Chances are if you’re reading this beginner’s guide to plant-based living & going vegan, you’re already embracing a plant-based lifestyle or considering it due to all the buzz around it in recent times. The truth is, it’s not a fad, although it may be “fashionable” of late, plant-based living is not only better for you, your health, our animal friends but also our precious planet earth.
Before we dive into the guide, let’s first explore the reasons why you might want to consider going plant-based and try veganism…
Top Reasons To Go Plant-Based & Become Vegan
- Plant-based is better for you, animals & the planet!
- A plant-based-diet has incredible health & wellness benefits!
- Plant-based living is cruelty-free, sustainable & more environmentally friendly.
A Beginner’s Guide To Plant-Based Living & Going Vegan
What Is Plant-Based Living?
Plant-based living encompasses much more than just the concept of veganism thanks to its innumerable health and wellness benefits, fewer negative societal impacts and reduced demands on the natural environment. Plant-based goes beyond just food that excludes the exploitation of animals but also the products we use on a daily basis as well as the way we live our lives.
What Is Veganism?
More than likely you’re already familiar with the term “vegan”. It has been with us since 1944 and was first used by Donald Watson, a founding member of the Vegan Society in Britain. The definition embodies the idea that animals should not be exploited for food, clothing and other purposes that see them being cruelly treated.
Human Relations with Animals
Animals are present and often play important roles in many of our lives. Most of us have at least one in our home, often sharing many activities with us and in the very least being cherished companions, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This despite their inability to speak verbally. Indeed for many of us, they provide unconditional love and support. Our dogs and cats obviously come under this umbrella, but what about an animal such as a cow. Cows relish life as much as we do but unfortunately they’re more often than not most consider them as just a source of food to be eaten as steaks, roasts etc. or leather, fertilizer…
A Moral Contradiction?
There are few who would accept or tolerate the violent or cruel treatment of a dog or cat, so how can we possibly justify dreadful actions towards other animals? Animal products are not necessary in order to be healthy, in fact there’s an increasing body of evidence that in excess it can actually be detrimental to health and even significantly increase the risk of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Most people only eat animal products from habit and find animal products tasty.
Some to assuage their consciences by only purchasing those animal products sold as “humane” or “ethically produced.” Sadly, these are words without meaning and do not afford animals a life that is better. Using such terms encourages people in the belief that the exploitation of animals is acceptable. This is a moral contradiction that can be overcome by embracing a plant based lifestyle.
Are Some Animal Products “Humane”?
Some believe that animals should still be consumed, but consumed humanely. In fact, so-called humane treatment still finds animals transported to the slaughterhouse and essentially murdered. Those responsible for that transport may not be as ‘humane’ as the farmer who raised the animals. The transport may involve electric prods and other forms of coercion, making the final journey a frightful and terrifying ordeal. Anyone who has witnessed anything to do with these processes can see how stressed and fearful the animals are and many will do whatever they can to flee and escape this terrifying fate. Hidden camera footage has uncovered numerous cases where animals are kicked, punched and even more horrifyingly not properly killed adding to the unimaginable suffering.
No matter how animals are transported, the end is always the same. At the moment, animals have no rights. They have no say in what happens to them. Put simply they do NOT want to be killed and die!
Animal welfare groups work tirelessly for more humane production, transport etc. The producers are quite cooperative, when this happens, as their product becomes more desired. The public uses these ‘improvements’ to save their conscience and still consume animal products.
In actual fact, there is no real human need for animal products. The ever increasing number of people embracing a plant-based way of life show that a healthy and good life is quite possible, without participation in the use of animal products, without taking part in the animal products industries that cause so much pain and suffering, for those with no voice.
If you examine the legislation governing humane slaughter and other functions of the animal products industries, you will see mention of improvements in working conditions and in the benefits to all stakeholders, except the animals. They are not considered and this is wrong.
You could go vegetarian, is this cruelty-free?
Unfortunately, often unwittingly, vegetarians also contribute to the mistreatment of animals. How can this be? Vegetarians exclude such animal foods as meat, seafood, and poultry from their diet. Some of them also exclude dairy such as milk, butter and cheese, some vegetarians do not do this, and some vegetarians eat eggs. You can be a vegetarian and still use animal products.
Although milk and eggs are not directly produced as a result of an animal being killed, there is more often than not unacceptable ‘collateral damage’.
In the dairy industry, for example, female cows are artificially inseminated against their will and kept constantly pregnant in order to continually produce milk and be milked every day. Of the calves who are born, the females will be kept to endure the same fate, while the males will be isolated in confined conditions to then be sold as a meat product called veal. In both cases the babies will be ripped away from their mother after only a few days so that they do not drink the milk by nature intended for them but now destined for humans. Often the mother cows will bellow (cry) for days on end as a result of having their newborns taken from them.
While the egg industry is no less guilty as a result of cruel factory farming practices of keeping hens in extremely constricted environments, ‘debeaking’ and grinding up newly hatched male chicks even sometimes in cases when their products are often labelled as cage-free or free-range. In any case, it’s still exploitation.
Now you can see the consumption of any animal-derived product is not acceptable, if you really love and want to help animals. Embracing a plant-based diet and the forgoing of any animal product is the only way the mistreatment of animals can be stopped.
It may seem radical, but there are countless examples of those who have gone plant-based, almost overnight. Sometimes this change has been forced on them as a result of a physical intolerance and sometimes as a result of a moral choice.
No matter why you make this choice, vegetarianism is still contributing to cruely and violence against animals and should not be used as a salve to the conscience.
Aren’t Animal Products Necessary In Order To Be Healthy?
The simple answer is No! This is another common and incorrect myth. Plant-based diets by their very nature are very healthy, and sound nutritionally. In fact, aside from nutrition, a plant-based diet has many health and healing benefits including the prevention and even treatment of certain diseases. A plant-based diet is suitable for people at all stages of life, from conception, pregnancy, infancy, lactation, childhood, through to adolescence, adulthood and senior years. In addition, plant-based diets can be designed and customised for specific purposes making them ideal for athletes of all types, those who do a lot of physical labour, as well as anyone who wants to lose weight and or detoxify and cleanse their body, the list is endless. There are even plant-based diets for our beloved pets who can also thrive alongside you!
Not only are animal products not necessary for perfect health, there is an increasing number of health professionals and nutritionists who are accumulating solid evidence that animal products may well harm our health. As examples, a healthy plant-based diet s reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancer. This was shown in a study called,’The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell, which was the most thorough study on nutrition and provided much evidence that linked animal products to a variety of diseases.
What Effect Would A Switch To A Plant-Based Lifestyle Have On The Planet?
Here is a frightening fact. About a ton of grains must be fed to livestock to produce sufficient meat and other products to satisfy the demands of a typical human for one year. On the other hand about one-fifth of this amount of grain, if eaten directly will nourish this person for the year.
A plant-based diet also has important environmental benefits. Here is just one example, about 18,000 kgs of potatoes can be grown annually on an acre[0.4 hectare] of land. However, only 115 kgs of cow meat could be produced from this same area. The feeding of plants to animals so we may eat the animal is very wasteful. Approximately 15kg of plants and 38,000 litres of water are needed for each kilo of cow meat. This compares very unfavourably with the 200 litres of water needed for one kilo of wheat.
Animal agriculture is very destructive to land and the water runoff from animal farming causes many food-borne epidemics. Animal farming contributes greatly to the greenhouse gas emissions that are such a contributor to global warming. In addition, every year sees the destruction of forests for the grazing pastures of animals. Each year throughout the world, millions of acres of forests are cleared annually for this reason.
Is A Non-Plant-Based Lifestyle Sustainable?
Animal agriculture is very wasteful in comparison to plant agriculture, There is so much more plant-based food that could be produced with the same resources we waste on animals.
In essence, we have to constantly give plant foods to animals as they reach maturity. It requires 3-4 years of harvesting this plant food to be fed to animals, who are then killed and eaten only once.
Suppose, each of those 3-4 years found us growing plant food to be consumed directly by people. This would be a much more efficient system.
If you’re not already, do your part by transitioning to a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Your health will be better for it. What’s more plant-based is better for the environment; and, very importantly, it’s the right thing to do morally and ethically.
How Do You Start Living Plant-Based?
Many people beginning plant-based living often start too hard, too fast by immediately replacing their old diet with plant-based equivalents. Although there are plant-based replacements for all animal product foods, it is best to begin your plant-based journey with careful planning.
Unfortunately a lot of plant-based replacement products are heavily processed and not actually that good for you. The last thing you want to do is get off to a bad start and become a “junk food vegan”.
To get the maximum nutritional and health benefits, aim to have the majority of your diet comprised of raw organic fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and plant oils.
There are numerous resources, both on the Internet and in print.
Is A Plant-Based Lifestyle Expensive?
No, it is not! A plant-based lifestyle is generally not very expensive especially when compared to a typical diet made up of large amounts of meat and dairy. Despite many who may tell you otherwise, the high cost is essentially a myth unless you choose to eat large quantities of processed meat and dairy replacement products which are typically derived from soy.
When done consciously a healthy plant-based diet can be very affordable aside from organic fruit and vegetables (which are generally more expensive than conventional produce contaminated with pesticides and herbicides). Many other plant-based foods such as beans, rice, oats, bread and pasta are among the least expensive foods available in most supermarkets.
What Exactly Is A Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is precisely that. If you have such a diet then you use or consume any animal products including not only the meal of any creature [land or sea], but also eggs, milk, and even honey.
The plant-based diet doesn’t necessitate spending vast sums or moving to a large urban centre. The best and cheapest plant-based diet foods are found in nearly all supermarkets in the form of grains, fresh produce, nuts/seeds and legumes[beans of various types are legumes].
These foods should make most of a healthy diet. Plant-based processed foods such as, vegan “cheeses,” soy hot dogs, desserts, etc should only be occasional.
Isn’t A Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Food Boring?
It is simply untrue that a plant-based diet consists only of soybeans and salad. In truth, those on a plant-based diet eat everything that others eat, minus animal products. Indeed the plant-based diet has as much variety as the ‘normal’ diet.
Some common plant-based dishes are rice and beans, stir fry, pasta, , cucumber-avocado sushi, chana masala, pad thai, pizza, quinoa, pancakes, soups,waffles, veggie burgers, french toast, chili, tacos, casseroles, stew, sandwiches, cookies, burritos, non-dairy ice-cream, pies, cakes, and many many others.
Nutrition & Health
Everybody should be concerned about nutritional deficiencies. Although practitioners of the plant-based diet have longer life spans than other humans, they need to be ever aware of this.There are very good references on the plant-based diet such as the book Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina.
As a first concern, let us look at protein. Protein is a macronutrient, essential for health; as some animal-based foods lots of protein, a misconception exists that those on a plant-based diet don’t get enough protein. Indeed, the real problem is many modern people get far too much protein. Practitioners of a plant-based diet will get sufficient protein from tempeh, tofu, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, and even some vegetables.
Another concern is micronutrients, you must ensure you get sufficient of the micronutrients Omega-3, Vitamin B-12, and Vitamin D.
The list of essential nutrients, both micro and macro, which can be delivered on a plant-based diet goes on and on. Do not worry about this, if you adopt a plant-based diet .
The paragraphs above should have convinced you that the plant-based diet is nutritious and can satisfactorily replace all common animal based food products. There are a few foods, which are plant-based and should be mentioned…
Top Plant-Based Food Replacements & Vegan Alternatives
Tofu is quite well known.It is a solid food made from soybeans. In the hands of a good cook, tofu can be used in an amazing number of ways. Some describe it as tasteless. That may be so, it absorbs a variety of flavours.
Tempeh [pronounced “tem-pea” or pronounced “tem-pay”] is similar to tofu, but is made by a different process. Like tofu, it can be used in an amazing number of ways.
Seitan is not as well known as the previous two; it comes from wheat gluten. Seitan is usually served baked or fried as a source of protein. It is chewy. Seitan is simple to prepare and requires little seasoning.
Nutritional yeast is not the yeast used in the making of bread, it is a good substitute for cheese. Nutritional yeast, has a consistency, which can be described as cheesy. Nutritional yeast lasts far longer than cheese. Unlike cheese, it has no cholesterol. It can be used in a number of ways.
Ground Flax Seed
Ground flax seed moistened with water, creates a gooey texture, ideal for the binding that egg is often used for. Ground flax seed is loaded with protein and omega-3. One tablespoon of ground flax and three tablespoons of water is the equivalent of 1 egg.
It may surprise you but apple sauce is a good substitute for eggs in cooking. Applesauce will make your baked food fluffy, as it gives off a gas during cooking. One quarter cup of applesauce is the equivalent of 1 egg.
Just as with applesauce, bananas are sweet. They are also great for binding in baking. Half a banana is the equivalent of 1 egg.
In addition to the above if you want fluffiness, without adding flavour, don’t overlook baking powder or baking soda. One teaspoon of baking powder + one and a half table spoons of water and one and a half table spoons of vegetable oil or one table spoon of vinegar + one teaspoon baking soda is the equivalent of 1 egg.
Oat/ Almond/Soy/ Rice/ etc. milk
There are a variety of vegetable milks, with different nutritional benefits that can replace animal milk. Find one that suits you.
The Truth About About Animal-Derived Clothing
Leather, Hides, Skins & Fur
Leather comes from the hides of animals, killed to produce it. There is no escaping that fact. Cows and other animals are murdered for no other reason than their death result in various products, one of which is leather. Even if this were not so, animals providing the commodities would still be nothing more than property. They would still be slaves with nothing more than economic purpose. In regards to skins and fur, many poor creatures are often skinned alive or painfully electrocuted in order to avoid blood staining the product.
Well may you ask this question, the obtaining of wool does not involve the immediate slaughter of an animal, as does leather. Sadly, while the removal of wool off a sheep’s back does require its death, sheep are still treated as property. This implies they are born, enslaved and used to produce something solely for the benefit of people. Usually, they are specially bred to grow large amounts of skin (and hence wool) which forms folds where insects often lay eggs. The farmers must then slice off these folds using a process named “mulesing.” Another cruel practice is that of “docking” where lambs tails are chopped off without anesthetic. Additionally, after a sheep’s wool production declines, they are usually sent off to then be slaughtered as mutton.
Ethical & More Environmentally-Friendly Clothing
Plant-Based Textiles & Fabrics
- Organic Cotton
- Beech Tree Fibre
You can normally purchase clothing and footwear made from these plant-based materials online, at specialty stores, and even in some ordinary clothing shops.
What About Recycled or Secondhand Animal Products?
Are we really following a plant-based life if we purchase second-hand products containing leather or wool in a sale or auction? You could say these products already exist. There is no extra suffering.
This is similar to the argument that we can purchase ivory goods if they were produced a long time ago or were produced with prehistoric ivory from mammoths. The purchase of second-hand items keeps the market alive and will encourage some producer to treat animals as property.
Being plant-based means the acknowledgment of the idea that animals are not objects for human use but sentient beings, which we are privileged to share the planet with.
Would love to know your thoughts and tips about plant-based living and going vegan. Comment below…