What is a vegan?

We explain what a vegan is, what is its difference with vegetarianism and what foods vegan people consume.

  1. What is a vegan?

Vegans are those who subscribe to the philosophy of veganism, that is, the rejection of the consumption and use of all products of animal origin . The invention of the term in 1944 is attributed to Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society of England, in the first issue of  The  Vegan  News . There, Watson compared animal exploitation with human slavery and accused Lactovegetarianism of collaborating with an unethical paradigm of human food.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, veganism went from being a minority philosophy to a common one, as, together with the allegations of animal abuse in slaughterhouses and farms of intensive breeding, medical studies were made public that advised against a meat diet and high in fat , making it responsible for many of the contemporary endemic diseases, such as cancer or diabetes.

In this way, there are different types of veganism, depending on their level of commitment not only with human health, but with respect for the dignity of other living beings , including animals and plants, for example:

  •  Ethical veganism . The one that shows rejection by the unworthy conditions in which many farmed animals are treated in farms and slaughterhouses, through a moral rejection towards the consumption of any product linked to these industries: white and red meats, dairy products, products of leather, etc.
  • Veganism  environmentalist . Its main motivation has to do with the environmentalism and the preservation of the biodiversity of the species, for which they understand as a measure of necessary force the abandonment of all types of consumption of products of animal origin, whether or not edible. They are concerned about the impact of agriculture and livestock on the environment and deforestation and other industrial activities on the planet.
  1. Differences between veganism and vegetarianism

The term “vegan” emerged in the twentieth century , as has been said, the product of the need to distinguish simple vegetarianism, which adheres to a diet free of all kinds of meats, from its most extreme variant, which rejects all food from animal, which includes eggs, milk, honey or any product made with them.

Until that time, they were referred to as “total vegetarians” , as they represented a more extreme view of vegetarianism, which simply avoided meats, but not other animal products.

In fact, vegan philosophy not only covered food issues, but also promoted a paradigm of object manufacturing that also avoided the use of animals as raw material: shoes and leather wallets, fur coats, etc.

  1. What do vegans eat?

Vegans should take vitamin supplements or plan their diet very well.

The vegan diet is focused on replacing food of animal origin with others of plant origin , which faces them with the difficulty of obtaining certain essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12 (exclusive of animal feed), vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, zinc, selenium and iron. Therefore, they must either take vitamin supplements or plan very well their way of eating.

  • Proteins . In order to obtain proteins , vegans generally turn to legumes: soy (and its derived products, such as tofu or soy milk), peas, peanuts, beans, chickpeas (with which a flour or a paste like   Arab hummus ); or to the grains: quinoa, rice, corn, barley and wheat. Nuts (almonds, walnuts) or hemp or sunflower seeds are also used.
  • Calcium . To supply all kinds of dairy foods, vegans must go to fortified soy milk (with calcium additives), or almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, vegetables such as broccoli (low oxalate), turnips, cabbage , spinach and, above all, should make sure to consume vitamin D, essential for fixing calcium.
  • Iron . An indispensable element for the transport of oxygen, can be obtained in a vegan diet by consuming foods such as lentils, black molasses, quinoa, beans and chickpeas. Iron absorption can also be improved by consuming foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or cauliflower, and generally avoiding foods rich in tannins such as coriander, turmeric, chili peppers and tamarind.
  • Essential fatty acids . Since they cannot be synthesized in the body, these acids must be consumed and mostly can be obtained from various types of oils, as part of a vegan diet: chia, esclarea, linseed, camelina, rosehip, soybean oil , peanut or canola; as well as chia seeds, nuts, raspberries or flaxseeds.
  • Yodo . Iodine, so abundant in fish and shellfish, is vital to the hormonal process of the body, but is scarce in vegetables. Your necessary quota can be met through the use of fortified salts.

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