What is a vegan?

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granola is a popular vegan food
Granola is a popular choice for vegans
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A look at the vegan lifestyle

A vegan is someone who does not eat or use animal products of any kind. Vegans do not include meat, eggs, animal oils or milk in their diets, and for strict vegans even honey is off limits.

In addition to following an animal-free diet, many vegans do not use goods such as leather, fur and silk, nor do they use any products made through animal research.

The Vegan Lifestyle

Most vegans choose their lifestyle based on health, environmental and ethical considerations. Many believe in supporting more environmentally friendly and agricultural practices.

To vegans, using animals for food is considered wasteful as vast amounts of grain and water are untapped, leading to increased dependence on high yields. This then leads to topsoil erosion on farmlands, which leaves less land productive for crop cultivation. In turn, more and more wilderness must be cleared to plant additional crops.

In addition, animal waste creates a disposal problem and poisons groundwater and rivers. This unhealthy and wasteful cycle is unappealing to most vegans and is often one of the major reasons for choosing to follow a vegan diet.

Others choose to eat a vegan diet because they believe killing animals for human consumption to be a cruel practice. While eating milk and eggs may seem like a harmless act, chickens and cows that are too old to produce these foods are often killed for their meat, and vegans believe that boycotting all animal products is necessary.

Some vegans consider animal protein and animal by-products unhealthy. Vegan diets are low in fat, reducing the risk of illness such as heart disease and cancer.

What Vegans Eat

Considering the restrictions involved in adhering to a vegan diet, what can vegans eat?

A vegan diet is made up of vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, seeds and nuts. Oatmeal, peanut butter, spaghetti, guacamole and dry cereal are also popular choices.

In fact, when you take a look at the vegan lifestyle, you'll see that the choices of foods are vast. Many commercially sold foods are available in vegan versions including hot dogs, ice cream, yogurt and cheese.

Getting Their Nutrients

People not familiar with the vegan diet may wonder how vegans get the nutrition they require, but it is not difficult to meet dietary needs while following a vegan diet.

Protein is found in whole-wheat products, beans, peas and many other vegetables, not to mention nuts and seeds. Calcium is found in orange juice, green leafy vegetables and soymilk, and all other vitamins and nutrients are available in many foods other than animal products.

Vegan Lifestyle Varies

The way a vegan lives varies from one to another. There is no one set of rules for living as a vegan.

Some choose to eat no animal products or use any products that come from or are tested on animals. Others choose only to stop eating the foods that cause the most animal suffering while some may be disturbed by eating animals but not by using products made from animals or made by companies who test on animals.

The choice is uniquely personal, which makes the answer to what is a vegan, very complex. Regardless of the reasons for becoming a vegan, the decision is an important one that should be researched extensively.

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