When Friends Ask About Vegan Diet: Fast Answers to Frequent Questions
A Vegan Health Article from All-Creatures.org

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From Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, on Examiner.com

Once youíve explained to someone why you are vegan, they are likely to have a few questions about the how of it all. And letís face itóyouíve heard most of those questions so many times that it can be a trial to describe once again where you get your protein or how you know plants donít feel pain.

A little preparation can make it easier. Memorize the quick answers below to the questions that non-vegans frequently ask so that youíll always be on your activist toes. (Youíll want to tweak some of the answers, of course, to reflect your own vegan philosophy and lifestyle.)

Where do you get your protein?

Plant foods like grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables all have more protein than people realize. Protein experts say that if people eat enough calories and eat a variety of plant foods, they canít help but get enough protein.

But you need to eat those foods in special combinations, right?

No, thatís an outdated idea. Just eating different foods throughout the day is enough.

Do you worry about iron?

Actually vegans get more iron than vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy. I eat vitamin C-rich foods at every meal to make sure itís well-absorbed. But vegans donít get iron deficiency more often than anyone else.

Do you have to take calcium supplements?

Some vegans do. Some use fortified foods like soymilk and orange juice for calcium, and some get it from beans and leafy green vegetables. You have to pay a little bit of attention to calcium, but itís not hard. After all, a lot of milk drinkers donít get enough calcium.

Donít you have to spend a lot of time cooking?

There are plenty of convenience foods for vegans who donít want to cook. Most spaghetti sauce is vegan and so are vegetarian baked beans. There are all kinds of vegan spreads available and even frozen dinners and burritos. And items like veggie burgers, of course.

I couldnít eat a vegan diet; I like fat too much.

Vegan diets are only slightly lower in fat than vegetarian and omnivore diets. The difference is that vegans eat healthy fats from vegetable oils, nuts, olives and avocados.

Donít you miss eating cheese?

Some of the new cheese substitutes are fantastic! And I really never think about missing foods. I love good food, but there are plenty of wonderful vegan choices. I couldnít eat a food that causes animal suffering just because itís a food I like. Anyway, I feel like my diet became more interesting when I went vegan.

How do you know plants donít feel pain?

Plants donít have a central nervous system. But more importantly, we have to eat plants to stay alive and healthy. We have absolutely no need for any animal foods. And since farm animals eat huge amounts of plants, if everyone went vegan, it would actually cut way down on the number of plants raised for food.

I understand not wanting to kill animals for meat, but why arenít milk and eggs okay?

Because dairy cows and laying hens live in horrible cruel confinement for their entire lives. The conditions are worse than anything you can imagine. And after a few years, they are shipped off to slaughter houses.

Isnít it okay to eat cage-free eggs?

Itís better, but only by a little. Itís not just the cages; there are a lot of cruel practices on all kinds of farms, even organic ones. And all animals on all farms end up at the slaughter house after a pretty miserable life.

So you donít even use eggs in baking?

Nope. There are so many great recipes for baking without eggs. And some good egg substitutes, too.

I canít afford to shop at Whole Foods. Vegan diets seem expensive.

They can be if you buy lots of vegan cheese and meat analogs and other special products. But beans and rice are cheap. Itís like any other way of eating; you have to shop carefully and limit the high-priced items.

I wouldnít know what to eat! What do you eat?

I eat a lot of the things I always ateópasta, bean burritos, stir-fried veggies, hummus, vegetable soup, dark chocolate, peanut butter, guacamole with chips. But Iíve also tried so many new things that I loveóice cream made from coconut milk, seitan, veggie hotdogs, almond milk, curries, and lots of interesting ethnic dishes. There is a little bit of a learning curve when you go vegan. But once you find just a few things that you like, itís much easier than you would ever imagine.

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All-Creatures.org Health Position and Disclaimer

We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.