This question has been covered briefly in our previous blogs however we will go into more detail in this blog. At Nutracity.co.uk we have a large range of products in our online vegan nutrition store as part of our vegan products UK line. There are many reasons why individuals choose to follow a vegan diet. These could be for religious reasons, environmental reasons, reduce risk of illnesses such as heart disease or cancer or because of being affected by the slaughtering of animals. A vegan diet excludes all animal foods and any foods that are by-products of animals. This means that vegans do not eat poultry, meat, fish, milk, eggs, honey or any dairy product for that matter. Vegans have to also look out for particular ingredients that may be contained in food that is considered vegan. For example, typical confectionary sweets would be considered vegan as they are mostly sugar based, however, ingredients like gelatine and certain glazing agents are derived from animal parts such as collagen and shellac.1 This also applies to bakery goods, where a particular product might be vegan on the inside i.e. eggless but they may use an egg wash on the outside to give the final product a particular glaze. Certain crisps may also use natural flavours derived from meat and dairy in order to give a more authentic taste, these products would also not be considered vegan. Another factor to also consider is that certain products will state, “may contain milk” or “may contain animal products”. Most of the time, this is a way for the manufacturer to cover their back as they are produced in the same factory as other products that contain animal products, however the product in question does not contain animal products in and of itself. Therefore, most vegans would be ok with these type of products but some would not, especially those following for religious/self-belief reasons as opposed to those following a vegan diet just for health benefits.
To be totally honest, if you was to make a list of all the different types of food and ingredients etc in existence you will find that most of them are NOT animal products. The vegan diet is a lot more varied than is made out to be. It includes all fruits and vegetables, grains, rice, bread, pasta, tortillas, pulses like chickpeas etc, all sorts of nuts, seeds, mushrooms, oils, vinegars, herbs and spices, condiments, and many other vegan alternatives. Even though dairy products are not vegan friendly, there are plenty of vegan alternatives to compensate. In terms of milk, there are milks derived from soybeans, nuts, seeds, rice and oats, all of which can be just as tasty as cow’s or goats milk. In fact, it is very common to find non-vegans consuming vegan-friendly milk simply because it tastes better and is better tolerated by their GI system. Coconut oil and olive oil are often used as substitutes for butter, generally they are preferred for their taste as well as being a healthier alternative.
Another point to consider is that not all vegans feel a need to “substitute” non-vegan foods all the time. Many vegans find that by not consuming a particular food for a long period of time, eventually you may stop missing that food altogether. Often many vegans will try totally new recipes for dishes that they may not have even considered before or may never have even heard of. This makes the diet more interesting and diverse and adds an element of surprise and excitement when first trying out new dishes. Another interesting point is that vegan diets are often confused with other diets. For example, gluten is vegan-friendly, therefore following a vegan diet does not mean that you have to follow a gluten-free diet also. Some vegans may choose to follow two diets at the same time due to allergies or intolerances but this is not always the case. Generally carbohydrates such as rice, bread and potatoes are not a problem in vegan diets, this makes it a lot easier for people to try out a vegan diet as most staple foods of different countries are carbohydrates or plant-based foods.
There are also certain beverages that cannot be consumed on a vegan diet. It is not safe to assume that all beverages are allowed on a vegan diet as some drinks do contain ingredients that are derived from animal products. For example, certain beers will contain an ingredient called isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of fish. Also, most wines use some form of gelatine during the wine making process so this also excludes a lot of alcoholic drinks. Next, certain soda drinks like fizzy cola drinks will use ester gum. This thickens or stabilises food products. Ester gum itself contains glycerol which is sometimes sourced from an animal. Certain fruit juices may be fortified with vitamins and minerals. Sometimes these vitamins and minerals are of animal origin. For example, certain fruit juices are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids which are mostly derived from fish. Another point to consider is that in order for some drinks to appear a certain colour, the colour additives may be of animal origin. Beverages that appear with a very distinct red colour may use a red dye made from a cochineal insect in order to get the beverage a bright red colour.
So to sum up, we are fully aware that vegans cannot eat any animal products or products derived from animals. As we can see, it is the derived part that can be harder to identify. Some foods and even beverages are often assumed vegan as it appears “obvious” in the final product that it should not contain any products derived from animals, but on further investigation this does not always appear to be the case. At Nutracity.co.uk, you can use our chat feature at the bottom of the page to always ask one of our expert pharmacists if you are unsure about any of the products and we will happily be able to point you in the right direction.