Americans.

Over time, “vegan” has become a mainstream term as businesses openly court vegan consumers and as public figures, including both celebrities and elected officials, embrace a compassionate lifestyle. But the increased public focus brings its own forms of scrutiny. I’m asked questions about veganism so many times each month that I lose track.

The questions generally follow a pattern, so I figured it was time to answer the most common ones in one place. And I’ll be doing so without any of the horrific videos or images these sorts of posts tend to include.

Let’s get to it!

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Are you healthy?

Balanced plant-based diets are not only healthy, they’re actually superior to non-plant-based diets. Studies have shown that reduced animal consumption is connected to increased longevity.

While vegans have not been afforded much study of their own, vegetarians have been studied at length. (All vegan diets are vegetarian by default.) Findings don’t stop at a higher lifespan. People who don’t eat animals have a lower cancer risk, decreased chance of heart disease and better moods.

This is not to say every vegan is healthy. Only individuals on a balanced vegan diet will be healthy. Vegans can have an unhealthy potato-chip-and-soda diet just like anyone else.

The bottom-line: vegan diets are incredibly healthy when done responsibly, but a person can easily be a vegan and choose to eat unhealthy foods.

Where do you get your protein?

Complete protein (or “whole protein”) is considered to be any protein composite that contains all nine essential amino acids. Getting complete proteins from plant-based foods is incredibly easy. The reason people don’t realize this is because various lobbies don’t want you to know that.

However, many cultures have been getting complete proteins from plant proteins throughout history. A traditional Mexican rice and black bean meal contains complete protein. So do chickpeas, from which hummus is prepared.

A number of grains and legumes are complete proteins. And, of course, soy makes the list. Some vegetables have complete protein as well, such as cauliflower and turnip greens.

Because of my exercise level, I eat a particularly high-protein diet. So I make a daily protein shake in addition to my meals to get an extra boost.

What’s wrong with eating animals?

A whole lot. The most obvious answer is one of empathy: Humans who don’t need to harm others to sustain themselves shouldn’t do so. Vegans do not generally state that a starving person on an island should not kill for food, or that a sick person shouldn’t take an animal-based medication.

Veganism is the decision to be rationally kind and ethical consumers in our daily lives. Each of us have a natural tendency to only value individuals who reflect us, and this can be seen in the continuing attitudes around issues like race. But we are animals, and we should strive to not cause suffering to anyone, whether or not they look like us.

The average American consumer simply doesn’t need animal-based food to live a healthy and fulfilling life. We consume cruel products because we’ve been indoctrinated to do so by culture and advertisers. It’s not for our health at all. It’s to keep the animal agriculture industry afloat.

Okay, but what’s the matter with milk?

So glad you asked! Animals raised for their byproducts, including milk and eggs, are often treated even worse than animals raised to be slaughtered. And buying “free-range” or organic animal products doesn’t help. It’s the same cruel system no matter what it’s called.

But there’s a deeper philosophical issue at play: exploitation. Animals are their own beings, with families, language and emotions just like us. Many years from now, people will likely look upon the way we treated animals with the same animosity we’ve grown to view the era of accepted human slavery.

In fact, we’re beginning to see that change as consumers are beginning to reject companies like SeaWorld, which enslave other animals to entertain humans.

Shouldn’t we care about human issues first?

People are animals too. A vegan who doesn’t care about people isn’t doing a very good job at advocating for animals.

Choosing vegan contributes to the welfare of humans specifically. The World Health Organization recently recommended a global move toward vegan diets to fight climate change, since animal agriculture is a known leading cause.

Animal agriculture hurts humans in a number of ways aside from climate change, including using resources to feed factory farm animals that could be used to feed humans and contributing to the obesity epidemic that’s harming our children.

I’m convinced! How do I get started?

Shifting to a plant-based diet is much easier than people realize. I did it in a single day, and it’s simpler now than in 2006.

The biggest tip I wish someone had told me: Don’t try to mimic meat-based eating. While some meat and cheese replacements are great, they’re absolutely not the same thing as the products they’re replacing. They’ll taste different, which is totally fine with some people and make others miss their old diets even more.

Instead of mimicking, make an easy meal plan that targets all the important nutrients. It can be as delicious and luxurious or as simple and straight-forward as you like. Tons of fantastic recipes are readily available. Make sure to look out for vitamin B-12, calcium, iron and zinc. Those are the specific nutrients vegans should make sure they’re getting.

You don’t need to buy any special powders, bars or supplements to be a healthy vegan. (Although some of them are great!) Veganism isn’t a diet fad. It’s an ethical choice that people are increasingly realizing is good for both their own lives and the planet.

If you feel overwhelmed and want some extra help, PETA will provide you with a free starter kit.

Related:
5 Delicious Vegan Food Discoveries Everyone Should Try

 

147 comments

Ashley Gilbert
Ashley Gilbert3 years ago

Crazy how people ignore all the signs of animal cruelty and continue to eat animals every day. Those poor chickens had to live their lives confined to a few square inches living in their own poop with unnatural food just for you to have one tasty meal. So glad I finally woke up from tham ignorance and am transitioning to a vegan diet!!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marie B.
Marie B3 years ago

'Kim W' says: "Eat or be eaten is part of our survival"??

Funny, there are even more VEGANS than ever before. We don't have to "eat or be eaten" we know how to eat, and we don't have to eat animals or kill ANY animals.
It's 2015, the last I heard it's pretty easy to get your fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains...from the grocery or from your yard (garden). At least where I am from....and where are most people I know are from...


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Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik3 years ago

Thank you for good information about veganism :)

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Kim W.
Kim W3 years ago

Being part of the big bad food chain will take it's affect on our lives. Eat or be eaten is part of our survival.

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Maureen Welch
Maureen welch3 years ago

Roberta, yes i did read the article. I'm not into coercion or insults either, just the truth.

Sian, that just means meat eaters are causing more suffering considering all the plants consumed by the animals killed for "food".

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Sian R.
Sian R3 years ago

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/plants-can-hear-themselves-being-eaten
and
http://www.medicaldaily.com/scientists-confirm-plants-talk-and-listen-each-other-communication-crucial-survival-240775 -
vegans take note! Though I doubt that you will. At least we omnivores know what we're doing.

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AMANDA WILKERSON
AMANDA WILKERSON3 years ago

Thanks.

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Roberta G.
Roberta G3 years ago

Maureen...so you don't respect me? I really don't care. Too bad that you missed my point completely. My respect for other people and their life choices means accepting the person as they are, and not trying to change them thru coercion and/or insults.

You know what, Maureen? Neither one of those methods work. If you want to "convert" someone to veganism, listen to them and respect their opinions! That is the basis of Chris Sosa's fine article Did you even read it? Or understand it?

And by the way, we have eliminated much of the meat from our lives, but in the interest of health we will continue to eat a well rounded, moderate diet.

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