Veganism vs Plant-based Diet

Heart Shaped Waterfall - St. Helena Island, 2011
Heart Shaped Waterfall - St. Helena Island, 2011

Living a vegan lifestyle and following all of its principles is a little more than going on a plant-based diet. It is certainly admirable to exclude all animal origin products and byproducts from our diet and all living creatures, along with the environment, will benefit from more people switching to this healthy and balanced positive diet. Now, choosing veganism and applying this philosophy to its fullest is usually driven by more profound and altruistic reasons. The Vegan Society, founders of the movement in 1944, defines veganism:

"A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

I have been talking to many people since I started to live a vegan lifestyle and for almost all of them becoming a vegan seems like a difficult choice for a variety of reasons. Most say it can limit partly or completely their everyday choices, as they find less options in a market that sometimes seems not yet prepared to offer (or willing to include) plant-based alternatives for a wider spectrum of customers. There is also the impression that this kind of diet can be more expensive than an omnivorous or even an exclusively carnivorous one, which, in my experience, is incorrect. It does not cost more in terms of money, but often it requires more time as we ought to read all product labels and investigate properly about the origin of the ingredients or the producer's policies and principles. I must admit it can be a long process and it can even be challenging when we find a product we may like and want to purchase but has to be excluded because of a single ingredient or perhaps because the manufacturer has no evident ethical and sustainable policies in place.

Eating healthier and choosing diligently what we put in our body results in buying higher quality products, which means it can appear as a more expensive shopping experience at first, but in the long run it is paramount for our health and for the planet when we consume high quality products, directly supporting businesses that have our best interests at heart.

As vegans, we carefully select what we eat and drink, but it's not only about our diet. We extend this meticulous process to a larger scale, applying the same terms when it comes to sourcing any products we consume or wear, and even services. Cosmetics, personal hygiene products, cleaning products, clothing, electricity supply, just to mention a few. Remember, this has to be all done "as far as is possible and practicable". It should not become a sufferance for ourselves, but we have to be willing to dedicate some time and effort to find the best options, sometimes simply avoid what is not good for us and the environment, let go of certain old habits, do our part in this delicate and crucial process to protect all life and restore the environment of our fragile planet.

Avoiding all animal products and byproducts is what people practicing veganism and people living on a plant-based diet share when it comes to nourishing our bodies but, as we have established, veganism is indeed a little more complex altogether. We all enjoy the healthy benefits of the wonderful cruelty-free nourishment we put in our bodies, but the next step is also to care for the impact our diets and lifestyles have on the environment and other lives.

No matter what, when we buy something we have to consider what it contains, the packaging it comes in, what are the ethical principles of the manufacturer or even the retailer, how much added sugar or other unnecessary artificial ingredients it has, is there an organic alternative, is it locally sourced, and so on. Often you will find vegan options in the form of processed foods and "ready meals", but remember that nothing beats whole ingredients, so the best solution is to prepare meals ourselves from scratch to get the proper nutrition.

This is a short article setting some basis and I am going to be developing more specific points individually in the future. Meantime, feel free to contact me to ask for any suggestions or tips with regards to becoming a vegan and embracing this healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle. One thing is for sure, there is always something more we all can do to improve the quality of our life and our health, which will reflect on a more sustainable and lower impact existence, no matter if you are a vegan or not. Our individual choices can definitely make the difference!

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