What Is A Vegan?

vegan diet for a vegan lifestyle

Meaning And Origin

The term “vegan” can be confusing because it has different meanings to different people. For some it simply means eating a wholly plant-based diet. For others it includes refusing certain medical treatments because they make use of animal products. And there is a whole range of options in between. When considering adopting a vegan diet or lifestyle, you need to first decide what the word means for you personally.

Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 as a way to differentiate a “strict vegetarian” diet from one that includes non-meat animal products like eggs and dairy. Within a decade, its meaning had grown to embrace a philosophy of refusing to treat animals as commodities and therefore avoiding any products that use animal parts such as leather in shoes or clothing.


Now that the word has moved into common use in the last 2 decades, its meaning has become even more confusing. Many people call themselves “vegan” today who have a wide range of beliefs about animal-based products.

The Vegan Diet Is A Plant-Based Diet

One thing that virtually all vegans have in common is that they choose to eat a completely plant-based diet. This means that they do not merely abstain from consuming meat and seafood, but also avoid products that use animals for production, like dairy, eggs, and honey.

While most vegans eat a plant-based diet 100 percent of the time, a few people who consider themselves philosophically vegan do occasionally eat meat for health reasons. For example, a person may feel the need to include animal products in their diet to get enough nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In terms of health, many studies have shown that an entirely plant-based diet works perfectly well for most people. However, some minor supplementation may be necessary to get every vitamin and mineral needed. With the popularity of plant-based diets nowadays, it is much easier to find and enjoy vegan foods in any supermarket and many restaurants beyond those that specialize in vegan cuisine.

The Vegan Lifestyle

While many people adopt a plant-based diet alone, others embrace a completely vegan lifestyle. This can include:

  • Avoidance of any products derived from animals, including:
    • leather, silk and honey (yes, honey!)
    • anything that includes animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin, keratin, carmine, lanolin, retinol, and many others.
  • Avoidance of any product that is tested on animals, such as cosmetics or medical products.
  • Forgoing medications that use animals for production, such as flu vaccines that are grown in hens’ eggs.

In searching for meaning, many vegans struggle to define the boundaries of their philosophy. For example, many artificial fabrics used to replace leather in shoes or clothing are produced using petroleum. Petroleum is generally believed to be derived from animals (albeit animals that lived a long time ago). Petroleum also fuels all the vehicles that bring products, even vegan ones, to market.

Thinking About Going Vegan?

If you are considering going vegan, take some time to consider all the implications and make conscious decisions for yourself about how far you will choose to take your avoidance of animal products and animal exploitation. You may also want to consider moving gradually toward a more vegan lifestyle, beginning with more plant-based food choices and expanding from there as you make future purchasing decisions about clothing and other items.

To Your Health!

Best Regards,
Sharon Iezzi, Manager
Oklahoma Academy Country Store

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  1. Pingback: Veganism and Health: An Important Truth That Most People Ignore - VegaMight

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