Written by Robin Enotera
As a person who enjoys a vegan lifestyle, I am so often asked “so what do you eat”? I always respond, “everything! I eat everything, except animals and the by-products of animals”.
To find the following information helpful, doesn’t require that you follow a strict plant based or vegan diet. You may be someone who is trying to eliminate meat and fish (a vegetarian), or just reduce the amount of animals that go into the food you eat. You may be Pescatarian (meat and dairy free, but still consume fish and seafood) or the Flexitarian who eats mainly plant based, but occasionally consumes meat, fish and dairy. Whatever label you may choose to use (or not), it is undeniable that eating animals and animal by-products is not kind to the planet and here is what I’m talking about;
The inefficient use of viable land that is used to raise livestock or to grow the feed for livestock that in many places has required vast deforestation, creates pollution both on land and water. The fisheries industry is not exempt from this, not to mention the destruction that by-catch causes.
Fresh water consumption is an issue when it comes to raising livestock. Reportedly, it takes 100 to 200 times the amount of water to raise one pound of beef, than it does 1 pound of edible plant protein.
The energy that it takes to raise, feed, kill, process and ship meat is 8 times the energy cost of plant based protein.
“All the livestock in the world cause more air pollution than all the cars, buses, planes, ships and other modes of transportation in the world combined”, reports Global Citizen
Eating a plant based meal is healthy for you and is animal cruelty free.
I am such a big fan of trying to eat whole food. The single ingredient foods. You know, apples, oranges, oats, nuts etc. Food that doesn’t require a label to immediately know what it is. However, in the interest of convenience, many of the items in my grocery cart are processed foods, and they contain more than just one ingredient. I have a friend who always makes her own almond milk, and swears that it’s taste is far superior to store bought, and I have no doubt that she is right about that. So if making your own nut, rice or oat milk is what you do, or what you would like to do, there are plenty of resources on the web to help you achieve that, and I would think with great success.
I currently buy my non-dairy milk at the grocery store. And as I have mentioned, along with many other processed staple foods. Some of the items are clearly labeled as vegan, meaning that they contain no animal products and contain no ingredients that have been tested on animals. This is what I look for. After many years of veganism, I have become quite familiar with what these staple items taste like, and how to best use them in my recipes. Many of the items that I regularly purchase are not labeled vegan but they are safe to consume while enjoying a vegan / plant-based diet because they don’t contain animals. We call these foods “accidentally vegan”. If you arm yourself with a little knowledge about food labels and ingredient basics, the world of enjoying plant-based really opens up. Sometimes it’s not easy because those 17 letter ingredients can be very confusing and may make it seem impossible to decipher exactly what is in the food. Start out slowly. If it doesn’t contain anything that you recognize is an animal product or animal by-product, and you really want to try it in a recipe, give it a go. When you get home, sit down at the computer and do a bit of research and self education. Go through the ingredients one by one, finding out what they are. You will find yourself eventually becoming more and more familiar with what these ingredients are, and their origins. Next time you shop, you will know if it is safe to purchase the item or not, considering your new dietary choice. Initially your shopping trip at the grocery store may take longer than usual, but think of this as time well invested on your transition to a kinder diet for you, for animals and for the planet.
Let’s talk about those hidden or not widely known animal by products, commonly found in processed food. If you are new at adopting a plant based diet, or wish to begin the journey to becoming vegan, with your best intentions in mind, you may inadvertently find yourself eating foods that contain animal product, without knowing it. Here are a few common ones to familiarize yourself with.
Casein is a protein found exclusively in mammalian milk. Casein gives cheese it’s stretchy ness. Vegan cheese substitutes do not contain casein, which is why you may get a melty vegan “cheese” but it’s not really stretchy.
Casein is also often found in non-vegan protein powders and other processed foods. It can be found in some non food items too, such as adhesives and paints. It also goes by the name C12, Calcium Caseinate, Caséinate and other derivatives of “Casein”.
Whey is also derived from mammalian milk. It is that liquid that is left over when making dairy cheeses. Remember little Miss Muffet, eating her curds and whey. Yup, that’s what it is. It may also be identified as lactoserum. So be on the lookout for Whey and avoid it if you want to enjoy a plant-based diet.
ALBUMIN - the protein component of egg white.
LARD/ SUET - rendered animal fat, or hard white fat typically from around the kidney and loins of animals
CARMINE / CARMINIC ACID - ground up insects used to make red food coloring.
GELATIN - protein from bones, cartilage, tendons and skin of animals. Often found in Marshmallow, yogurt, frosted cereal and gelatin desserts. There are gelling agents that can be made derived from plants, but true gelatin is derived only from animals.
ISINGLASS- derived from bladders of fresh water fish. Most common in beer and wine. SORRY FOLKS
LACTIC ACID / LACTOSE - derived from the sugars in mammalian milk. Often found in cheese, yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut and candy.
OLEIC / OLEINIC ACID - animal tallow
PEPSIN - enzyme from pig’s
VITAMIN D3 - fish liver oil
There are many micro-ingredients in processed food that may be plant derived, or may be animal derived, yet go by the same name. Some are as follows; Glucose, Glycerides, Lecithin, Lutein, Stearic Acid / Octadecanoic Acid and Vitamin B12. Usually, if its from a plant, it’s listed as “plant derived”, but not necessarily. So do your best, enjoy the food that you eat. Keep your diet kind and as clean as you can. And keep spreading the word about how delicious all the plant based food is, that you are enjoying. Most importantly, pass on your accumulated knowledge to everyone that you can. Get people interested and excited about all of the goodness in your new plant based diet and lifestyle.