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The Basics on Veganism

Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products for any purpose. People have been experimenting with this type of lifestyle long before the term existed. Donald Watson coined this term in 1944. Later that year it was widely accepted by the group who founded the Vegan Society.

Why Do People Chose Veganism?

Depending on whom you ask, you will hear a variety of reasons as to why they made the switch to veganism.

Animal Right Supporters

Some choose veganism based on the way animals are treated and slaughtered. They don’t think an animal should be killed to meet our needs. They believe that their nutritional needs can be met without consuming animals. Many animals that end up on our plates, or end up in a variety of other products, have suffered violent deaths. Many vegans believe this is cruel and unethical. In protest (and for the sake of adopting what they believe to be a healthier lifestyle), they consciously avoid all animal products.

Religious Convictions

Some choose veganism because of their religious beliefs. There are many religious organizations that place an emphasis on incorporating healthy eating habits into their lifestyle. Some of these groups are Seventh-Day Adventists, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus and Muslims. Although not every member of a religion that has dietary restrictions is vegan, there are many that are vegetarian.

Environmental Issues

Some choose veganism for environmental reasons. They strongly believe that adopting a lifestyle devoid of animal consumption will lessen the impact on our environment. Many believe that if more people were to become vegan there would be more food sources available to nourish the entire planet.

Health Related Issues

Some choose veganism for health reasons. Many studies have been conducted that prove that a vegan diet is a healthy choice for all ages, infant to adult. When compared to nonvegetarians, a vegan diet tends to be lower in cholesterol. Many vegans avoid pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives in their food, some of which have been proven to cause cancer. Studies have proven that vegans and vegetarians are the among those with the lowest rates of cancer.

-- Myths About Veganism

Vegan Nutrition

One of the common misconceptions about veganism is that you are very limited in what you can eat. This is untrue. Although those who practice veganism make a conscious effort to avoid all animal products they still have a wide variety of delicious animal-free foods available to consume. The key to a nutritional vegan diet is to insure that you are eating a large variety of whole foods. Consuming plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables that include plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes is an excellent way to insure that your nutritional needs are being met.

Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein?

There are some people that are resistant to veganism because of the dietary myth that vegans cannot get enough protein. You can easily receive your protein requirements on a vegan diet. Robert Cheeke (professional bodybuilder), Kenneth Williams (professional bodybuilder), Brendan Brazir (professional triathlete), and Christine Vardaros (world class cyclo cross racer) are proving by their victories that you can receive adequate amounts of protein on a vegan diet. Renowned nutritionists like Dr. Doug Graham, Rozalind Gruben, Dr. Ruth Heidrich and Dr. Rick Dina have all stepped forward to teach the public about vegan nutrition.

Vegan Protein Sources

It’s important to remember that plant foods contain eight amino acids similar to what is found in animal foods. The only difference is the amount. You are perfectly capable of receiving all the amino acids you need from plant foods by themselves or in combination with other foods. A few vegan sources that contain complete protein are nuts, beans, and legumes (especially raw), Spirulina and Chorella (blue green algae which are over 60% protein), sprouted seeds, soy foods, and nuts. As long as a vegan is receiving enough calories from a healthy diet, their nutritional needs will be met.

Where do Vegans Get Their Calcium?

Another question that those who practice veganism often receive is "where do you get your calcium?". Kale, blackstrap molasses, dried figs, parsley, brazil nuts, soy products, and seaweed are a few foods that vegans can consume to receive calcium. The calcium in green leafy vegetables is absorbed as well or better than the calcium in cow’s milk. An added bonus is that the sources listed don’t contain any cholesterol, and many of them also contain fiber.

Vegan Sources of B12

The daily requirement of vitamin B12 is extremely low. The adult daily requirement is 2.4 micrograms daily. There is a brand of nutritional yeast called Red Star T-6635+ and it has been tested and shown to contain active vitamin B12. You might also find it labeled as Vegetarian Support Formula with or without T-6635+ in parentheses following this new name. You can also find B12 in fortified soy milk, fortified cereals, fortified meat analogues, and supplements. Check the labels to confirm it is included. B12 can also be found in tempeh, miso, sea vegetables, and other plant sources; however, these tend to be unreliable.

Educate Yourself

You will find a wealth of information about veganism. You can find information in books, online, through organizations, and via local vegan groups. You will find information on a wide range of topics such as nutrition, recipes, lifestyle, personal experience's, etc.

Those who practice veganism are just as “normal” as anyone else. The only difference is that they consciously avoid animal products. Professional organizations such as the World Health Organization, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and Dietitians of Canada, are just a few of the organizations that have stated that vegans can be healthy following a vegan-based nutritional diet.

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