Hello, my foxy friends! I'm Freddy the Fox. They don't call me the clever fox for nothing you know. I've managed to duck and dive several tricky situations throughout my life, like being chased by weirdly dressed humans on horses with a pack of hounds or spending my life in a cage to become a fur collar. No thank you!
My friends call me "Mr. know it all" as I usually have an answer for everything! I'm a fussy fox and like to do my research well. So who better than me to provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions related to the lifestyle changes in the Web of change. You're welcome!
Disclaimer: We are not healthcare professionals, yet the below information is based on references and facts from respected medical professionals and scientific research. Of course, we encourage people to do further research on these topics and we have provided some resources to do so.
Why should I go vegan?
Going vegan is one of the most positive things you can do for yourself, the planet and the animals! Typically people choose to be vegan for ethical, health and/or environmental reasons. Luckily, it's now easier than ever before with veganism becoming increasingly mainstream. If you, like most people, love animals and don't want them to suffer or get hurt, going vegan is a logical step to align your actions with your values. It's your chance to live a life that involves delicious food, better health, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and avoids killing other sentient beings. So instead of asking "why should I go vegan", ask yourself, "where do I start"?
2. Will I get all the nutrients I need from a plant-based diet?
Both the American and British Dietetic Associations have stated that a (well-planned i.e. balanced) plant-based diet is nutrionally adequate and safe for all stages in life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes. In addition, the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted by Dr. T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) found that a varied whole-food plant-based diet more than sufficiently covers all the nutrients you need and states "There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants".
Below is a table from The China Study showing the nutrient composition comparison of typical plant-based foods versus animal-based foods.
In summary, animal-based foods do not offer the diversity of nutrients which are plentiful in plant-based wholefoods including antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
3. But, where do you get your protein from?
Protein recommended daily amount: 0.8grams per KG of body weight
(For example 0.8grams x 65KG = 52 grams of protein per day)
(Data source: nutritionstudies.org)
One of the most common questions that vegans get asked! Its a fairly widespread misconception that animal foods are needed for an adequate intake of dietary protein. Getting enough protein on a plant-based diet is easy. The foods that form the foundation of a plant-based diet (beans, grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds) are all rich in protein. As long as you eat a variety of these and limit refined foods (junk food, sugary snacks etc.) to meet your calorie needs, protein deficiency is virtually impossible.
Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which are considered essential. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and as a result, they must come from food. Foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids are known as complete proteins. We don’t need to eat all the essential amino acids together in one meal to get adequate amounts of protein. It’s possible to eat a variety of foods that are rich in essential and non-essential amino acids and still get the right amount of protein. Some plant-based foods contain all the essential amino acids e.g. hemp, chia and spirulina. These can be easily added to smoothies, porridge or energy bites for an added boost. Plant proteins contain such a wide variety of amino acids that vegans are almost guaranteed to get all the necessary amino acids with very little effort.
Lastly, while animal flesh may be considered a complete protein, it typically also contains potentially harmful saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics. Unlike plant-based protein, animal protein lacks fibre, antioxidants, enzymes and various other nutrients.
4. What about calcium & iron
Calcium recommended daily amount: approx. 500-700mg
(varies depending on source & depends on age and sex)
Iron recommended daily amount: approx. 10-20mg
(varies depending on source & depends on age and sex)
Both calcium and iron are metals that come from the earth. The true source of these metals is in the ground which is accessible to us through the consumption of plants.
The only reason calcium is contained in animal-derived milk (e.g. cows milk) is because animals ingest it through eating plants (grass, soy e.t.c). We can obtain plenty of calcium by eating a diverse whole-foods plant-based diet that contains nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, dark leafy greens and plant-based milks to obtain the recommended daily amount of calcium.
There are two types of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme iron, only found in meat through blood and muscle, is associated with an increased risk in stroke, heart disease and diabetes. The healthiest form of iron appears to be non-heme which is only found in plant-based foods. You can find non-heme iron in abundance in whole-grain cereals, breads, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens.
High-fibre foods such as whole-wheat and corn are also high in iron, so by increasing our fibre intake (which we can only get from plants), we will also be consuming more iron. "People who consume more plant-based foods, thus more dietary fibre, also consume more iron, all of which results in statistically significant higher levels of hemoglobin." Dr T. Colin Campbell (The China Study).
Further reading/ listening:
The Safety of Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron (Video clip)
5. What is vitamin B12 and do I need to supplement it?
Vitamin B12 recommended daily amount: 2.4 micrograms
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, made by anerobic micro-organisms (organisms that do not need oxygen to live) that are found in soil and intestines of animals, including humans. It's an essential nutrient that our bodies need to help speed up our reactions. B12 is not found in plants or animal foods naturally, only through contact with the microbes in the soil. A plant-based/ vegan diet does not naturally contain B12 due to the sanitised world that we live in nowadays, where the soil is washed from vegetables. Deficiency in B12 can cause serious illnesses including anaemia and nervous system damage so it is absolutely essential to supplement it in a plant-based diet. It's easy to ensure you have sufficient levels by taking a Vitamin B complex supplement daily.
6. Do I need to take any supplements on a plant-based diet?
The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted (The China Study) suggest two supplements on a whole-foods plant-based diet, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. If you get 20-30minutes of sunlight several times a week then your body will typically get sufficient Vitamin D. During the winter months it might be helpful to take a supplement when there is insufficient sunlight exposure.
Vitamin B12 recommended daily amount: 2.4 micrograms
Data source: nutritionstudies.org
Vitamin D recommended daily amount: 2,000 IU (50 micrograms)
Data source: nutritionfacts.org
7. What about meat or fish that's organic/grass fed?
There is no humane way to slaughter or kill an animal that wants to live. Regardless of whether an animal or fish is raised in 'organic' conditions, the methods used to kill them are typically the same. It's also true that animals produced for meat are killed when they are mere babies, long before their natural life span age. It is simply unethical and unnecessary in today's world to kill >50 billion animals (6.5 times the global human population in just one year!) and >2 trillion fish a year when we can instead choose a much healthier plant-based diet that does much less damage to the environment and ends the suffering for the animals.
Data Source: Aussie Farms Repository
8. What about honey?
Honey is derived from an animals (bees!) and is thus not vegan. Although it may not be necessary to kill bees for honey, they are often harmed in the honey gathering process. Find out more here. There are plenty of alternatives to replace honey in our diet such as maple syrup, date syrup, agave nectar or even dried fruits.
9. Isn't it very expensive being vegan?
It's important to note that some of the cheapest foods on the planet are plant-based. These include beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, potatoes and rice. You can make simple, delicious and nutritious meals using non-expensive ingredients that not only help the planet and animals, but also save you money. As for expense, a diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds is cheaper than a diet that includes meat, dairy, and eggs. In most cases, a vegan diet will be much cheaper. Processed vegan foods are sometimes pricey, but a package of soy burgers is usually no more expensive, and often less expensive, than a comparable quantity of meat. And, as we mentioned above, processed foods, whether vegan or animal-based, are not particularly healthy things to consume.
10. Isn't it extreme bring vegan?
Of course, it can feel daunting to think about making the change to a vegan diet but if getting rid of all animal products seems extreme, it may be because it's a new concept to you, or because you don’t know anyone else who has already done it. The good news is there are millions of vegans out there for whom it was all new once, and who, almost without exception say: “I wish I had done it sooner.” There is nothing extreme about kindess and non-violence.
11. But if we didnt breed cows/pigs/sheep, they would stop existing?
The world's farm animals would gradually disappear, except for a few kept by hobbyists and breed preservationists. From a biodiversity perspective this disappearance would not be a bad thing. Not only are farm animals unequipped to survive in nature, they are also predisposed to a number of painful physical conditions due to their having been relentlessly bred for high production and extreme growth rates. If the world's farm animals were to vanish, the vast expanses of monocultured cropland used to feed them could be allowed to revert to nature. We would then witness a dramatic recovery of countless species of wildlife.
12. Don’t plants feel pain too?
While plants can respond to stimuli, they don’t contain a central nervous system, therefore don’t experience pain. Unlike cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, plants are not sentient beings.
13. I could never give up cheese!
If you have the desire to become vegan but find yourself struggling with the idea of cravings or giving up a particular food, don’t worry, that’s completely normal! These are challenges, but they certainly don’t have to be barriers. Most vegans stop eating animal products for ethical reasons, not because they don’t enjoy the taste of them. It might sound silly but there’s lots of cheese-loving vegans out there! Far too often people shrug off the idea of veganism for fear of missing a particular food, or they try veganism but end up giving it up in it’s entirety for similar reasons. This is often the result of jumping into veganism too quickly with too little preparation. In the case of cheese, another reason why it may be difficult to give it up is that it contains opiate-like compounds called casomorphins that have a similar effect as some addicitve drugs. That’s why it is so important to take the transition at a pace that works for you so that it’s sustainable.