FRequently asked questions
Here are a little over 30 common questions people have about veganism along with a brief answer and explanation. I tried to keep them short and to the point so I encourage you to do more research along with this :)
What are all these labels a lot of vegans use like: HCLF, 80/10/10, Starch Solution, WFPB, WSLF, Rt4, and RAw?
What is a vegan?
According to The Vegan Society,
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as practical and possible, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
Vegans do not eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey or products that contain them. We do not purchase clothing or any other products that have been made with animal parts, such as a leather purse, wool socks, or soap that contains honey. We do not buy products that have been tested on animals. We do not participate in events that exploit animals for entertainment such as going to zoos, aquariums, or elephant riding. We adopt rather than shop for pets, meaning we do not purchase them from mills or breeders.
It's not possible to eliminate all personal contribution to cruelty, but what matters is that you're doing the best you can. It's not about perfection, it's about intention!
What's the differnce between veganism and a plant based diet?
Veganism is a lifestyle that is not only about health, but the animals and planet as well, whereas a plant based diet is just related to health. One who considers themselves plant-based does not consume meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey but does not necessarily avoid consuming, using, or doing any of the other things listed in the previous question as vegans would.
Why do people go vegan?
The 3 reasons people go vegan are:
for their personal health,
to contribute less to animal cruelty,
and to reduce their negative impact on the environment.
Is it hard being vegan?
Honestly, no! From my experience, and from what I've heard from many other vegans, it is not nearly as hard as you first expect it to be. Of course any big lifestyle changes are going to present difficulties, but for me the hardest part was transitioning to a vegan diet (by diet I don't mean that it is a diet, I just mean the food-related part of veganism). Once I went vegan (February 1st, 2015), it was not by any means hard to stay vegan. I have never craved non-vegan foods or purposely eaten them (although I have on accident many times) and when I look back now, it's kind of funny how worried I was that I wasn't going to be able to do it- and now it's second nature. Everyone's experience will be different though and if you rush into, aren't prepared or educated, or are only a little bit interested in it, it will likely be difficult. For example, if your main interest is losing weight through a vegan diet and you think the best way to do that is by eating 1500 calories a day, you are going to get hungry and crave high calorie, high fat foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, which is going to make staying vegan much harder than it should be. There are so many resources online that can help you but I would recommend learning as you go and slowly transitioning so it's not as big of a change all at once. If you'd like you can check out my Free Guide to Going Vegan in 30 Days which goes through all the things I think are important to know before going vegan. To summarize: it's only as hard as you make it.
What do vegans eat?
Vegans can eat anything non-vegans can eat! There are actually vegan alternatives for so many animal products out there, more then you would think. I had no idea before going vegan that they could even make vegan versions of hot dogs, mac and cheese, mayo, cream cheese, orange chicken, tuna, or crab cakes- but they do. You can still eat pancakes, pizza, ice cream, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, pies- just vegan versions of them.
Vegans, of course, do not all eat the same things. But here are the main food groups that we eat.
It might not seem like a lot but those are large groups. And like I said before, vegans can eat anything non-vegans can eat because there are plant based versions of just about everything. I have a day in my guide where I give a bunch on meal ideas which you can find here. The best thing you can do though would be to watch what I eat in a day videos! Here are a few that I think represent the common ways of eating on a vegan diet:
Is a vegan diet healthy?
While one can certainly eat an unhealthy vegan diet, a vegan diet itself is not inherently unhealthy. One can also eat a healthy vegan diet, a vegan diet itself is not inherently healthy.
Here is a statement from the ADA regarding vegan and vegetarian diets:
"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."
By eating a well-planned vegan diet with the majority of your calories coming from whole plant foods (and eating enough calories for your body), you should be fully able to have a healthy vegan diet. Of course it is necessary to be aware of the nutrients in your foods to make sure you are getting everything you need, but that is not exclusive to a vegan diet.
Why shouldn't we eat meat + fish?
There are many reasons not to consume these products. Starting with health, according to the World Health Organization, processed meats cause cancer and red meats probably cause cancer. A diet free of meat can not only prevent heart disease but reverse it as well. It can also lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Then there are the environmental issues that come with consuming these products. Animal agriculture is destroying our land, air, and water. Check out this infographic to see how animal products effect climate change, deforestation, species extinction, and more.
Factor farming is one of the cruelest industries in the world. Billions of animals are needlessly slaughtered every year for our consumption. These animals are locked up their entire lives, with there sole purpose being to be killed and fed to us, when we do not need to even consume them and are in fact better off without them in our diet. If you are interested in knowing what really happens to your food before it gets on your plate, I recommend watching these 2 documentaries: Lucent and Earthlings.
Why shouldn't we consume dairy products?
Dairy products are misleadingly advertised as healthy and good for our bones because they are high in calcium, but just because they have benefits does not mean there can’t also be negative effects. Milk consumption is associated with higher risk of hip fractures, cancer, and premature death.
Cow's milk is intended for baby cow's- similar to how human milk is intended for human babies. Why are we drinking the milk of another species? And why are we drinking milk way past our toddler days? It's a little weird when you think about it. Especially since cow's milk is suppose to help a calf grow a couple hundred pounds in just a few months... Watch this quick video to learn more.
Why shouldn't we eat eggs?
Eggs are one of those foods that nutritionists and doctors are constantly going back and forth about. Some say they're healthy, some say they're not. What's interesting is that eggs are legally not allowed to be called "healthy" in advertisements because they are high in fat and cholesterol.
Something we tend not to think about is what eggs even are. These eggs are just like the eggs that women ovulate once a month. Imagine if you started eating human eggs. You'd be considered pretty weird. So why is it any less weird that we are consuming the unfertilized eggs of another species?
Another issue with the egg industry is that chicks that are hatched and end up being male cannot be profited from so they are ground up alive.
What's wrong with honey?
Bees don't produce honey just for the heck of it. It is a way for them to be able to store food for the winter. But when we take their winter food source from them, what they're left with is a sugar replacement bee keepers give them. And that's not what they are meant to be eating.
It is harder to imagine the cruelty in honey but unfortunately, it is there. Bees will not make honey if they don't have a queen, so what many bee keepers will do is rip off the wings so the queen cannot leave the hive. A lot of them will also kill off the entire hive before winter.
A good animal exploitation-free replacement for honey is agave nectar which tastes and has a consistency very similar to honey :)
Do plants feel pain?
The amount of times I see people ask this online is alarming! Plants do not have pain receptors or nervous systems. Please check out this video if you slept through biology class in high school.
There is really not much else to say about this one because most people thankfully know that plants do not feel pain.
Why shouldn't we buy clothing that comes from animals?
Why shouldn't we use products tested on animals?
The reason it seems most people are okay with us testing our products on animals is because we believe they are inferior to us, not as intelligent, and that their lives and wellbeing are not as important as ours are. So we lock them up in cages, only taking them out to conduct disturbing experiments on them or inject them with some dangerous substance. It's not 'testing' it's torture. Sadly, many people are not aware of this. But once you are, it's hard not to make the change in your life to discontinue purchasing products tested on animals. There are many other alternatives out there that are being enacted by many companies already, so let's support these businesses instead.
Weren't animals put here for us to use/eat?
This seems to be a common belief mainly within Christian religions, which makes it difficult to answer because I for one am not a Christian nor do I want to make it sound like I'm trying to change your religious beliefs. From what I've understood of the Bible, it seems humans were meant to be herbivorous in the beginning. Genesis 1:29-30 states, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food." I have never read any scriptures that directly state that meat is forbidden, so I am not trying to make that claim. But (this is just my personal opinion) I can't imagine Him being okay with us putting His creation on rape racks and grinding baby chicks alive. Wouldn't He want us to treat others (not just humans, but all other sentient beings) with compassion?
Aren't humans suppose to eat meat?
Biologically and anatomically, no. It is true that we have adapted to be able to consume meat, but that does not mean we are omnivorous biologically. Our anatomy- as shown on the chart (click to enlarge)- is not remotely close to that of an omnivore, but more like a herbivore or frugivore.
What about humanely slaughtered, organic, cage free, etc products?
How can one humanely slaughter someone? Murder is not humane. No matter how much companies try to convince you that they treat the animals with so much love and compassion, their main drive is always $$, so of course they are going to lie or exaggerate in order to get you to buy their products.
Organic does not mean that animals are treating fairly. According to the USDA National Organic Program, the definition of organic is as follows:
"Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too."
The mental image that one gets when they think of cage-free is not reality. This is what one cage-free chicken farm looks like. That is not an isolated case though- a quick search on google photos will show you that cage free just means a hundreds or thousands of chickens stuffed in a building, without cage walls. They are still cramped and crowded. They still never go outside or see daylight. They are still exploited, harmed, and killed for our consumption.
Many people are mislead in the same way about free-range farms. They think it means 40 or so chickens pecking around in an acre of land. A few pigs grazing an open field, happy as can be. Again, this is not reality- it is propaganda. There have been cases of farms just cutting a small opening in the side of the building in which the animals are kept in so they can come and go through there, thus making it 'free-range'.
Is a vegan diet expensive?
Veganism is actually one of the cheapest diets on the planet!
Rice, beans, potatoes, oatmeal, canned + frozen veggies, bananas, lentils, etc are some of the least expensive foods on the planet and are all (healthy!) staples in a vegan diet. You do not have to eat organic or all natural to be vegan nor do you have to buy vegan alternatives which tend to be pretty spendy. A plant based diet based largely around starches is going to be the cheapest way to eat vegan and I promise you can make so many yummy meals from them. Here is a video of how to eat vegan on $1.50 a day. Here is another one. Here's eating vegan for $20/week. Here's another one.
Does veganism actually make an impact?
Your dollar is your vote. The less people pay these industries, the less they are going to need to produce of their products. If 10% of the world population stopped eating eggs, we would only need 90% the amount of eggs unless for whatever reason the people who still ate eggs started consuming more of them... but because of supply and demand- companies only produce what they will sell. So by not purchasing animal products, you are casting a vote for less animals to be exploited and killed.
How does a vegan diet benefit the planet?
Animal agriculture is one of the most detrimental industries to the environment. Here are a few facts from the documentary Cowspiracy:
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.
2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US.
A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
As many as 40% (63 billion pounds) of fish caught globally every year are discarded.
Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction. Up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction.
For more facts, click here.
Where do vegans get their protein?
It's actually very easy for a vegan to get enough protein. Almost every food contains some amount of protein... and believe it or not- most people in America actually consume too much protein. The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.8 grams per kg bodyweight (0.36/lb) of protein per day. On average, women need 40-50 g while men need 50-60 g. You should aim to get 10-35% of your calories from protein.
The chart shows vegan foods that contain the highest amounts of protein. The only way one can not consume enough protein on a vegan diet is by not consuming enough calories (or if you have some medical condition). If you are eating enough food for your body- you will probably not have any struggles getting enough protein. Speaking just from personal experience (which I know does not prove anything one way or the other) I have tracked my food intake many time on a website called cronometer and have never not gotten enough protein.
Another common myth people have is that vegans are weak or can't get 'gains' as well as non-vegans can. Take a look at this video that shows Vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian breaking the world record for the most weight ever carried by a human. You can also check out all the shredded vegan men and women over at veganbodybuilding.com!
What about calcium?
There are a bunch of great sources of vegan calcium, as you can see from the picture. You do not need dairy to get calcium.
When first going vegan, it's important to make an effort to try to incorporate some of these foods into your diet so you can make sure you're getting enough of this nutrient. Again, cronometer is a great website to help you track your food intake and see how many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you are getting.
What about other vitamins + nutrients?
Go through the slide show to see the specifics.
Iron: There are heaps of ways to get iron on a vegan diet- legumes, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc.
Omega's: SEEDS are you best friends here!
Zinc: Beans, nuts, and soy products are all great sources of Zinc.
B12 + Vitamin D: Read Below ☟
Do vegans need to supplement anything?
The only thing vegans need to supplement is B12. We use to be able to get B12 from the soil but since that is no longer possible with today's advanced agricultural practices, supplementation is necessary. Most people take oral supplements (myself included) and cyanocobalamin is usually the recommended kind for that. Make sure it doesn't contain gelatin or any other animal products. Read through the chart to get the whole rundown on B12.
If you don't go outside often or live in an area with cold winters that you stay inside for most of, it would be a good idea to supplement Vitamin D as well. There are fortified foods like certain milks, orange juices, and cereals that are fortified with D, but unless you're eating a large quantity of those things, it might be better to just take a supplement seeing as the only other way you could get Vitamin D on a vegan diet is from the sun. 10 minutes spent in sunlight 3-4 times a week is sufficient if you are able to go outside.
What do i do if people are judgemental/rude about the fact that I'm vegan?
Some people are going to be rude, most just won't understand why you're vegan but won't be too mean about it to your face. Make sure you're doing you part to not get people annoyed by you're lifestyle. Do not try to convince people to go vegan if they are clearly uninterested. Only talk about it in an educational way if someone shows interest or asks a question. If people are judgmental about it, do your best not to react but rather to just be a kind human being. Being passionate about your lifestyle is a good thing but you can still abuse it when it comes out too strongly for people who are not in agreement. If you've literally done nothing but told someone you're vegan and they start saying rude things, just be like, "dude, chill. It's just the way I live my life, that's it." or "It's just the way I choose to eat for health reasons." Even if it's not, it's way better to downplay it a little then to give people a bad impression of vegans.
What if my parents won't let me go vegan?
The best way to get out of that situation is to try to educate your parents in the least argumentative way. How you do that is by first knowing why they don't want you to go vegan so here are some common reasons:
They think it isn't healthy: If your parents have been mislead to believe that a vegan diet is unhealthy, then they are going to do the best they can with the knowledge they have to try to make sure you're healthy which unfortunately means not wanting you to go vegan. Just know that if this is the case they are only looking out for your wellbeing. There are many resources you can provide to them that may help show them otherwise. Forks Over Knives and What The Health are health-related documentaries that may do the trick. Or you can simply compile a list of facts with reputable sources. Or show them websites like pcrm.com and nutritionfacts.org.
They don't want to cook/buy vegan food (or think it's expensive): If you are able to, offer to go grocery shopping with you parents and point of to them inexpensive things that are vegan. Rice, beans, canned veggies, oatmeal, bananas, potatoes, lentils etc are some of the cheapest foods on the planet in most places and are all vegan! You will also have to begin cooking/making your own meals which can actually be really fun and doesn't need to take a lot of time, there are plenty of vegan recipe videos out there that show you how to make quick meals. Show your parents that you are willing to step up and do the things they do not want to do and they will be a lot more likely to see your passion in going vegan and allow you to.
If you're parents already don't want you to go vegan, do not try to convince them by showing them why they should also go vegan!!!! Focus on only trying to get them to allow you to eat vegan. Also, transitioning slowly is the best way to make it seem like less of a drastic change to them. You could also check out videos on this topic on youtube, there are a ton of them!
What do I do when going out to eat?
Visit the website Happy Cow to find restaurants in the area that are vegan, vegetarian, or provide vegan options. If you have the choice of choosing a restaurant, choose one that you know has vegan options or things that can be made vegan.
If you don't have the option, what you can do is google "vegan options at ___". If it's a chain restaurant there will usually be results and even if there is only one thing, that's better than none. If it's a smaller business, you might not find any results so what you can then do is call ahead and ask if they have vegan options. It's probably smart to also explain that that means no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey just incase they don't know what it means (or might be confused with vegetarian). You can also just wing it (which I've done many time) and go in and ask when the waiter comes to take your order. Sometimes you'll find things that are vegan and sometimes they'll say that if they just exclude an ingredient or two, it can be made vegan. I've never had an experience where they did not kindly accommodate for me (honestly the hardest part is not wanting to feel like a burden to the staff but just know that they want you to have a good experience at their restaurant!)
Can veganism help prevent certain disease like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes?
According to an abundance of research that has been conducted, a vegan diet has been shown to lower risk of developing cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. Is it the cure? No, but it can help reduce risk for many different health issues.
If you are really interested in this topic, 3 books you could read are:
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes by Neal Barnard
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn
How do i know if a food is vegan?
The first thing to do check the allergen information of the product which is usually listed right below the ingredients list. The only things that will ever be listed in there that mean it's not vegan are shellfish, dairy, and eggs. If one of those things is listed, then you don't have to read through the ingredients so always start with that. But don't assume if it doesn't list any of those things that it's vegan. You'll still have to read through the ingredients to make sure there are no meat products, gelatin, or honey which will not ever be listed in the allergens. If there's ever an ingredient you're unsure of, just google if it's vegan or not. There are a few other ingredients that are not vegan (that you wouldn't know from looking at them) but those are best not to worry about right away.
What about products that say "may contain" eggs or dairy?
If you see a product that says it may contain eggs, dairy, or shellfish or may contain traces of them (which is listed underneath the allergens), what that means is the products were made on the same production line or in the same facility as products that contain those items. So while there may be trace amounts of them in the food, it is not something to worry about, they are still vegan.
Is palm oil vegan?
Palm oil is vegan. It is not the product of an animal. That being said, some vegans choose not to eat or use products that contain palm oil because of the effects it has on the environment as well as the animal exploitation and human rights issues that almost always come along with its production. If you would like to learn more about palm oil, click here or here or here.
What are all these labels a lot of vegans use like: HCLF, 80/10/10, Starch Solution, WFPB, WSLF, Rt4, and Raw?
Some vegans choose to eat one of these 'diets' (not in the sense that it's a short term weight loss diet- but more of simply a labeling of the way they eat on a regular basis) within their vegan diet. Here are brief explanations, not that you need to follow any of them, just so you know what they mean when you come across them:
HCLF: This stands for High Carb Low Fat and once you know that, it's pretty self explanatory. People who follow this get the majority of their calories from carbs while a smaller percentage come from fat and protein. They typically eat a lot of fruit and starches.
80/10/10: This could be considered a 'stricter' version of HCLF. 80/10/10 is actually a book written by Douglas Graham and followers of this diet consume about 80% of their calories from carbs while 10% come from fat and 10% from protein. This is a high fruit diet, but they also consume a lot of starches as well (and other foods too of course, that is just what the bulk of their calories come from).
Starch Solution: The Starch Solution is a book written by John McDougall. People who eat a high starch diet may use this term to describe the way they eat. The usually eat a lot of starches, legumes, beans, veggies.
WFPB: A Whole Food Plant Based diet describes someone who aims to eat only a small amount of processed foods, and instead a lot of whole foods.
WSLF: Whole Starch Low Fat is a diet created by a couple called Mr. and Mrs. Vegan. I don't know much about it but believe it is similar to Starch Solution, as one can guess by the label. You can check out their FAQ page to learn more about this one.
Raw Till 4: Raw Till 4 is a diet created by a woman named Freelee where followers of it eat raw foods (mostly fruit) for breakfast and lunch and have a cooked meal for dinner (usually starches and veggies).
Raw Vegan: A Raw Vegan is someone who does not consume cooked food. What they eat are fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and herbs that have not been heated. Smoothies, juices, monomeals (meals that consist of only one fruit), and salads are the most common meals they eat.
I want to go vegan but where do I start?
You can start by checking out my Free Guide to Going Vegan if you'd like. You can also check out my resources page where I recommend vegan documentaries, books, websites, and YouTubers to get you started. Learn as much as you can on all the aspects of a vegan lifestyle (health, animals, planet). Watch what I eat in a day videos, recipe videos, and food haul videos to get an idea of things to buy and make. You can also contact me via email if you have any further questions and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as I'm able to! And lastly, don't overwhelm yourself- it's not going to be nearly as hard as you think... I promise!