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Vegetarian or Vegan: Food for Thought

By Debra Rodzinak

Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend over my ongoing journey to eat healthier. The conversation eventually turned to cutting out meat. The question of “are you going vegan?” was ultimately asked, and my answer was honestly that I really didn’t know what it meant to be vegan. So, I decided to find out.

What Is a Vegan?

Vegetarians have been around long enough for most of us to know that they refrain from eating meat. Some vegetarians eat eggs and drink milk, while others don’t. So, what is a vegan and how do they differ from vegetarians? 

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a vegan is a strict vegetarian that does not eat any foods that come from animals and abstains from using any products that come from animals (like leather) or animal production (like honey).  Some vegans even go a step farther by refraining from using any household products that use animal testing during production. 

For my lifestyle change purposes, I think that I will stick with the food restrictions for the time being. I did, however, switch to reusable grocery bags and stopped buying paper towels several years ago. Baby steps. 

Diet Considerations

My main concern with switching to a vegan diet is getting all of the minerals and vitamins needed to keep my body healthy. It is a delicate balance to get the zinc, iron, calcium, and protein in the daily diet when eating a vegan diet, but it is not an impossible task.

Eating a variety of different foods daily is the first step. Since processed foods are not eaten on a vegan diet, many raw foods such as nuts, kale, and raw vegetables are utilized to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals needed in a daily balanced diet.

Supplements

Since vegans don’t want to use products that have been tested on animals or use animal products, taking a daily vitamin becomes an investigative task in finding a reputable company that divulges how their products were produced. Just because the label is marked “natural and healthy” doesn’t mean it is true. Remember the old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”  Since Vitamin B12 is only vitamin found in animal foods, it is very important that those who refrain from eating meat also keep a check on their B12 levels.

With the added benefits of eliminating red meat from my diet, like lower cholesterol levels, better cardiovascular health, and decreasing many health conditions, I think I am going to give vegetarianism a try. Then, when I feel more confident, I will dip my toe into the pool of veganism.  Let’s hope I don’t get in over my head. If you feel that you need a change to a healthier lifestyle, come take a swim with me.   

 

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