What is a vegan?

Vegans avoid eating foods that come from animals and may also avoid animal products.

Vegans consume only non-animal products. They avoid meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Many vegans also abstain from honey, because it is produced by bees, and from gelatin (found in marshmallows, Jell-O, many frosted cereals, and chewy candies), which is made from hooves and other animal parts. 

For anyone choosing a vegan diet, that leaves vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, nuts, legumes, grains and seeds, vegetable oils, tofu, and meat substitutes made from soy, wheat gluten, and the like.

Many vegans adopt the diet because of ethical concerns about factory farming and animal rights. Often vegans will reject any practice or product that treats an animal as a commodity and will therefore avoid buying anything made of leather, wool, silk, pearl, or fur.

What are the nutritional benefits of eating vegan?

Most vegans get adequate amounts of protein without extra effort, thanks to the protein content in vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and soy milk. Harder to come by in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, which is predominantly found in meat and other animal products. Vegans are advised to eat foods fortified with the vitamin or to add supplements to their diet.

What are the criticisms of veganism?

Criticisms of veganism include the argument that humans are natural omnivores with a physiognomy suited to a diet inclusive of meat and that vegans do not receive adequate nutrition.

An example of a vegan meal: sliced vegetables and vegan chili.

(Photo: Alex Brunsdon/Getty Images)

How easy is it to maintain a vegan diet?

With the growing popularity of the diet, vegans find it easier than ever to eat out. Cuisines that do not rely heavily on dairy products or have established traditions of vegetarian eating—such as Indian, Thai, and Chinese—have the widest variety of options for vegan diners.

Vegan recipes:

Meatless Mondays: Vegetable Terrine

Meatless Mondays: Lentil and Tomato Salad

Meatless Mondays: Sprouted Lentils and Beans With Baby Greens

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