50 SHADES OF… VEGANISM

Most of the times we imagine vegan foodies as a uniform group, simply bound by animal-free diet. However, today there are many different “forms” of being vegan. It is as erroneous to consider other minorities as homogenous, as it is to describe vegans as a group eating the same food.

One major differentiation among vegans is “what do you eat”. Moving along from plants and plant derived food items (vegetables, fruits, algae, sprouts, seeds, legumes, nuts…) to the simple label “not animal food”. In the latter we find all kinds of processed and pre-prepared items, often on the soy basis (from soy burgers, flavoured tofu to vegan pizza and soy chocolate). Both poles and in-betweens allow numerous ways of personal expressions, based on beliefs, knowledge, accessibility and hip-factor.

Another differentiation comes from the principal motivation to follow a vegan life. Generally speaking, humans may be vegan for nutritional and health reasons and/or for ethical reasons with regards to the protection and respect of animals – and obviously all possible nuances in between. Said otherwise, “veganism is nutritionally speaking the healthier option” versus “we are not supposed to harm and eat animals”. Discussions sometimes go as far as to whether it is “ethically acceptable” to consume recurrently occurring produce from animals (eggs, honey, sheep wool…). Go figure out…

One can also put the notion of spiritual or religiously motivation for being vegan (or vegetarian) into the equation. Take several Indian states – as an example for vegetarianism – where the majority of the population defines themselves as vegetarians: 61% in Gujarat, 67% in Punjab, even 75% in Rajasthan (Times of India, June 2016, Data from the Sample Registration System baseline survey 2014 published by the Registrar General of India). This is an interesting fact for advocators of meat consumption regarding the (obsolete) claim that meat is “absolutely vital for humans”…

In addition, the choice to be only a “cooking” vegan or also in other areas of consumption (vegan clothing, vegan shoes…) gives additional room for diversity. Having said that, there seems to be a correlation between ethical proponents of veganism and a 360°-vegan lifestyle (focus on no animal derived produce in any area of consumption and usage).

Hence, as a consequence, can we really talk about “the veganism” or shall we not rather refer to “individual veganism”… the “50 shades of veganism”? Putting my own personal convictions, expertise and experiences aside, one can argue that there is not necessarily one right way to go – but just personal choices and assuming them (see my blog post on “Taking responsibility”).

While travelling to Austria the other day, I came across a large  selection of magazines for the vegan lifestyle (such as Green Life, Vegan für mich, Vegan Magazin, Welt Vegan – I posted a photo on Instagram) – not even taking into account the further range of magazines for vegan cooking. “Good news and the proof that things are changing”, I said to myself. However, when browsing through  the magazines, I faced editorial lines that seemed very much oriented towards the ethical choice to avoid animal products (which is fine with me too). The nutritional aspect of vegan food choices, the pitfalls, options, necessary considerations, obsolete beliefs and myths were largely missing. And that seems problematic to me!

I am very pleased to observe an augmenting awareness for a vegan lifestyle (to the extent that magazines in Germany – also in the UK – emerge). At the same token, I see a certain danger in the (partial) lack of nutritional expertise and discussion. As long as veganism remains – at least in the our hemisphere – a minority lifestyle, people need to be educated about it, they must understand what is healthy and what isn’t, and how to make a responsible transition (even if only partially).

©The Vibrant Factory
About Stefan Lehner: Nutrition Coach & Educator based in Paris, available worldwide. He previously worked in management in an international corporation. Advocates the tremendous impact of food and lifestyle choices on our health and wellbeing. He puts his focus on durable transformations and challenges quick-fixing.
www.thevibrantfactory.com, on Facebook and Instagram

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