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Vegans avoid food that comes from animals, including meat, eggs and dairy products (like milk, cheese, and yogurt). A vegan diet is sometimes called a strict vegetarian diet. Some vegans also do not eat honey. Many vegans try not to use any other animal products, such as leather, wool, feathers, bone, or pearl. They also try to avoid buying and using products that have been tested on animals. They may believe in animal welfare and animal rights, and may campaign for these causes.Donald Watson made the word vegan in 1944.
Why are people vegan?
Some people become vegan because they disagree with the treatment of animals in the modern animal farm industry. Other reasons to become vegan are for health, religious reasons, to protect the environment, or because of world hunger. Animals eat a lot and take up a lot of resources. By not producing meat, milk, or eggs, a lot of food, land (as of 2006, 30% of the earth's land mass is used raising animals for food) and water can be saved. For instance, it takes about 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of grain-fed meat, so eating plants directly takes fewer resources. There is also the issue of antibiotic use in the industry. Animals are given antibiotics to such an extend that the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics is very possible in the near future.
Some vegans only eat foods that have not been cooked. Their diet is called raw veganism.
Another more restrictive type of veganism is fruitarianism. Fruitarians only eat foods that can be harvested without harming or killing a plant.
Need for vitamin B12
Vegans must make sure their diet includes an adequate supply of vitamin B12, because it does not occur reliably in plant foods. Vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious bad effects on the person's health. These might include anemia and neurodegenerative diseases. California-based dietitian nutritionist Ashley Lytwyn said “Nutrients like B12 can be tough to get with a vegan diet, and the iron in vegetables isn’t as bioavailable as iron in animal proteins.” “Even if he ate enough iron-rich vegetables, the body can’t always absorb what it needs.” Vegan societies recommend that vegans either eat foods with added B12 or take a B12 supplement. Tempeh, seaweed, spirulina, organic produce, soil, and intestinal bacteria have not been shown to be reliable sources of B12 for the dietary needs of vegans. Vitamin D deficiency is possible in the absence of dairy products (which are normally fortified with vitamin D). It can be prevented by supplements, and time spent outdoors.
Many people think that it is not healthy to be vegan. However, a vegan diet can have all of the nutrients needed for health. It is just more difficult to get the nutrients because there are fewer foods to choose from.
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- Jack Norris. "Vegan Health: are intestinal bacteria a reliable source of B12?". veganhealth.org. Vegan Outreach. http://www.veganhealth.org/b12/int. Retrieved 2007-02-22.