Lecture 4: Vegans

Required: Simply Vegan: pgs 2 &3, pg 14 &15, pg 131-198 Vegan in Volume: pgs 11-19, pg 230-232, 239-245
Recommended: You've got enough reading to do!

***for College Credit Students:
Projects are due as follow:
1. Label Project is due by Lecture 11
2. Supermarket Project is due by Lecture 13
3. Menu Project is due by Lecture 16******
(Please see a discussion of the projects at the end of this lecture)

By the end of this lecture, the student should be able to:
1. Define "vegan"
2. Explain how honey, sugar, and wine fit into vegan concerns
3. Explain the difference between "vegetarian" and "vegan"

What's With The Big Reading Assignment?

As you've noticed, there's a lot more reading for this lecture than there has been in previous lectures. Vegan nutrition is, if you will, the backbone of vegetarian nutrition. If you prepared vegan meals, all types of vegetarians can enjoy them. If you purchase vegan products, then you are satisfying some of the "strictest" vegetarian requirements, helping the environment and furthering the rights of animals - not too shabby for eating a Tofu Pup™ rather than a meat hot dog, no? Oh, and we forgot to mention, vegan menus are among the most health-promoting of vegetarian menus. No animal products means no cholesterol.

What Does It Mean:

What is this word vegan, anyway? It was coined by Donald Watson, of the UK Vegan Society, in the 1940's. It is It. It is generally pronounced "vee-gan" (rhymes with "can"), but there are regional variations. Vegans are generally understood to exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and honey from their diets and fur, wool, leather, and animal-tested products from their life.

Why do vegans not include dairy or eggs in their diet? There are a variety of answers. For many, it is because they do not believe in forcing animals to produce milk and eggs. That although the animal isn't killed for the immediate product, the conditions and inevitable slaughter are something they find objectionable. Others are vegan for environmental reasons related to livestock farming. Some religions follow a vegan diet. Some people are vegan for health reasons, which may include diet related diseases, such as heart disease, the inability to digest milk, or even allergies to eggs and dairy.

What Constitutes "animal":

You'll probably get no dispute that that beef, pork, and poultry are from animals, as are leather, fur, feathers, and wool. Some vegans will tell you that they consider bees as part of the animal kingdom (this is part of your reading from Vegan in Volume) and so will not use products which contain honey. Read your assignment in Vegan in Volume for more info on this.

The Honey and Sugar Issue

We've just gone over the honey issue. Sugar, which is derived from cane or beets is definitely plant in origin. The processing is the issue here. Refined sugar must be filtered and many American companies use filters that contain bone char (finely ground bones, usually cattle bones). To read more about sugar go to: Vegetarian Journal, March 1997

Many wines and vinegars are clarified by methods that involve animal products. For this reason, many vegans take the time to contact manufacturers to find out about their processing techniques. This lecture's reading contains info on honey, wines and vegan sweeteners - be sure to read this and review it. This will help you better understand the concerns of vegan diners.

You Might Not Have Thought Of:

If you are purchasing processed food items, then you have to become a vegan/vegetarian label reader. Just because animal products are not evident doesn't mean they're not there.

You're probably saying "wine and vinegar - how in the world can they not be vegetarian?" We've just discussed this and hope it makes sense to you.

Rennet, also called "enzymes" on many labels, is what takes milk and turns it into the solid curd known as "cheese." Vegetarians are okay with eating milk, but do not want to ingest animal rennet. Rennet production is explained as such, "'After butchering, the fourth removed and freed of its food content.' After this the stomach goes through several steps including being dry-salted, washed, scraped to remove surface fat, stretched onto racks where moisture is removed, then finally ground and mixed with a salt solution until the rennin is extracted." (from What's in Your Cheese by Michael Keevican).

So, to get animal rennet, the animal must be killed. There are synthetic enzymes that are fine for vegetarians and vegans. You have to read the label and do some investigation, because some manufacturers merely list "enzymes." Unless you ask, you have no way of knowing the source of the enzymes. There is a list of vegetarian cheeses (current as of November 2000) on the VRG website at: Dairy Cheese.

There are many other food ingredients that may not be obviously be non-vegetarian; read on…

Junior Food Technologists

Fasten your seat belts, I'm going to through some food science at you. Turn to pages 35-40 in Vegan in Volume. You'll find a list of commercial ingredients that can be vegan, vegetarian (containing dairy or eggs), or non-vegetarian. You don't necessarily need to understand what each and every chemical does, but you do need to recognize their names and if they are animal-derived or not. For example, butter is obviously not vegan, but butyric acid, derived from butter, sounds like a chemical, not something from a food source. It is!

How about the stuff that makes things gel? Gelatin and aspic are animal derived, but agar and carrageenan, derived from sea vegetables, are plant derived. They all form a gel, and are used as thickener, so you have to read the labels to see exactly what was used.

Review the list in Vegan in Volume and see how many items you recognize. Also read a list of consumer concerns regarding food ingredients at: FAQ Food Ingredients.

Doing Vegan

This lecture's reading gives you a good overview of vegan nutrition, vegan resources and vegan menus. You have lots of vegan recipes to thumb through. You'll notice that there is an emphasis on limiting the amount of fat in these vegan menus and recipes, as some vegetarians tend to "slip," and add a bit too much fat to their diet, in both ingredients and cooking techniques. Vegan diets can be very, very healthy, as they can be high in vitamins and minerals, fiber, fluids and low in saturated fats (the only sources of vegan saturated fat are coconut products, palm oil and tropical oils), as long as you plan well. We'll discuss veggie nutrition and health in later lectures. For now, remember that French fries can be vegan (depending on the fat used), but that doesn't mean they should be a daily part of your menu!

We're including a wonderful piece that covers vegan nutrition and lifestyles in a very understandable way. We hope you enjoy it!

Veganism in a Nutshell

What is a Vegan?

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.

Why Veganism?

People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. For example, some vegans feel that one promotes the meat industry by consuming eggs and dairy products. That is, once dairy cows or egg-laying chickens are too old to be productive, they are often sold as meat; and since male calves do not produce milk, they usually are raised for veal or other products. Some people avoid these items because of conditions associated with their production.

Many vegans choose this lifestyle to promote a more humane and caring world. They know they are not perfect, but believe they have a responsibility to try to do their best, while not being judgmental of others.

Vegan Nutrition

The key to a nutritionally sound vegan diet is variety. A healthy and varied vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes.


It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein planning or combining is not necessary. The key is to eat a varied diet.

Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats are good sources of protein. Vegan sources include: potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, broccoli, spinach, almonds, peas, chickpeas, peanut butter, tofu, soy milk, lentils, kale...

For example, if part of a day's menu included the following foods, you would meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for an adult male: 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup soy milk, 2 slices whole wheat bread, 1 bagel, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 cup vegetarian baked beans, 5 ounces tofu, 2 tablespoons of almonds, 1 cup broccoli, and 1 cup brown rice.


Vegan diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in fat. Thus eating a vegan diet makes it easy to conform to recommendations given to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. High-fat foods, which should be used sparingly, include oils, margarine, nuts, nut butters, seed butters, avocado, and coconut.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not found in the vegan diet but can be made by humans following exposure to sunlight. At least ten to fifteen minutes of summer sun on hands and face two to three times a week is recommended for adults so that vitamin D production can occur.


Calcium, needed for strong bones, is found in dark green vegetables, tofu processed with calcium sulfate, and many other foods commonly eaten by vegans. Calcium requirements for those on lower protein, plant-based protein diets may be somewhat lower than requirements for those eating a higher protein, flesh-based diet. However, it is important for vegans to eat foods high in calcium and/or use a vegan calcium supplement every day.

Following are some good sources of calcium:

Soy or rice milk, commercial, calcium- fortified, plain 8 oz 150-500 (gms)
Collard greens, cooked 1 cup 357 mg
Blackstrap molasses 2 TB 342 mg
Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate 4 oz 200-330 mg
Calcium-fortified orange juice 8 oz 300 mg
Tofu, processed with nigari 4 oz 80-230 mg
Kale, cooked 1 cup 176 mg
Tahini 2 TB 128 mg
Almonds 1/4 cup 97 mg

Other sources of calcium include: okra, sesame seeds, turnip greens, soybeans, figs, tempeh, almond butter, broccoli, bok choy, commercial soy yogurt...

The recommended intake for calcium for adults 19 through 50 years is 1000 milligrams/day.
Note: It appears that oxalic acid, which is found in spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens, binds with calcium and reduces calcium absorption. Calcium is well absorbed from other dark green vegetables.

Vegan diets can provide zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, and nuts.

Dried beans and dark green vegetables are especially good sources of iron, better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.

Sources of Iron
Soybeans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, seitan, Swiss chard, tempeh, black beans, prune juice, beet greens, tahini, peas, figs, bulghur, bok choy, raisins, watermelon, millet, kale....

Comparison of Iron Sources
Here are the iron contents of selected foods:

1 cup cooked soybeans 8.8
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses 7.0
1 cup cooked lentils 6.6
1 cup cooked kidney beans 5.2
1 cup cooked chickpeas 4.7
1 cup cooked lima beans 4.5
1 cup cooked Swiss chard 4.0
1/8 medium watermelon 1.0

Vitamin B12

The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low. Non-animal sources include fortified meat analogs and Red Star nutritional yeast T6635 also known as Vegetarian Support Formula (around 2 teaspoons supplies the adult RDA). It is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Numerous foods are fortified with B12, but sometimes companies change what they do. So always read labels carefully or write the companies.

Tempeh, miso, and seaweed are often labeled as having large amounts of vitamin B12. However, these products are not reliable sources of the vitamin because the amount of vitamin B12 present depends on the type of processing the food undergoes. Other sources of vitamin B12 are fortified soy milk (check the label as this is rarely available in the U.S.), vitamin B12-fortified meat analogues, and vitamin B12 supplements. There are supplements which do not contain animal products. Vegetarians who are not vegan can also obtain vitamin B12 from dairy products and eggs.

Common Vegan Foods

Oatmeal, stir-fried vegetables, cereal, toast, orange juice, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, frozen fruit desserts, lentil soup, salad bar items like chickpeas and three bean salad, dates, apples, macaroni, fruit smoothies, popcorn, spaghetti, vegetarian baked beans, guacamole, chili...

Vegans Also Eat...

Tofu lasagna, homemade pancakes without eggs, hummus, eggless cookies, soy ice cream, tempeh, corn chowder, soy yogurt, rice pudding, fava beans, banana muffins, spinach pies, oat nut burgers, falafel, corn fritters, French toast made with soy milk, soy hot dogs, vegetable burgers, pumpkin casserole, scrambled tofu, seitan.

When Eating Out Try These Foods

Pizza without cheese, Chinese moo shu vegetables, Indian curries and dahl, eggplant dishes without the cheese, bean tacos without the lard and cheese (available from Taco Bell and other Mexican restaurants), Middle Eastern hummus and tabouli, Ethiopian injera (flat bread) and lentil stew, Thai vegetable curries...

Egg and Dairy Replacers

As a binder, substitute for each egg:

The following substitutions can be made for dairy products:


For those of you taking this course for college credit, you need to complete the projects that are described in the Course Introduction. Since many of you are taking this at your own pace, specific dates could not be assigned for the projects. So, what's been done is to decide when you should have covered the material needed for each project (by lectures). You should submit the projects within a week of covering all the appropriate material. You can e-mail it (as both an attachment and pasted into the body of the e-mail, for insurance) or you can mail it. All projects need to be submitted within 18 weeks of your registration date. Eighteen weeks is the length of one college semester. Projects received after this date will not be accepted.

If you have questions about your projects, or want comments on your progress, e-mail or write!

For non-college credit students, you are encouraged to complete the course projects. The projects are designed to make you more aware of the vegetarian resources in your area, your personal nutrition level, and opportunities to incorporate more veggie nutrition where you want it!

You'll get several reminders at the beginning of the next lectures when projects are due - pace yourself!

On to Lecture 5!

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Last Updated
January 10, 2001

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The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

All contents of these lectures are copyright Chef Nancy Berkoff and The Vegetarian Resource Group.

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