Some Food For Thought

I think a lot of people who start to eat healthier come to a point where they have to explain their eating habits to others. Why can’t you come with us to this restaurant? Can’t we just go to Burger King? What’s wrong with this salad? This is especially true for vegans, at least this is my personal experience.

So What Is The Vegan Diet?

Vegans simply don’t eat anything that comes directly or indirectly from animals (except the natural act of dusting a blossom). For an easy start, you should have this list in mind

  • no meat (neither pork, beef, chicken, lamb or kangaroo)
  • no fish and no seafood
  • no milk and other dairy products
  • no cheese (especially)
  • no eggs
  • no honey

But beware of some pitfalls. If you want to live strictly vegan, there are some nasty ingredients, you also have to avoid.

  • Gelatin is made out of the bone marrow of a pig and is used in gummy bear sweets, jello, mousses and a lot of other stuff
  • Many wines and kinds of vinegar, especially red wines are also cleared with gelatin. This goes also for a lot of soft drinks from apple juice to lemonades depending on the brand
  • A lot of non-german beer brands clear their products with isinglass, which is a substance from a fish’s swim bladder. However, the situation on that matter is getting better every year.
  • Some of the famous E food additives are not vegan like E 120 carmine (red colour coming from a coccid insect), E 322 lecithin (could come from egg protein), E 901 bee wax, E 904 shellac (also from a coccid) and several others with potential animal origin

Why should We Do That?

Actually, there are 3 major reasons for becoming a vegan and personal taste is actually not one of them. Believe me, no one wants to look on every package to see which E additives are used. So we directly go to the important stuff.

Reason 1: The Animals

Most vegans are animal friends or even animal activists. The life of an animal is not worth less than the life of a human. But even if you are not such a radical mind with genes to actively fight against animal inequality, you will definitely sooner or later see that things go very wrong in the meat industry. There are too many of us and therefore the demand for meat and animal products is much too high to be able to produce this in a humane and non-painful way for the animals.

It starts with the obvious. Just go for some real-world documentaries on chicken farming, cow slaughter processes and pig stables.

But even processes that are established for centuries are crude. A cow, that should give milk, for example, needs one pregnancy and one calf per year. The calf is then separated from its mother directly after birth and kept within listening distance, which is a torture for the cow and the calf as you could imagine. And that’s just for having a product, that is specially designed by nature as nutrition for a calf. Humans in their first months have to get accustomed to this and some of them have an intolerance against it for their whole lifetime.

Reason 2: Health

There are several aspects that concern the health area. Maybe the most important ones are the lack of cholesterol in almost every meal, which is especially good for a bureau worker with a genetical predisposition for heart disease reaching back several generations like me.

Secondly, you automatically eat fresher and more conscious, buy more organic products, which gives me vitamins en masse without taking any pill. And adding to that, things like antibiotics in cheap meat, mouldy and rotten products and rainbow-coloured slices of sausage are a thing from the past.

And thirdly for me most importantly, by restricting to only vegan products the temptation is gone to go for a snack, a doughnut, a piece of cake or chocolate while working. You will quit convenience food, microwave stuff and deep-frozen pizza automatically because any of these products surely contain ingredients you don’t eat as a vegan.

Reason 3: The Environment

To me, the most important aspect overall was to reduce my personal ecologic footprint. I try to find a low energy flat, quit my car some years ago and drink water directly from the tap.

Did you know that CO₂ coming from the industrial sector, cars and heating are actually not the only main reason for the greenhouse effect? No, stock farming is almost always missing on the lists with a share of over 20 %. Imagine giant cattle herds in South America and the US. A cow produces methane which has 28 times higher greenhouse potential than the same amount of CO₂ and remains much longer in the atmosphere because the resorption rate is lower.

For an equivalent to a delicious well-hung rib eye steak from good Argentinian or Japanese beef in a restaurant in my neighbourhood, I could easily get into a Porsche Cayenne, drive from Hamburg to the Côte d’Azur (and back) and have an even more delicious vegan meal there — both have the same impact on the greenhouse effect.

Are There Any Downsides?

Ther are, of course, disadvantages. Living as a vegan is a much less challenging task these days as compared to — let’s say — 20 years ago. It even was harder six years ago, when I became a vegan. But still, there are some things to consider:

  • There is one essential vitamin that you can’t get from your diet. That is B 12. So you’ll have to supplement this. The rest is coming if you choose your ingredients in a balanced way.
  • There is still a rather mixed situation regarding food packaging and the information on it. While the vegan flower label can be seen on more and more products, for many others, this still means reading 3-point font size ingredient lists in the supermarket. So don’t forget your glasses.
  • In restaurants, you need to have trust that vegan or veganized orders are cooked with standards similar to your own and that the chef knows the rules. Especially for (my beloved) Thai food for example, where fish sauce is essential in all otherwise vegan dishes, this is going to be hard.

Final Words

Three important reasons pro veganism. At least for me. That’s why I can’t imagine going back anymore. Since we (me and my wife) do it, we have more variability in our everyday food, have found out about ingredients, we’ve never tasted before and have learned things about cruelties in the production chain of meat, milk and eggs, we’d rather like to never have known. Therefore my personal suggestion is: try it out. For the business people among you: it’s a win-win situation.

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