Top 10 Weird Facts About Being Vegan
What exactly is Vegan? Some people think of them as ultra-strict vegetarians but that is not quite true. Many vegetarians allow themselves to eat animal products such as dairy and even eggs (which, strictly should be considered as meat as it is an animal cell). Vegans, on the other hand, do not allow themselves to consume any animal products at all. That means no milk, no butter or yogurt; it is a very restricted diet. Nevertheless, if followed properly, it can be healthy and provide most of the nutrients human beings need in order to be healthy. If the correct supplements are taken a vegan diet can even help, so it is claimed, to protect against chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Some vegans go even further than those that simply eliminate animal products from their diet and refrain from using any animal products at all, avoiding leather shoes and handbags etc.
Even though veganism has become more popular and a more mainstream dietary choice for many people there are still a number of misconceptions that survive with a lot of vegans having to explain their dietary restrictions over and over again whether in restaurants or when invited to eat at another person’s house.
We don’t think that we will be able to educate you about all the unusual things of veganism in this one article but here are the top 10 weird things you did not know about being vegan!
10. The term ‘Vegan’ was first used in 1944
Interest in a vegetarian diet had been growing since the 1800s both in the US and in Europe. Many of the people involved in vegetarian societies were interested in trying to eliminate all animal products from their diet but this strict stance was not well supported by many mainstream vegetarians.
In 1944, as the rest of the world was battling the Nazis and Japanese, striving to liberate those countries struggling under the terror of occupation and free the millions of people kept in death, labor and concentration camps around the world; six nondairy vegetarians in Britain had more important things on their mind! Donald Watson and his five friends wanted to found a new movement of vegetarians that would eliminate all animal products from their diet. They found the name nondairy vegetarians to be too cumbersome to describe their new movement. They looked at a number of alternative names including ‘benevore’ and ‘vitan’ before setting on removing the ‘etari’ from vegetarian to get their new name.
A few years later, the movement decided to adopt a definition to help explain what they were doing to bemused friends and acquaintances (many of whom were still struggling with the rationing that was prevalent in Europe at the time and who struggled to afford adequate meat in their diets). The slogan the Vegan Society finally settled on ‘to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man’.
9. veganism did not become a mainstream practice until the turn of the millennium
Since those early days the Vegan Society has gone from strength to strength, it has grown beyond its original home of the United Kingdom and Vegans can now be found worldwide. Veganism is even a protected belief under the European Convention of Human Rights!
In 1948 the first vegan society in the US was founded in California, this lasted as an independent entity until 1960 when it became part of the American Vegan Society. Around the same time the British and American Vegan Societies joined the International Vegetarian Union.
The first International Vegan Festival was held in 1981 in Denmark, these festivals have continued to be held every two years at a variety of locations world-wide. Due to the growing influence of the Vegan Societies and interest in the vegan way of life there are now Vegan societies in most countries around the world.
From the 1970s onwards, a significant amount of medical research showed that a meat and animal product heavy diet could lead to health problems and posited that a plant based diet would be healthier, particularly for people with chronic problems such as heart disease and diabetes. In 2005 Colin Campbell published a book called the China Study, a culmination of 20 years research on the topic. This book promoted a vegan diet and brought the concept of elimination of animal products in the diet to a mainstream audience.
8. Tel Aviv has over 400 Vegan and Vegan-Friendly Restaurants!
Can you believe that? The Daily Meal has named Tel Aviv, the top destination for vegans. We can’t wait for India to take a note from the Israelis and open just as many vegan restaurants, if not more!
Tel Aviv is also the home to the world’s largest vegan fest that is held every September. So, if you’ve any vacation time around that month, head over to Tel Aviv.
7. Honey is a hot topic in the vegan world
Honey is one of nature’s superfoods. It is a completely natural product packed full with nutrients, antioxidants and provides a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the day. It is an extremely versatile food that can be used in a variety of ways, as a salad dressing, marinade, a sweetener, a sauce for fruit or dissolved in hot water to make a tasty and soothing drink. With all these benefits it would be thought that honey would be a staple of a vegan diet.
There is one problem, however, honey is an animal (or at least insect) product, made by bees and then harvested by man. Some vegans will allow themselves to eat honey on the basis that it is a byproduct of bees who are free to leave their hive at any time. They are not harmed in the production of the honey.
Hard line vegans, as represented by the vegan societies around the world, do not believe that it is ever acceptable to eat honey which they characterize as ‘bee vomit’. They feel that the production exploits the bees and that the removal of the honey is, in fact, theft from the bees themselves. Eating honey while eschewing milk is, these hardline vegans claim, a compromise that places the rights of bees below the rights of cows.
For these reasons honey is not regarded as vegan. Other products, that at first glance seem acceptable, are also banned from a strict ethical vegan way of life, include pearls (production kills the oyster), silk (poor silkworms) and some lipsticks (the product of ground up cochineal bugs).
6. A lot of alcohol fails the vegan test
A lot of alcoholic drinks use animal byproducts either as an ingredient or in the production process. Where the product is listed as an ingredient it is relatively easy for vegans to avoid. The difficulty, for vegans, comes where products are used in the manufacture but do not make it in to the final drink. Even though they will not be consuming any animal products the simple fact that they have been used to make the drink means that a vegan (at least an ethical vegan) will not be able to drink it.
For this reason many vegans have to carry a list of alcoholic beverages around with them which they can then check to see if the drink they want to try is vegan compliant or not. Some of the drinks are obviously off limits – Baileys, the after dinner liqueur is made with cream, Campari and many red drinks and cocktails are colored with cochineal, made from crushed beetles.
Other potential problems are raised with liqueurs that use sugars that are refined in bone char and wines and beers that are fined through blood.
5. Vegans have to be careful about what sugar they eat
Sugar would seem, to most people, to be a fairly innocuous food (if one that should be used for a treat rather than consumed in huge amounts). Not so to vegans, however! The sugar sold in stores comes from plants (sugar beets or sugar cane) and should, therefore, be vegan compliant. The problem, however, is that sugar needs to be filtered and refined. Sugar made from beets does not need to be filtered through charcoal. Cane sugar, however, does and the source of charcoal is, in many refineries, charred animal bone.
The bone charcoal is not considered an animal product from a Jewish perspective (sugar is deemed kosher pareve, i.e. it contains no meat or milk) but many vegans disagree with this interpretation feeling that, from an ethical point of view, it is not acceptable to eat sugar that has been processed with the aid of animal products. Because it can be difficult to distinguish between beet sugar (which is often not labeled as such) and cane sugar, many vegans choose to avoid white sugar, confectioners’ sugar and brown sugar all together.
A suitable alternative for many vegans is unbleached cane sugar or syrups such as agave or maple syrup or even commercial sweeteners such as stevia.
4. A vegan diet can make you fat
Many people automatically correlate the word vegan with a healthy lifestyle. Cutting out meat and cheese and all the associated fats must surely be healthy and help to kick start a weight loss regime – right? Well not always. Turning to a vegan diet might help you to be healthy but it does not guarantee that you will not pile on the pounds. Many people find, as they look at the scales, they have expanded rather than shed the pounds they were hoping to. Vegans have to watch the calories every bit as much as those who follow a more traditional diet.
The modern vegan diet relies very heavily on soy and dairy replacement products. Many diet books are packed with recipes for healthy fruit smoothies made with lashings of soy or almond milk and a scoop or two of protein powder. While healthy each of these smoothies packs enough calories to make them a full-size meal so it is easy to overindulge. Add in other calorie-heavy foods over the day such as coconut-based products that are full of calories or nuts which are also calorie-rich and should be eaten in moderation and a vegan can find themselves eating far more than the recommended number of calories in one day.
3. You Can Save Forests by Being Vegan
No, not by hugging trees.
The meat industry needs large areas to raise animals that are used for food. So, forests are cut down, every single day, to sate the ever-growing demand for meat. Areas as large as football fields are cut down in the Amazon every day, to raise more and more animals for consumption. If you think about it, this is crazy. How many people are there on the planet? How many billions consume unhealthy Western meat and potato diet? How many billions of animals need to be killed for that, and how many millions of acres do we need to satisfy these cravings that are basically not even good for you?
How about some numbers?
According to Peta , an acre of the rain forest is mowed down for animal agriculture (cattle farming) EVERY six seconds … Every minute, areas that are approximately the size of seven football fields are cut down, to raise more farm animals for the meat industry. In 2004, 2.9 million acres in the Brazilian rain forest were bulldozed to grow crops that were used to feed farm animals. All the information in this paragraph comes from Peta. Regardless of your opinion about Peta (there are many mixed opinions), we can count on them getting their facts straight. And these numbers are alarming.
The counter argument is, what about soy? Aren’t large fields used to grow soy and grains for vegans and vegetarians? Basically, if the crops that we grow ended up on our plates and were not used to feed farmed animals for our meat diet, we wouldn’t need to destroy so many forests. The problem is not only in the Amazon, rain forests and forests are cut down everywhere around the globe…
2. Vegans tend to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs)
When it comes down to serious wins, the vegan diet has some pretty big ones. What’s better than saving hundreds of animals? Looking good doing it.
Several scientific studies have shown that vegan diets prove to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than omnivores. In addition to weight loss, vegetarians and vegans tend to experience lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and glucose levels when compared to non-vegans.
1. Make tons of stuff from scratch
From nut butter to dried beans to pizza dough (with some buckwheat flour, also weird enough that I wouldn’t serve it to guests), we’ve gone down a road of making an increasing amount of food from whole ingredients instead of buying it in packages. It’s fun and it brings us closer to our food, even if it takes a little more time. But not all that much time — we’ve found relatively easy ways to do this stuff, like making the nut butter in the Blendtec, dried beans in the slow cookers, and pizza dough in the food processor. No word yet on plans to go electricity-free.
So there you have it. Weirdness. And the best part of it all is that to many of you, so much of this will seem completely normal … just more evidence that, as Seth and Dr. Seuss say, we are all weird.
I’m sure glad we weirdos found each other.
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