Vegan FAQ

—– Do vegans actually get enough protein? Where do they get their protein?

The human body needs a varying amount of protein depending on physical activity, size, age, etcetera. From an article by Laura Dolson in November of 2010, “The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in kilograms by .8, or weight in pounds by .37. This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum. According to this method, a person weighing 150 lbs. should eat 55 grams of protein per day, a 200-pound person should get 74 grams, and a 250-pound person should eat 92 grams.

Vegans and vegetarians often get more protein than omnivores do. Here is a list of only some vegan sources of protein and how much per serving size. [table source: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.htmgo here for full list]

  • Tempeh: 1 cup, 41g
  • Seitan: 3 oz, 31 g
  • Soybeans: 1 cup, 29 g
  • Lentils: 1 cup, 18g
  • Black beans: 1 cup, 15 g
  • Kidney beans: 1 cup, 13g
  • Veggie burger: 1 patty, 13g
  • Chickpeas: 1 cup, 12g
  • Tofu, firm: 4 oz, 11g
  • Quinoa: 1 cup, 9g
  • Peas: 1 cup, 9g
  • TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) ½ cup, 8g
  • Peanut butter: 1 tbsp, 8g
  • Veggie dog: 1 link, 8g
  • Almonds: ¼ cup, 8g
  • Soymilk: 1 cup, 7g
  • Spinach: 1 cup, 5g
  • Broccoli: 1 cup, 4g

—– I know vegan ‘cheese’ exists, but what kinds are there and where do I find them?

There are literally hundreds of ways to satisfy your cravings for cheese as a vegan. You can 1. buy some substitutes or 2. make your own!

 Look around for vegan cheese options at your local health food and grocery stores, from companies like Daiya, Teese, Tofutti, and Galaxy Nutritional Foods. A clerk should be able to point you in the right direction. These are, of course, not all the brands of vegan cheese that exist – Check out this article comparing different vegan cheeses!

** Kroger recently started supplying Daiya, and they have a huge variety of vegan foods at their stores. Whole Foods is not the only place to find vegan cheese – Star Market’s and Hannaford’s organic/’Wild Harvest’ sections are where you can Tofutti and Galaxy Nutritional Foods brand vegan cheese.

*Vegans, make note – Galaxy Nutritional Foods ‘Veggie Shreds’ are not vegan – they are lactose-free, but contain casein. Opt instead for the Rice slices

If you can’t find any packaged substitutes, seriously, make your own – my tag for vegan cheese has so many recipes. Vegan cheese? So easy to make. You can also ask your preferred grocery store if they can start ordering it, or contact the companies about where they are supplied.

—– Is there vegan yogurt?!

 As far as vegan yogurt goes, there is no lack of variety here. Silk’s soy yogurt is my personal favorite, but that may be because I’m just the biggest Silk fan there is, and I added fresh blueberries. Another brand that I’ve heard good things about is WholeSoy & Co., though that may be a bit harder to get your hands on. GoDairyFree.com has a 5 Star Review of WholeSoy & Co. that I recommend you lend your eyes to. 

And never fear, there are other types of vegan yogurt besides soy! So Delicious, which uses coconut milk, is so accurately named because seriously everything they make is so delicious. All of their products are worth trying. Another vegan brand of yogurt is Nogurt – it’s made from arrowroot flour.

 Brands I have not tried that exist: NuLait [nut milk yogurt] and Ricera [rice milk yogurt]. For the hell of it, here is a nutritional comparison of some soy yogurt brands.

—– What about vegan butter? I need my grilled cheeze fix.

 No health food store near you? No problem – two vegan buttery spreads in grocery stores are Earth Balance and Smart Balance Light (only the Light kinds of Smart Balance are vegan, so be careful!) I thoroughly recommend Smart Balance Light with Flax because vegans need all the extra omega 3’s they can get!

—– Do vegans get enough calcium? From where?

 Something people need to start disbelieving is the old myth that you “Need to drink milk to get calcium”. The dairy industry has half the world thinking cow’s milk is the only significant source of calcium – this is literally a business ploy. There is now scientific evidence that dairy leaches protein from your bones. “When a diet high in animal protein is consumed, the blood’s PH level is made very acid.  The body then leeches (removes) calcium from the bones in order to neutralize the acid.  People who eat diets high in animal protein (such as the diet in modern countries) are at the greatest risk for osteoporosis,” says Dave Rietz, webmaster of www.notmilk.com where Dr. Kradijan’s famous Milk Letter is hosted.

Julia from Eat.Run.Do Yoga. cites that the Recommended Daily Allowance for adults is 1000 mg for people 18-50 years old, slightly more for lactating women (this is seconded and further sourced by the VRG’s page on calcium, sited below). Here’s her list of abundant sources of non-dairy calcium (per 1 cup):

Dark Leafy Greens

  • Cooked turnip greens (450 mg)
  •  Cooked bok choy (330 mg)
  •  Cooked collards (300)
  •  Cooked kale (200 mg)

Cooked Beans

  • Navy beans (140 mg)
  •  Soybeans (130 mg)
  •  Pinto beans (100 mg)
  •  Garbanzo beans (95 mg)
  •  Lima and black beans (60 mg)

Sea vegetables

  • Nori (1200 mg)
  •  Kombu (2100 mg)
  •  Wakame (3500 mg)

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds (750 mg)
  •  Hazelnuts (450 mg)
  •  Walnuts (280 mg)
  •  Sesame seeds, whole, unhulled (2100 mg)
  •  Sunflower seeds (260 mg)

Tofu made with calicum sulfate (1721 mg)

Calcium-fortified soy milk (approx 200 mg)

 Very obviously, the joke that ‘the only thing vegans is vitamins’ is 100% untrue. Also from the Vegetarian Resource Group is an extra table of calcium-rich foods – please check it out and show it to all the non-vegans to prove them wrong.

—– What are some nutrient concerns vegans have?

When I first saw a nutritionist this year, her only concern after looking at a food diary of mine was whether or not I was getting enough vitamin B12. Main nutrients vegans can sometimes have trouble with are B12, iron, zinc, and omega 3’s.

  1. B12: the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 is 3mcg. This is MORE than attainable in the vegan diet – fortified breakfast cereals alone go up to 25mcg a serving (Kellogg’s All-Bran – from NutritionData.com). Ever seen LUNA bars? Morning Star Farms, Vitasoy, Silk? All these companies have significant amounts of B12 in their food – LUNA bars alone have about 70% of your daily B12. Even Red Bull has a ton of B12 – it’s hiding everywhere. Natural, plant sources of B12 include: nori, chlorella, and spirulina. Also, check your nutritional yeast – I bet there’s some there, too.
  2. Iron: definitely not a problem for vegans. Iron absorption depends on Vitamin C. The VRG, as for everything, has a wonderful chart of high-iron foods. There are literally so many vegan sources of iron. Here’s a post sunshel did of the top vegan iron sources.
  3. Zinc: The RDA for zinc is at least 15mg, but you can go as high as 50mg for ‘optimal health’. Foods high in zinc are: swiss chard, lima beans, baked potato, oats, mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, rice, kidney beans, ginger root, wild rice, peas, leeks, lentils, cashews, and sunflower seeds. All so delicious.
  4. Omega 3’s: I dunno about you vegans, but I get my omega 3’s in my vegan butter – Smart Balance Light with Flax is delicious and 20% your daily need. Raw walnuts, an excellent snacks, are also high in omega 3’s. Flax seeds can pretty much be put in anything, including shakes and smoothies. Also, flaxseed and canola oils have great amounts of omega 3’s, so make sure to cook with them sometimes! This is a pretty complex nutrient, so for all the science, check out Vegan Health’s article explaining everything you could ever want to know.

—– Vegan alcohol please?

Check out Barnivore to see which alcohols are vegan. Fantastic source.

—– Does veganism affect your hair, skin, or body? 

  • Hair: All I could find on this topic were questions posed by older female vegans. I would like to point out that age alone can affect hair quality and quantity and that no real link exists between hair loss and a vegan diet. According to this article from vegsource, calorie intake has a lot to do with hair cell metabolism, and consuming too little calories (which is very easy to do as a vegan) can cause hair to grow slower and reduce. In addition, I found Jo Stephaniak from Grassroots Veganism answering a reader’s question about hair growing slower and becoming more brittle. Jo’s answer was essentially this: hair growth and health has to do with protein, so if you’re getting enough protein, your hair should be fine. Protein is found in more than just beans and legumes – basically all foods other than fats and alcohols have some protein in them. Therefore, if you’re getting enough calories in your diet, you’re probably getting accurate protein. Another thing that can help your hair is getting enough omega-3’s! Jo says it can improve your texture.
  • Skin: Switching to a vegan diet often clears skin and makes it much softer. The reason for this is the well-balanced vegan diet is very well-hydrated; with lots of leafy greens, fruits, and veggies, the body is cleaner inside and the lack of animal toxins also helps to clear up your skin. VegFamily’s website features this forum of vegans discussing how their lifestyle has affected their skin, and what’s worked for them!
  • Body: From the official Nursing Degree website, here’s the list of 57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan – fully sourced and fully awesome. Go nuts!

—– How can I explain veganism to non-vegans? CAN we coexist?

One Green Planet has this amazingly positive article on how to survive being a vegan in a household/world of non-vegans, peaceably. Within it are quick links to many important topics all vegans should be knowledgeable about, such as the impacts from animal agriculture on the environment and health dangers of a diet laden with animal products.

My suggestion to new vegans or those who want to go vegan and don’t know how to get parents or relatives to agree to it is the following: To get them to be okay with you going vegan, you need to approach them calmly and rationally with the health facts first, before even touching the morality aspect of it. This is just my advice – I feel like most often, all parents care about if your health and what they think about it – not your ethical standards.

First, show them 1. that being veg does not mean depriving your body of anything, 2. why you want/care so much about going veg, and 3. that it’s easy and healthy. I’ve suggested this to past questioners – go through your meal rotation that your family uses and see what is already vegan. You’ll be surprised how much of it is, especially because you’ve been vegetarian for a long time! Next, look through some vegan recipes with your mom or dad and see if there is a list you can make of ones you all want to try – this is a pretty big step. Also – go food shopping with your parents! Look at veggie foods together, spend some time in the produce aisle, and get acquainted with the beans and legumes.

If they ever are willing to read up on why we are not meant to eat animals at all (not just meat), see this post.

—– Veganism is expensive, isn’t it?

Veganism is in no way more expensive than an omni-diet, especially if you’re a vegan that opts not to consume faux meat (as a moral decision). I’d also like to point out that if you DO purchase faux-meats, it’s going to always be infinitely more cost-effective to make your own veggie burgers and whatnot, as with any meal. Honestly, vegan cheese does not cost more than regular cheese – if it does, it’s by a matter of a few cents.

As for the cost of produce vegans consume, I suggest 1. Buying local when you can and 2. Always buying what’s seasonal (a.k.a if you want strawberries in the winter, good luck with that – buy the frozen kind for your smoothies and wait until summer). The reason berries and other fruits are so expensive when they’re out of season or not native to the area is because they need to be transported to you, either from somewhere else in the country or from around the world. By buying locally and seasonally, you’re actually doing the planet a world of good by cutting transport costs/environmental pollutants! I’ll leave my economy rants for another time.

In the mean time, here’s a link to a forum discussing how to be a frugal vegan – and by all means, please ask me if you’d like recipes or advice about veganizing food cheaply! I’m all about that.

Another thing you can do to cut costs as a vegan if contact companies that sell vegan products and ask about coupons – seriously, most of them (especially Amy’s) are more than willing to respond and often send out coupons to vegans interested in their products. Worth a try, right?Also, look into ways of making food last longer – there’s more than you think. If you’re a smoothie person, start buying frozen berries and fruit, which is ALWAYS cheaper than fresh fruit and still delicious. Look into buying beans and legumes in bulk, and dried or canned – they can be stored much longer and are very, very cheap (cans of black beans go for about $0.69 where I live!) A vegan item I’ve noticed is often pretty pricey is tofu, and a way to get more out of your block is to SCRAMBLE IT. Seriously, rather than cooking huge chunks in whatever way you do, scramble it – for breakfast, in lo mein, in soups, in ANY dish you can think of. You’ll be using way less of it at a time – I swear by this method. Tofu scramble is awesome.

Vegan on a tight budget? I Eat Trees has your back – look no further for advice!

—– I have a soy allergy – is it possible to be a healthy, soy-free vegan?

In short – absolutely! I think you should meet the SoyFreeVegan blog. In addition, here’s an article about allergies from VegKitchen, an AWESOME soy-free protein list, and a vegan soy allergy forum for you to read through – real life experiences and advice.

—– What are the differences between tofu-seitan-tempeh?

From their Wikipedia pages:

Tofu: made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks – contains a low amount of calories, relatively large amount of iron, and little fat. Depending on the coagulant used in manufacturing, the tofu may also be high in calcium and/or magnesium.

Seitan: made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten. (so,soy-free alternative – but BAD for celiac!)

Tempeh: traditional soy product originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of proteindietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavor which becomes more pronounced as the tempeh ages.

—– What are some vegan ‘superfoods’?

Some people will tell you there are no such things as superfoods, and to a point that’s true – there is no magical food that will instantly heal you or make you drop weight, nothing like that. But amazing foods that exceed all health-expectations and will make you a health-powerhouse DO exist.

While these are certainly not all the super foods, they consist of these staples from The Green Diva (go here for HER full list of superfoods!):

Pumpkin seeds: source of amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins. They also contain calcium, potassium, niacin, phosphorous, magnesium and tryptophan. Tryptophan helps your body produce serotonin which is a hormone that is reputed to make you feel happier.

Goji berries: beta carotene, amino acids, vitamin C and various minerals

And, my own additions:

Chia seeds: This comparisons chart says more about chia seeds than I ever could. Omega 3’s, calcium, iron, protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, antioxidants? Add these to EVERYTHING.

Kale: here are a few of the 9 reasons from Health Diaries you should be eating kale: tons of fiber, carotenoids and flavonoids (antioxidants), omega 3’s, cancer prevention, A and C vitamins, and IRON. Get you some.

Raw Coconut Oil: contains antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, and helps to regulate body lipids! Amazing source of what’s called ‘medium-chain fatty acids’, which the body turns into energy – lots of it.

As a source, let me introduce all of you to Linwoods Super Foods. From their site, “The Linwoods range of delicious, nutritious ‘Super Foods’ is the perfect solution for those who want to ensure that their diet comprises the essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that can add such quality to life and living.” They’re ground seed, nuts, and berries that can be added to basically ANYTHING, and as an added bonus, all their products are gluten free and have no added sugar.

—–“May contain traces…”? “Made in a facility that processes…”? Do products that say this count as vegan?

What these mean is that the product is made on or near the same surfaces, and it’s basically a precaution for people with allergies. If companies didn’t put that in fine print after the ingredients list, they could get sued if someone had an allergic reaction. They are NEGLIGIBLE amounts if ANY – my vegan little sister and I take it with a grain of salt. 

The only way I think it’s not really vegan is it means you’re supporting a company that uses animal products in some of their products, even if the one you’re consuming is vegan. By choosing not to consume products that ‘may contain traces…’ or ‘made in a  facility that processes…’, you won’t be contributing to the industry. But again, it’s up to each vegan to decide.

—–Sneaky animal ingredients?

Unfortunately today, there are thousands of hidden animal ingredients in our food, especially those processed or that we don’t prepare ourselves. Almost 100% of the time, you’re safe with raw food, but even then there are things that are not vegan (honey and beeswax especially). Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, checking ingredients lists all day – your cereal, oatmeal, condiments, bread, pasta, and especially snacks could contain honey, (animal) glycerin, gelatin, etcetera. Ever seen ‘mono and diglycerides’? Animal-based – SOMETIMES. Tallow and shellac? Animal based – ALWAYS. Red No.4, lanolin, cystine, cholesterol, casein – animals, animals, animals. While the list of secret animal ingredients is long, the list of ‘sometimes’ animal-based ingredients is longer.

To stay on top of it, I use the Animal-Free app for the iPhone. Quick, easy-to-use resource with descriptions of each ingredient.

For those of you who don’t have an iPhone, don’t stress – it’s not a perfect system anyway (I still have to call companies a LOT to see if there ingredients are plant or animal based. Here’s my ingredients tag with posts all on this subject, including a small list I compiled of some of the animal ingredients.

I also encourage you to check out One Green Planet’s list of food items commonly mistaken as vegan.

—– What the hell do RAW FOOD VEGANS eat??

Raw food vegans have a ton of varieties and options available to them, thanks firstly to mother nature’s delicious spread of natural foods and, of course, dehydrators. Not only are there raw restaurants popping up all over the place (especially apparently LA and San Francisco), but vegan restaurants often always have raw menu options.

To learn more about raw food, the health benefits of eating raw, and TONS of raw food recipes, check out Rawmazing!

—– How can I possibly know which companies test on animals?

Please see the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) and Living Cruelty-Free’s list of 100%-Animal-Testing-Free List of Companies.

—– Is there a way for me to know if a product is for-sure vegan?

Sometimes it’s hard to know if a product is vegan or not. Is this vegetable glycerin or animal glycerin? Is this calcium stearate animal-based? The BEST way to find out is to pick up the phone and call the company. Many company websites will have that information available, but when they don’t, I call them and inquire. What’s interesting is that 9 out of 10 times, they need to get my number and call me back after they investigate – it’s amazing to me how most company employees have no concern or immediate knowledge about this.

Another way of knowing is looking for the official Vegan certification. Some items, like Smart Balance Light and some Naked juices, will say ‘vegan’ somewhere on the label – others will have this symbol.

Go to www.vegan.com for more information on certified vegan products, including an excellent grocery list that helps you “cut through the bullshit”.

—– Do/can vegans eat out?

 Awwwww yeahhhhh everyone – vegans certainly DO eat out. I know this is covered in the following list, but I just need to emphasize- ASK QUESTIONS, ALWAYS. That’s what wait staff is for. Here are some helpful links to make a nice night out WAY less intimidating and complicated:

  1. Vegans Eating Out – the cream of the crop for restaurant sources. This will tell you what common restaurants have what vegan options on their menus – very quick and easy.
  2. Vegetarian’s Survival Guide to Restaurant Eating
  3. Captain Marty’s Vegan Rules for Dining in a Non-Vegan Establishment – a VERY thorough list of how to take precautions as courteously as possible
  4. Yelp.com and the Yelp app for iPhone – search ‘vegan’ and go to town – I can say at least for Boston you’re going to find some AMAZING vegan eats.
  5. My restaurants tag!

—–I want to know more about veganism/being cruelty-free/the industry/what *I* can do to help or change. What are some documentaries I can see about all this?

Beautiful Vegan has a nearly flawless list of documentaries you should watch about veganism, animal cruelty, and impactful change as well as where/how to watch them. The only one she doesn’t have on there that I recommend is Peaceable Kingdom, which you can watch here. Before any of you ask, no, I haven’t seen them all – yet.

Tell me your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s