If you’re a newbie to veganism, or just want to explore a few aspects of the basics of veganism, this post has you covered. We’ll look at the basic outline of veganism, the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, some of the challenges, and some tips for those aspiring to a vegan life.
What is veganism?
Veganism is predominantly associated with diet. Vegans don’t consume animal products, including:
- Honey & Gelatin
Broadly, veganism is removing animal products from your lifestyle. Veganism also involves avoiding other animal products such as leather, fur, silk, wool, and cosmetics derived from animal products.
There is a broad spectrum in today’s world of those considering veganism in their life. More people are adopting vegan aspects of living, even if they’re not a ‘strict’ vegan.
Why are more people going vegan?
In the age of information, more people are considering adopting vegan elements within their life. So what are the main reasons for this?
Benefits for health
A reduction in the consumption of red meat combined with an increase in fruits and vegetables is known to improve overall health and quality of life. A 2016 study from the University of Oxford showed that the adoption of global dietary guidelines around more plant-based diets would have a significant impact on mortality rates, as well as overall environmental health.
“Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050. ” From the Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change.
Veganism can also help with:
- reduction in osteoporosis (as animal proteins leech calcium from bones)
- weight loss (as it’s a diet low in fat)
- a reduction in cancer & diabetes
- blood pressure
- the health of skin and nails
For scientific support of these claims, see this fabulous post from Jen Reviews.
Benefits for the earth
Agriculture generates around a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also relies heavily on water consumption and requires deforestation and land use to increase production. A report from the UN highlighted an increasingly affluent global population and the resulting increased demand for animal products such as meat and dairy. The report indicated a significant increase in agriculture would be required unless there was a move away from such a rich diet.
A study by Nature Communications found that a world without further deforestation would only be possible with a global vegan diet. The study is hypothetical and does make assumptions, such as free trade between countries and no cultural challenges. Even so, it is interesting to consider the theory that it’s possible to feed the world without the need for additional farmland.
In addition to health and environmental reasons, at the heart of many vegans’ lifestyles is a respect and compassion for animals. There is a very wide range of standards given to animals in food industries. While some animals are fortunate to have decent living standards – food, water, shelter, and space to express themselves – others are not cared for so well. Those living in factory farms are often born into brutal conditions, separated from mothers and ‘processed’ as production units until the time for their slaughter. Sensitive, intelligent creatures are subjected to stress, loneliness, boredom, pain and fear.
While vegetarians avoid traditional ‘meat’ products such as beef and poultry, vegans also remove animal products such as eggs from their diet. In Australia, there has long been controversy over the labelling of eggs as ‘free range’ with no regulated standards. In 2017 labelling regulations were introduced, but this disappointed many advocates who maintain even the new standards would fall below consumers’ expectations. Without researching it themselves, however, they’d be unlikely to know precisely what this meant.
Vegans tend to believe it’s possible to remove animal products completely and still maintain a happy, healthy life.
How to go vegan
Depending on your starting point, there are a number of ways to go vegan. Unless you’re already on the pathway towards veganism (that is if you already have ‘rules’ about your food), it’s best to start slowly. You don’t have to feel compelled to make a complete switch overnight – unless you want to. There’s another post on The Animal Edit about making gradual changes to your diet.
If you do decide to make an immediate switch, try joining a challenge such as Veganuary. You’ll get the benefit of supportive materials, recipes, hints and tips but also a community of people taking on the challenge simultaneously. There’s a lot to be said for sharing the experience.
Some other tips:
- Identify some favourite blogs with helpful tips, recipes and resources. You’ll need to keep coming back to learn more and more.
- Think about your existing diet and how you can adjust some existing meals to be vegan. Could you replace beef mince with beans, for example? Could you try tofu in stir fries instead of meat? There are probably standard meals you eat that can be vegan-ised!
- Start learning about how to get the nutrition you need (such as protein and iron) through vegan alternatives.
- Be delighted by some of the foods you wouldn’t expect to be vegan! Think Oreos, dried pasta and fresh bread.
Most of all, be confident in your rationale for wanting to adopt vegan practices. There will be challenges, no doubt, and your starting point – your reason for wanting to be vegan – will form a strong foundation for you.
Challenges of veganism
As you can imagine, changing a lifestyle in this way is not without its challenges. Here are a few challenges and how to overcome them.
Friends and family
As well-meaning as they may be, curious friends and family may present questions in a way that makes you think twice about your path. As mentioned above, a strong foundational ‘why’ you’re making these changes will support you through these challenges. You may find yourself needing to educate yourself more, and adjusting your opinions as you go. This is a beautiful part of being a growing human being, and will probably also result in those closest to you thinking more carefully about their choices.
Most restaurants offer vegetarian options, but sometimes vegan choices are few and far between. It pays to plan ahead, and ensure any place you’re heading to will cater for a vegan. The good news is there are heaps of amazing vegan options popping up in the eating-out space!
Veganuary, once again, has some great resources to help with eating out.
At some point, you’re going to forget about adopting a vegan diet and eat something non-vegan. That’s ok! Don’t be hard on yourself – just learn from the experience. You’ll remember next time.
This can either be a fun or a tedious part of going vegan, depending on what you enjoy! The internet is your best friend – there are plenty of blogs, books and articles highlighting vegan meals and meal plans. Shopping for packaged products will become easier with time too, as you learn what’s in products without having to read the ingredients label!
The bottom line
There are many reasons for wanting to become vegan or adopt certain aspects of a vegan lifestyle. There are also lots of benefits to doing so, as we’ve explored.
At the end of the day, living your life according to your own values will make you stronger and happier. It may take a little time and effort to settle in your values, and to explore what they mean in your life. This may mean you aspire to become vegan, or simply that you adopt certain aspects of veganism. There’s a whole world of information out there and when you’re aligning your everyday actions to your foundational values, your life will take on even more meaning!