Veganism FAQ

Q. What do vegans eat?

A: Well, the simple answer is almost everything except animal products or foods containing animal products, i.e. we exclude meat (this includes meat from cows, pigs, chickens, lambs, turkeys, etc), fish and other seafood, dairy, eggs and honey. The long answer: we eat burgers, lasagna, sushi, pasta, pizza, cakes, dosas, parathas, cupcakes, pies, pancakes, veggie bowls, barbecues, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, Indian food, Italian food, Ethiopian food, Chinese food, Japanese food, any favorite you used to love as a meat-eater, but made with plant-based ingredients instead of meat or dairy-based ingredients.

 

Q. Is a vegan diet healthy and complete nutritionally speaking?

A: Here's the short answer: It depends on what you eat. The long answer is - no diet, neither meat-based or plant-based is healthy and complete nutritionally speaking "just because". It can be, provided that you eat in a healthy, complete and nutritionally balanced way!

We tend to think that a meat-based diet is healthy and balanced simply because the majority of people eat this way. We think people are alive and thriving and that that makes it the "complete and healthy way to eat". Here's the deal folks! Many people aren't thriving. The astounding rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, some types of cancer, auto-immune disease, and other chronic, diet-related illnesses are proof of the fact that we might not be eating in a balanced way. Of course these illnesses are complex and could be brought on by multiple causes, some that have nothing to do with diet, but there is an extensive body of research telling us about the links between diet and disease. 

On the flip side, it would be technically vegan to live off of potato chips and soda, but as you can imagine, that wouldn't be a healthy or balanced diet either.

According to the American Dietetics Association:

"Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."

You can read the full position paper of the American Dietetics Association on vegan and vegetarian diets here.

Note the words "appropriately planned". As humans, especially in today's day and age, we love the idea of something perfect. Like a little magic switch we flip and suddenly all our food and eating problems are solved for good. I'd love to be at the front lines of putting an end to this magical way of thinking, and instead inspire you to take the reigns of your own way of eating, placing some much needed attention on it, and simply learning a new approach which will soon become second nature. 

Any diet should include knowledge about what we need and how to include it in our meals. We need to start learning about what should go on our plates and in our bodies, regardless of what diet we follow.

To learn how to build a balanced vegan diet, I have found that the cronometer app comes in super handy. It's a easy way to keep track of what percentage of your daily nutrients you are getting.  All you need to do is punch in what you ate and the app does the rest for you. 

 

Q. How will the blood test be conducted?  Is it up to international standards? 

A: The blood samples will be taken on the first and final days of the tour by a qualified nurse in the leisure of our accommodation.  The samples will then be taken to a lab for testing.  The results will be sent to you immediately after the tour. 

 

Q. Where do vegans get their protein?

A. First let's break protein down a little bit. Protein is a macronutrient that is made up of chains of aminoacids, and we get these aminoacids from the food we eat. Both plant foods and animal foods contain the aminoacids that are the building blocks of protein.

To put it in plain terms, this means that our bodies will combine the aminoacids we take in through food, and build protein like little legos. Protein isn't this one big magical thing that animal products provide. Our bodies are little biochemical ninjas that will take aminoacids and make the protein that we need. It doesn't differenciate whether these aminoacids came from a pig or a black bean, provided we get enough of them.

By eating a vegan diet, and learning what the largest sources of plant-based protein are, not only can we give our bodies what they need to thrive, but we're skipping the saturated fat, cholesterol, growth hormones, antibiotics, etc., that are so prevalent in meat-based sources of protein.

 

Q. What about all the other nutrients, like calcium, iron, omega 3s, etc?

A: Just as there are plant-based sources of protein, there are vegan sources of calcium, iron, omega 3s, etc. We've been taught that we need to consume milk, meat and fish for these three, but here's something I didn't know before I went vegan. The reason why these animals are sources of these nutrients is because they got them from plants in the first place! The animals we eat are sources of these nutrients because they were once living bodies that ate foods that provided them. We can skip the middle-animal and go straight to the good stuff, while again skipping the hormones, antibiotics, IGF growth factor, saturated fat and cholesterol (all of which are non-existent in plants).

Great plant-based sources of calcium are: green leafy vegetables (like kale and collard greens especially), beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, calcium fortified plant-based milk, calcium set tofu, dried figs and other dried fruit, tahini, calcium fortified orange juice, and many others.

Great plant-based sources of omega 3s are: having 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds daily, sea vegetables, walnuts and flaxseed oil (don't use it in cooking as it's a very heat sensitive oil). To increase your omega 3 stores, reducing your intake of omega 6 fatty acids (found mainly in cooking oils) will also help give you a better balance of this nutrient, and of course, you can supplement when needed with a vegan EPA and DHA supplement. Why DHA and EPA? This is actually what we talk about when we talk about our need for omega 3s. Our bodies absorb the fatty acid ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid) from foods (like the ones I just mentioned) and then transforms it into EPA and DHA which are basically super cool brain food superheroes!

 

Q. I understand why vegans don't eat meat, but why don't vegans eat dairy or eggs?

A.  For some, especially when looking at veganism from an ethical standpoint, i.e. not wanting to hurt animals, not eating meat is easy to understand since it's the body of an animal, but eggs and milk are a bit harder to grasp, as they are considered simple by-products and thought to be something the animals just "produce" and have no need for. 

Vegans choose to not eat dairy or eggs for a number of reasons. For the fact that it is better for your health, better for the environment, and for the fact that these products are part of what to me are two of the cruelest parts of our animal agriculture system: the egg and dairy industries. They aren't just simple by-products, and the animals that produce these foods, receive just as horrible treatment and live in deplorable conditions, just as what we've seen happen to animals raised for meat. There is animal abuse in all the steps of the chain, from the transport of the animals, to the treatment of them in dairy farms and egg-laying facilities, to procedures done without anaesthesia, and of course the process will always involve the eventual slaughter of the animal, when it can no longer produce milk or eggs.

In the case of dairy cows, the problem goes even deeper since cows need to be pregnant in order to lactate (just like us!), this means in order to take their milk we must separate the calves from their mothers,. The calves are then used for meat as part of the veal industry.

This sadly just scratches the surface of the issue. You might want to check out some of the documentaries on our resources page to learn more. If you're wondering about free-range and grass-fed animals, keep reading since we discuss this below!

 

Q. Isn't eating vegan too extreme or radical?

A.  A good way to find out is to do some research on the matter. We did our research and then decided to go vegan because we realized a few things:

1) What we're doing to our health through Western meat-based diets is radical and extreme. When we need to open up a leg to remove a vein and place it in one's heart, when someone is on countless medications to remove the side effects of countless other medications, when we see children suffer diseases that were non-existent in this population before. When we're seeing the first generation of children that will live less than their parents, in spite of the advances in the medical industry. All of this is radical and extreme, and I didn't want it in my life or the life of my family,

2) What we're doing to animals in our agriculture system is beyond what you could imagine in your greatest nightmares. All for our desire to eat certain foods that we don't need in order to thrive. Do some research and find out the truth for yourself.

3) It takes such a toll on resources and the environment, due to the fact that we need to feed, hydrate, house, transport and look after these animals, with resources, food and water that could go to those in need. All of this felt radical and extreme to me.

To me, a vegan diet is the simple substitution of a meat-based ingredient for a plant-based one, to make exactly the same delicious dishes I used to love, only healthier, and with a lighter footprint on the Earth. The only reason it could feel radical or extreme right now, is because we're still a smaller number of people. This is changing in leaps and bounds! Eating delicious veggie burgers, vegan pizza, vegan sushi, vegan pancakes, delicious fruits and veggies, vegan lasagna? Radical? Not to me. Awesome and trailblazing? Yes! Especially when you notice that veganism isn't about being perfect, it's a change that involves a learning curve, and that like any new thing can be exciting, it can have its challenges but it can also be life-changing.

 

Q. Do I really need to supplement vitamin B12?

A.  Yes! No question about it! If you're fully vegan, you need to supplement vitamin B12. Is it because meat is its only source? Nope! B12 is a bacteria-based vitamin, and since in our current modern lives we need to thoroughly wash fruits and veggies from the B12 rich soil they grew in, vegans can be lacking in this nutrient. You can also eat B12 fortified foods like B12 rich cereals and breads, but I prefer to take a supplement and have my bases covered since B12 deficiency can be very serious.

 

Q. If it's such a healthy way to eat, why hasn't my doctor recommended it?

A:  Most doctors will confess to have received close to zero hours of training in the field of nutrition. A very sad but real truth that is not the fault of doctors but of the way the medical system is designed right now. It is simply not part of the training most medical doctors get in our current educational system. They don't recommend it because they just haven't been exposed to it, and sometimes, because they think patients won't be compliant or follow through with such a change in the diet, they don't mention it as a course of action.

Of course,  this is also changing. More and more doctors these days are becoming aware of the effect our food has on our health and are beginning to include this as part of treatment and prevention.

 

Q. Is it safe to eat some of the ready-made vegan meat alternatives?

A: Vegan meat alternatives can be a great source of protein, are often fortified with other nutrients, they're satisfying, filling, familiar, and they can help many people stick to this diet for longer, giving you a greater chance to take in all of the diet's benefits in the long run. When it comes to vegan meat alternatives, read the ingredients. Some newer brands are making fantastic products using whole foods, which makes these much better for you. Start exploring and experimenting, and as long as there are plenty of natural whole foods filling your meals, there's no reason why you should stay away from these products. You can also learn how to make many of these at home using veggies, grains, beans, etc.

Q. Can anyone be vegan? (Pregnant women, children, athletes, etc)

A: Just in case you missed it above, here's the answer from the position paper of the American Dietetics Association on who can follow a vegan diet:

"Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."

This means that technically, anyone can be vegan. I always suggest that you find support and do a bit of extra research on the specific nutrient requirements if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or raising young infants and children as vegans since these are stages of life in which nutrition is very important to support a growing body. Make sure to check out our vegan resource library to find books and blogs that will help you during these stages.
 

Q. Is a vegan diet suitable for people with pre-existing medical conditions ?

A: Although a vegan diet is a great way to prevent and even reverse certain diseases, always consult your doctor if you have any pre-existing conditions or are on medications. Especially consult your doctor before removing any type of medications you're on. This should always be done under the supervision of your medical team.

 

Q. Isn't it ok to eat free-range eggs or grass-fed beef?

A: Sadly, these are terms that have been used as marketing techniques for people who worry about the treatment of animals used for food. In many countries, these terms are only labels that have no legal ground or oversight by government agencies, and when there is a legal standing or definition for these terms, often times they are very poorly enforced, they don't cover the transport of animals to and from facilities, nor the treatment of the animal down the slaughter line, often where lots of the abuse takes place. In the case of grass fed beef, the impact on the land and on greenhouse gas emissions, is even greater than in the case of cows raised in traditional feedlots. Very sad but true.

Of course there are small family farms that treat their animals in a way that is miles away from the treatment of animals in factory farms, but due to the growing demand for food, these are not the products that reach our supermarkets and stores. To me, if there is a way for me to eat deliciously and thrive on a diet that doesn't require killing an animal, no matter how it was raised, I'll take it! 

 

Q. Is it expensive to eat a vegan diet?

A: Just as with the question of whether or not a vegan diet is healthy, the answer is: it depends on what you buy, and what you bought before you went vegan. A vegan diet not only doesn't have to be more expensive than a meat-based one, but it can even show you a reduction in costs since whole grains, beans and vegetables are usually less expensive than meat and dairy-based products. Sadly, due to subsidies and the cost of cheap meat, if you were on a diet that consisted of McDonalds happy meals and $1 menus, you will probably be spending more. You will however be saving on the thing you can never put a price tag on: your health!

 

Q. Do you need special equipment or fancy and expensive ingredients to be vegan?

A: No! A vegan diet can be very simple, using ingredients you find at your local store, and a simple set of pots and pans, a cutting board and a knife. Of course you can take any cuisine to many different levels, but I can tell you my kitchen is very simple, and I buy my ingredients in my local supermarket or health food store. Some of the new alternatives to meat and cheeses can be harder to find in some places, so just do a little research for local health food stores or shop online. Even if you live in an area where neither of these are possible, you can eat a completely delicious and balanced vegan diet, made with simple whole foods you can find anywhere.

 

Q. Isn't a vegan diet too limited or difficult to keep up for long?

A.  A vegan diet can be just as varied or even more varied than a meat-based one. It takes a few days for your taste buds to reprogram themselves and get used to eating a healthier diet.  The same fat,  salty and sugary foods that tasted amazing at one point in your life will never be the same.  Once you have detoxed your body can tell the difference between food that is beneficial and the food that brings us closer to colon cancer.  

The truth is the answer to this question depends entirely on you. More specifically on your mindset and creativity. If you're going into this expecting lack, deprivation and focusing only on what you can't have, that might be what you experience. If you go into this with an open mind, willing to learn some new recipes and focusing on all the new foods that will now fill your plate, you're in for a very exciting journey!

 

Q. My partner doesn't want to go vegan, how can make the switch to a vegan diet and still maintain a healthy relationship with him or her?

A.  All over the world, people are sitting at the dinner table with food sensitivities, allergies, preferences, etc., that make them eat in a different way from their partners, children and family members. Once you find a middle ground where you both feel comfortable, and make certain compromises, you can totally be vegan even if your partner never decides to join you. It can be a bit more challenging (often times more for emotional reasons than practical ones), but it can totally be done. 

 

Q. Aren't we supposed to eat meat? We've been doing it for centuries and it's tradition.

A: I understand our attachment to foods that have been a part of our lives for so long. They're part of our traditions, our family and social circles, not to mention our past history as a culture and as human beings. There are many things that also used t be a part of our cultural heritage and that we would do without giving it a second thought. Things like not allowing women to go to school or vote, owning slaves, having human zoos (yes this was a thing!), discriminating against people with a different skin colour, race, religion, sexual orientation. Segregating in buses and bathrooms. Having gladiators fight lions in Roman coliseums. Allowing children and adults to work without rights or fair wage. All of these things were the norm, and part of our culture. Some of these went on for centuries. They were tradition and "the way things were done" until we knew better. It's time that we awaken to the fact that our current agriculture system is causing much more harm than good and that in this instance, we don't need to wait for legislation, leaders or changes to start from the top to create change, we have the sole power to make a difference, every time we sit down to eat or make a purchase.

Saying that we need to do things like our ancestors did before because it's tradition or because we're supposed to do it, only limits our growth as humans, it takes away our power.

Q. can you list some plant-based doctors i could go see in india?

A:  We believe that plant based medicine is best left to the experts. For dietary counselling or just some friendly medical advice feel free to contact any of the clinics on this list.

1. Jindal nature cure

    http://www.jindalnaturecure.in/about.htm

2. Soukya hollistic healing centre

    http://www.soukya.com/holistic-healing-team.php

3. PHC lifestyle clinic

    http://naturopathyoga.org/