Guide to Going Vegan: What is Vegan? & More

Last Updated 15th April 2020
woman cutting organic fruit for vegan smoothie bowl

You’re never far from a vegan option on a menu, new vegan snack or someone online singing the virtues of veganism.

Now a dietary choice and lifestyle chosen by more people than ever, one thing is certain: this movement has grown hugely and is continuing to every day.

If you’ve made the decision to transition to a vegan diet, we know how daunting it can seem.

That’s exactly why we’ve put together this handy guide – to make this experience of moving to a new lifestyle as simple as possible.

So grab a cuppa’ (with a vegan milk substitute, of course) and let’s get to it!

What is a Vegan?

Vegans are essentially ‘non-dairy vegetarians’, but The Vegan Society defines veganism as “the doctrine of living without exploiting animals”.

Vegans don’t eat any animal products or by-products in their diet and many also choose not to wear or use animal products/by-products too.

These are known as ‘lifestyle vegans’, who integrate their vegan principles into every aspect of their lives.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many vegans there are in the world, but we know for sure that it’s becoming more mainstream a choice.

Veganuary, a month-long challenge for people to try a vegan diet, has skyrocketed in popularity; with 3,300 people signing up in 2014 and 400,000 people in 2020!

Furthermore, Google Trends analysed by The Vegan Society shows that searches into veganism have increased seven-fold since 2014.

By 2025, vegans and vegetarians are expected to make up a quarter of the British population!

What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian?

Put simply, vegetarians don’t consume any sentient beings as part of their diet, so no meat of any type, including fish.

Vegetarians (the first recorded instance of vegetarianism is dated in the 7th century BC!) are still a minority in Western society, but their dietary requirements aren’t as extensive as vegans.

Vegans are a dietary minority within a dietary minority; although, as mentioned before, their popularity is growing.

Similarly to vegetarians, vegans also don’t eat meat but they extend their animal product exclusion to eggs, dairy and honey. 

As far as lifestyle differences between vegetarians and vegans go, lots of vegetarians also choose not to use or wear animal products or by-products, but this approach is down to the individual and so not consistent across all.

dairy cows

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

You’ll find a myriad of conflicting information online in regards to the healthiness of a vegan diet – a fairly natural reaction when you consider that some companies benefit hugely from an increase in people taking up the lifestyle (such as nutritionists, animal rights campaigners, ethical clothing companies and green grocers), whilst others set to lose out (such as butchers, fishmongers, traditional meal companies).

The only way to trust wholly in the accuracy of claims around the vegan diet, or any other dietary choice, is to look for science.

Nutribuddy always advocates the research into clinical sources, which is why you’ll find so many links within our articles back to firm evidence, trials and scientific testing into various ingredients, health benefits and marketing claims.

Indeed this science-backed research approach has led to us agreeing that when done right, yes, the vegan diet is beneficial to human health.

This is down to several scientifically-proven points around the consumption of the foods that are being consumed.

Read on to learn more about how a vegan diet is healthy!

woman jogging staying healthy

Vegans are naturally consuming more of certain vitamins and minerals

Avoiding meat and dairy products doesn’t mean that you simply eat a side of potatoes and vegetables for every meal and nothing else.

Instead, you substitute out the ‘main’ meat for something else, so you tend to consume considerably more fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, beans, peas and seeds.

Several studies into the nutritional content of extra portions of these in place of meat and animal products have shown the vegan diet to be richer in potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and folate.

Vegans tend to be thinner than meat-eaters

This isn’t an observation: it’s a fact!

Observational health studies comparing the dietary habits of individuals has found that those not consuming animal products are more likely to weigh less and have a healthier BMI than those who eat meat. 

Vegans are already extra conscious of what they consume

Despite there being more vegan options in restaurants and cafes, vegans still often have experiences where they’re not able to just grab ‘fast’ convenience food or pick up a snack.

This encourages meal prepping and more conscious choices to be made.

Of course, vegans are just as likely to grab a chocolate bar or treat where they can just like everyone else – but with this often not being an option, healthier choices are made more often.

organic ingredients

What Are the Benefits of a Vegan Diet?

Studies are still being carried out on the health benefits of a vegan diet as it’s becoming more popular and mainstream, but research so far looks extremely positive in favour of veganism.

You’re More Likely to Consume Less Calories on a Vegan Diet

A vegan diet tends to contain fewer calories than a meat-eating one, simply because the whole foods eaten contain less.

Compared to more traditional temporary diets that people attempt in order to help them lose weight, adopting a vegan diet instead has been consistently proven to sustainably and healthily help aid weight loss more efficiently.

Perhaps even more significantly for those of us with big appetites, those following a vegan diet lost more weight than those on calorie controls even when they were allowed to eat as much as they liked to feel full!

woman on weight loss scales

High Intake of Fruit and Veg Come With Plenty of Health Benefits

The fruit and veg heavy diet of vegans is said to have numerous benefits on heart health, and two proven indicators of this are that vegans are 75% less likely to develop high blood pressure than meat eaters, and are 42% less likely than meat eaters to die from heart disease.

Similarly, for those already experiencing health issues, randomised controlled scientific studies have shown that veganism can lower blood sugar and cholesterol to healthier levels.

Studies Suggest Eating a Meat-Free Diet Reduces Risk of Developing Cancer

There are so many competing studies into the causes of cancer that it can be difficult to identify fact from fiction, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) say that up to a third of cancers are caused by factors within human control – including diet.

Whilst not the sole reason to ‘go vegan’ and up your cruelty-free food intake, there’s evidence to show lots of cancer-busting benefits involved in a meat-free diet.

A combined analysis of 96 previous studies into nutrition and cancer found that vegans statistically are 15% less likely to die from cancer.

A variety of factors play into this stat, but the fact that those consuming more fruit, vegetables, legumes, soy and grains is hugely important here because of their individual health benefits, amplified.

Regular legume consumption can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer by up to 18%, soy has been proven to offer protection against breast cancer, and increasing your ‘5-a-day’ to ‘7-a-day’ (easily done when that’s the basis for your diet!) can reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 15%

A Vegan Diet May Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis

Those suffering from arthritis can also benefit from amending their dietary habits to veganism, even if already severely affected by the condition.

Qualitative evidence from arthritis sufferers reported greater energy levels and less pain in those on a meat-free diet, and vast improvements on symptoms including joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

Following a vegan diet also means that unhealthy non-vegan foods are avoided. Notably, this includes processed and smoked meats that have been proven to increase the risk of several cancers.

woman exercising at the gym with a meal replacement shake

Can I Get the Right Nutrition from a Vegan Diet?

There’s an old-school misconception around vegetarianism and veganism that those consuming such diets are iron and protein deficient; because traditionally, the primary intake of these nutrients was through meat (often red, but also white).

This is simply not true, and dietitians agree: whilst a vegan diet may take a little more planning than the standard reliance on meat, potatoes and veg to get all you need, there’s plenty of other ways to take in the protein, iron and other vitamins and minerals you need to keep you healthy.

How to get Enough Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an ‘essential’ nutrient, meaning the body can’t produce it by itself, so it needs to be consumed.

It’s a water-soluble vitamin that supports red blood cell production and helps keep your nerves healthy. If you consume more Vitamin B12 than your body needs, it stores the excess in your liver to use later on; so you can’t ‘overdose’ on it as such.

Vitamin B12 is primarily found in meat, liver and kidneys.

Of course, vegans don’t eat these, but fear not: there are plant-based ingredients that also contain plenty of it!

Fortified cereal often has Vitamin B12 added to it, and so if chosen as part of a sugar-free and low-calorie brand, can make an easily top up consumption to at least the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of 2.4mcg.

Synthetically produced Vitamin B12 can similarly be found in fortified yeast, and even better: non-dairy milks!

If you’re having a tea, coffee or shake with a vegan milk-alternative once or twice a day therefore, you’re likely to be getting plenty of Vitamin B12.

natural meal replacement shakes

How to get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ and it’s often said that everyone not living in sunny climes is deficient in it.

Whilst that might not be quite accurate, there’s definitely reason for us all to need more of it – and with the Great British sunshine not always supplying us with as much as we’d like, food is the next source of it.

Vitamin D affects bone health and immune function.

Rich sources of Vitamin D that fit easily into a vegan diet include mushrooms (because they absorb the vitamin from the sun in the same way humans do!) and plant-based milks, which are often fortified with Vitamin D added.

Vegan Sources of Omega 3

When you hear of Omega 3, it’s easy to immediately think of oily fish.

Whilst oily fish is a great source of these essential fatty acids, there’s plenty of other ways to consume them too.

Again, your body can’t produce Omega 3 by itself, so relies on the consumption of it. Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for a healthy and fully-functioning central nervous system, brain and eyes.

They’re particularly important for pregnant women, who need to consume enough of them to nourish not just their own bodies, but their baby’s too.

Omega 3 can be found in abundance in flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp and brussels sprouts.

healthy seeds used in meal replacement shakes

Vegan Protein Sources

As mentioned before, the primary source of protein in anyone’s diet need not be from red meat.

Protein is made up of thirteen amino acids, nine of which cannot be produced by your body naturally and so need to be eaten.

These nine are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

A ‘complete protein’ includes all of these nine amino acids, and all nine in combination are found in meat, eggs and dairy.

However, there are non-animal products that contain them too!

Vegans are able to access plentiful protein in many ingredients, including, but by no means limited to:

These ingredients can all supply healthy doses of protein – and that’s before we even consider the plethora of vegan protein powders now available to purchase. 

Indeed, Nutribuddy shakes contain several of the above as well as rich and plant-based protein powders so you can rest assured that you’re getting more than enough protein even without busting out a pork chop or roast chicken.

Check out Nutribuddy’s High-Protein Sculpting Shake or Shake Complete – both of which contain a healthy helping of pea protein, rice protein and hemp protein.

Shake Complete alongside its natural whole-food ingredients
Nutribuddy Shake Complete contains a range of vegan ingredients including 3 vegan protein sources

What is Vegan?

It’s obvious that fruits, vegetables and whole food grains are vegan, but sometimes when selecting food options, it’s not so clear if things contain dairy or eggs.

Most items will say if they’re suitable for vegans but remember: this is not the same as ‘suitable for vegetarians’.

If in doubt, check the ingredients list.

Allergens must be declared and are usually highlighted in bold. Lactose, milk and eggs are all allergens so will be listed – and are not suitable for vegans.

There are some foods up for debate in veganism, including honey; as this is produced through the exploitation, if not cruelty, of bees.

Whether or not vegans choose to consume some products is an individual choice.

Are Avocados Vegan?

Another controversial food for vegans is avocado.

Whilst obviously a fruit, avocados are farmed unnaturally around the world in a process that involves migratory beekeeping – similarly considered exploitative as in the production of honey.

In many places avocados are grown, there aren’t enough bees native to the habitat and so they’re ‘shipped in’, so to speak.

This is considered an unnatural intervention into animals and so strict vegans therefore consider the consumption of avocados non-vegan.

avocados

How to Go Vegan in 6 Easy Steps

Thinking of going vegan?

Now’s a better time than ever!

Veganism is, for the first time, a mainstream dietary and lifestyle choice that won’t need explaining to everyone you meet.

Here’s our top tips for ‘going vegan’… you’ll be cruelty-free and loving your new life in no time at all!

1. Transition Slowly

As with any diet or new lifestyle change, it’s important not to take on too much at once!

If you still eat meat, try cutting back on your consumption before moving to vegetarianism.

Then, try substituting dairy for alternatives in your meals before committing to one or two vegan days a week.

Transitioning slowly allows you to find alternatives to your favourite ingredients so that you learn to love something new and don’t find you go back to old habits just because you miss things.

A gradual change to veganism also gives you plenty of time to research into new foods and how best to achieve the complete nutritional profiling you need with each meal.

couple in supermarket buying fresh fruit

2. Plan Your Meals

In order to ensure that you’re consuming a well-balanced meal nutritionally, it’s important to plan ahead your meals to keep them varied, interesting and nourishing.

Meal prepping and planning a menu ahead of time gives you time to research new recipes and ingredients as well to source them.

If you’re eating out, check online or call ahead to enquire about vegan options.

Consider adding in snacks, if necessary, to your plans – as although there’s plenty of choice out there now, you won’t necessarily always be able to find something you fancy ‘on-the-go’ in all circumstances.

3. Try Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes

If you’re on the move a lot or need a convenience food to keep you going that also has a thoroughly healthy nutritional profile with all the vitamins and minerals you need, Nutribuddy shakes make for a great tasty meal substitute, and they’re delicious!

There are now a variety of meal replacement shakes available that are vegan, but it’s important to properly check the ingredients list and nutritional information before you make a purchase decision.

As more manufacturers realise the customer potential behind vegan products, many are introducing products to their range as a ‘nice-to-have’, without actually paying them the attention or effort they deserve in terms of nutrition.

Just because something says it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

We’ve thoroughly researched meal replacement shakes alongside one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, Kelly Rose.

As a result, we have formulated a range of safe and healthy vegan meal replacement shakes.

But no need to take it from us, why not see what our customers have to say?

Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake by Laura Lucas

4. Experiment with New Recipes

There’s no better time to try out new ingredients and recipes than when you’re trying out a new diet.

Start by substituting the animal products in your existing favourite meals with cruelty-free alternatives and then turn to new recipes.

There’s a plethora of vegan recipes available online for free, and you can now even find vegan cookery magazines on most supermarket shelves!

Whilst you’re getting creative in the kitchen, don’t forget to include your Nutribuddy shakes. Add fruit, ice cream, nuts or seeds and play around with colours and textures.

5. Never Assume Anything is Vegan

We live in an age where sadly very few packaged foods are just that – so many things now have artificial sweeteners, flavourings and vitamins added to them, even when you wouldn’t have considered that they needed anything extra.

Don’t ever assume something is vegan just because it looks or sounds plant-based or healthy.

Check ingredients lists and make sure you truly understand what’s included.

Look out for the Vegan Society logo on their approved products, or a Bunny logo on products that are certified cruelty-free.

On menus in restaurants and cafes, always ask if there’s not a key next to dishes, as often ‘V’ just means vegetarian and does not guarantee against containing dairy or eggs.

6. Join Vegan Groups & Chat to Other Vegans

The internet can be a fantastic place, and there’s no shortage of vegan communities online.

Follow vegan accounts on Instagram for recipe and ingredient inspiration and join Facebook groups for handy hints and tips on easy vegan options and ‘accidentally vegan’ products widely available.

You may find that you need to dip in and out of groups and chats depending on just how involved you choose to be, but stay mindful that there are lots of different types of vegans out there and some are considerably stricter than others!

Keep an eye out too for vegan fairs and events in your local area: they’re a great way to find new ideas, shop local and support small businesses with similar ethics to you.

Final Thoughts

Going vegan isn’t the easiest lifestyle choice to make but most find it empowering, inspiring… and delicious!

A plant-based diet can provide you with more than enough nutrients to lead a happy, healthy life and doing so can encourage you to get creative, try new things and have fun with food, safe in the knowledge that you’re ‘doing your bit’ for animals and for the environment.

Be vegan, be the change you want to see.

Don’t forget to take a peek at Nutribuddy’s healthy vegan shakes. They take away the hassle of meal planning and contain a wide range of essential nutrients.

Nutribuddy Shake Complete by JustHelina
Nutribuddy Shake Complete by JustHelina

Stock image credit: UnsplashPexels & Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

Author Bio!

Post by Lex

I’m a full-time Marketing Manager and Copywriter but also a qualified yoga teacher and keen runner; so I know a thing or two about maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a good dose of fitness! My previous roles include marketing and social media for the likes of the household names including the Cabinet Office and Aviva. Outside of work, I’m a Mum, passionate social rights campaigner and bookworm.