Veganism’s a growing topic of interest so we went ahead and put together 15 surprising vegan facts you need to know.
When people usually hear the word ‘vegan,’ they often think of tree-hugging hippies or animal activists throwing blood on wealthy people’s fur coats.
However, vegans are ordinary people who decided to use their purchasing power to declare their beliefs about animal killing, abuse, and exploitation.
There’s a saying, you never have to ask a vegan if they’re vegan. Why?
Because they’ll tell you.
Vegans love to talk about veganism. But oftentimes, vegans find themselves in a crowd of non-vegans. Just saying no to steak or turning down cheese opens up an interrogation about how they’re vegan.
But before you decide you want to berate your vegan family member or friend with questions keep reading…
15 Surprising Vegan Facts
1) Where do vegans get their protein?
Vegans get their protein from beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, nuts, tofu, seitan, and vegetables.
Let’s compare 4 oz of beef vs 4 oz of black beans:
Protein – 19.1 g
Fat – 13.9 g
Fiber – o g
Cholesterol – 102.1 mg
*Contains hormones, antibiotics, and steroids
In 4 oz of black beans…
Protein – 23.8 g
Fat – 1.5 g
Fiber – 17.5 g
Cholesterol – 0 mg
*No hormones & helps discharge excess hormones from the body
Simply comparing these two protein sources, one meat, one plant, you get the general picture,plant-based protein is not only safer but healthier to consume. And can be just as protein-packed, if not more, than meat.
Obviously, vegans can’t just eat a million beans and expect to be healthy.
Incorporating each type of protein source listed above into a vegan diet guarantees a satisfactory level of all 21 amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).
2) Where do vegans get calcium and vitamin D?
Vegans get their calcium from collards, mustard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy, fortified orange juice, fortified non-dairy milks, seeds, and nuts.
And vitamin D from sunlight, fortified foods and supplementation.
Let’s compare 1 cup of 1% dairy milk with 1 cup of fortified soy milk and 1 cup of fortified almond milk:
In 1 cup of dairy milk…
8 grams of protein
2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat
30% DV of calcium
25% DV of vitamin D
12 grams of carbohydrates
14 grams of sugar
In 1 cup of fortified soy milk…
6-8 grams of protein
4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat
45% DV of calcium
30% DV of vitamin D
7-14 grams of carbohydrates
6-11 grams of sugar
In 1 cup of fortified almond milk…
1 gram of protein
3 grams of fat, no saturated fat
45% DV of calcium
25% DV of vitamin D
1-23 grams of carbohydrates
0-22 grams of sugar
Calories in each type of milk are relatively similar. Sugar content in soy and almond milk can be limited by purchasing unsweetened versions.
And, it’s clear that fortified non-dairy milks can easily replace dairy milk if you’re worried about getting in your calcium and vitamin D.
A few things to note regarding calcium…
- Increased protein intake has been shown to inhibit calcium absorption
- Increased caffeine consumption has been shown to increase calcium excretion via urination
- Getting enough vitamin D allows your body to properly absorb calcium
This information from Harvard Medical School is helpful when considering your absorption of vitamin D.
Also, your skin color, where you live, air pollution, and your gut health are all factors in the way your body absorbs/makes vitamin D.
3) Where do vegans get their B12?
Vegans get their B12 from fortified foods, such as cereals, vegan milks, and meat substitutes, nutritional yeast and supplementation.
B12 is actually an issue for everyone, not just vegans.
This is because B12 (also called cobalamin) is produced by bacteria in the soil and in the guts of animals. But in order for bacteria in the soil to produce B12, the soil must contain cobalt.
Unfortunately, because of modern practices such as over-farming which leads to soil degradation and the super-washing of our produce (to avoid eating manure and soil), our B12 sources are dwindling.
Hundreds and thousands of years ago, humans were using mineral-rich soil, eating unwashed produce and drinking ‘dirty’ water which was all rich in B12.
And as I mentioned, B12 isn’t just a vegan problem.
Chickens and cows get B12 by pecking around for food, grazing on grass and therefore are ingesting soil.
However, soil degradation is limiting the amount of B12 even they get (and therefore, humans who eat them get). On top of the fact that many factory farmed animals will never even step on soil throughout their entire lives.
Because of this, most factory farmers give their animals B12 supplements. So why not just cut out the middleman and take the supplements yourself? 🙂
Find more details here.
4) Where do vegans get their iron?
Vegans get their iron from lentils, tofu, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, collard greens and by cooking their foods in a cast iron skillet.
Iron is vital mineral in the human diet.
Iron is an important component in our hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen rich blood throughout our bodies.
Furthermore, there are two types of iron: heme and non-heme.
Heme iron comes from animal products. Non-heme iron comes from plants. Studies have shown that non-heme iron isn’t absorbed as well as heme iron.
The workaround for properly absorbing plant or non-heme iron is eating iron-rich plants along with vitamin C rich plants.
Do you see the trend happening here?
Macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins), vitamins, and minerals are not independent aspects of a diet. All of these components work together. Without one, we cannot absorb another.
With too much of one, we limit our ability to use another. That’s why in all forms of nutrition education we receive, we are told time and time again to have a BALANCED diet.
And it’s for this reason that balance is so important.
5) Can vegans eat pizza?
Of course! Just make sure it’s vegan.
Pizza Hut and Domino’s both have a vegan pizza crust. (Pizza Hut offers thin crust and hand-tossed, while Domino’s only has a thin crust.)
And if you’re not a cheese-lover you can get a pie with no sauce, which I promise you is way better than it sounds.
I’m not a huge fan of the Daiya vegan cheese brand, which I believe is what Mod Pizza and Blaze Pizza use. But I’ve heard that they’re working hard to improve the taste and texture.
Also, making your own vegan pizza at home is not only super easy but can be fun too!
Simply grab yourself some veggies (maybe some pineapple), pasta sauce, an eggless pizza crust, and some vegan cheese if you’re feeling cheesy.
My favorite vegan cheese to use when making homemade pizza is a ‘mozzarella’ made by Miyokos.
Plus, it’s tasty eaten straight out of the wrapper, it melts, browns, and bubbles when cooked.
It’s crazy what food science can accomplish honestly.
6) Can vegans eat lasagna?
I actually make the best vegan lasagna in town. I was inspired by this recipe.
In the recipe, you use hummus, firm tofu, nutritional yeast, and some herbs/spices to make the perfect vegan ricotta.
And it honestly tastes better than the real thing.
* “Nutritional yeast is a food additive made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability. Don’t worry; no animals are harmed in this process because yeasts are members of the fungi family, like mushrooms, not animals.” -Susan Voisin
7) How can vegans gain weight?
The fundamental way to gain weight, for everyone, is to eat more calories.
Going from an omnivorous lifestyle to an herbivorous one often comes with some weight loss. This typically happens because we’re cutting out so much of the saturated fats from our diets, eating more fiber, and are just more conscious of what we’re eating.
If you’ve found that going vegan has caused you to lose more weight than you planned, it’s time to up your caloric intake.
I would suggest doing this slowly and trying to keep your macronutrient ratios relatively even.
What I mean by that is, maybe you’ve found the vegan macronutrient balance, for YOU (because we’re all different) is getting: 60% of your calories from carbs, 20% protein, and 20% fats.
If/when you up your caloric intake you shouldn’t just eat more fats or more protein, you should increase all three relatively evenly to keep the ratio the same.
*I am not a registered dietician (although I am working towards being an RD). Therefore, I highly recommend you meet with one and get more information on gaining or losing weight.*
8) How can vegans build muscle?
Building muscle on a vegan diet isn’t impossible or far-fetched. But there are a few things you should focus on if this is your goal…
You should try and eat whole, unprocessed foods, in the proper balanced ratio. (Which is what we all should be doing anyway.)
Why? Because you literally are what you eat.
If you eat little to no protein, how can you expect your body to build muscle? If you eat a fat-heavy diet, your body will store fat and prevent you from being lean.
But don’t take this to the extreme, your body needs fat to function.
Carbs are also 100% necessary for energy and brain/nervous system function so don’t neglect them either.
Otherwise, how can you expect to have energy and function at 100% when lifting weights?
Which brings me to my next point, if you want to build muscle, you gotta lift bro!
In addition to supplying your body with the right macro and micronutrients to function properly:
- You gotta workout
- Get enough sleep
- And remember to hydrate
Think of your body as a car (this metaphor kinda sucks but lets go with it).
You need high-quality gasoline (macronutrients) on a regular basis. And you need to keep your micronutrients in check (motor oil, brake fluid etc.). Then in order to be stronger, you gotta get more horsepower (muscle).
To do this you take your car into the shop (the gym).
But without all the other components, that increased horsepower won’t matter at all. What good is your car if it has no gasoline, motor oil, or brake fluid?
It just won’t do what you need it to do. So read this twice, understand and follow the steps above and you should be on your way to building more muscle.
Check out these vegan bodybuilders if you need some inspiration!
9) Are vegan diets healthy?
I think we can all agree, vegan or not, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, while low in cholesterol and saturated fat is a healthy diet. We should all aspire to eat this way, vegan or not.
And that is literally what a vegan diet is.
Of course, we must note that a vegan diet can also be unhealthy.
Eating too much saturated fat (coconut & palm oil) on a vegan diet is definitely something you should watch out for.
Some vegans like to joke and say they are vegan for the animals and not for themselves. These vegans eat a lot of processed and premade vegan foods which are often high in fats and sodium.
These people are called ‘junk-food vegans’, and I’ve been there. They also eat a lot of accidental vegan foods like Oreos, Ritz Crackers, and Marie Callender’s Apple Pie. (Yes, technically, it’s all vegan.)
But at the end of the day, a diet that has variety and balance is the key to eating healthy.
10) Are vegan and vegetarian the same?
Nope, but it really depends on who you ask.
The typical definition of a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, and therefore can and often does eat dairy and eggs.
Vegans consume no animal products, meat, dairy, or eggs.
11) Are vegan diets safe?
The real question should be ‘Are non-vegan diets safe?’
But anywho, yes, as long as you have done your research, eat a variety of plants to fuel your body, and supplement where needed, a vegan diet is 100% safe.
13) What vegan foods have cholesterol?
Dietary cholesterol only comes from animal products. So, a vegan diet is 100% cholesterol free.
And this might sound worrisome since we know cholesterol is an important lipid molecule.
It’s a key component of our cell membranes and is used to make things like hormones, fat-soluble vitamins, and stomach bile acids that aid in digestion.
However, it’s also a known fact that your body produces all the cholesterol it needs.
So, the dietary cholesterol found in animal products isn’t a necessary component of a healthy diet.
And to be fair, it must also be stated, the science is still not out on saturated, trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
These components, which can still be present in a vegan diet, may and probably do, affect the way our bodies produce cholesterol.
So yes, you can still get atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) on a vegan diet if you’re a “junk-food vegan.” Very unlikely, but still possible.
13) Can vegans eat out at restaurants?
Here is a list of the ‘best’ vegan restaurants in the United States.
And of course, vegans do not have to eat exclusively at vegan restaurants.
There is a website and app called HappyCow that allows you to use your location to search for vegan options. You can even refine your search to vegan-only restaurants or you can broaden your search to show you non-vegan restaurants that have vegan options.
Because the vegan world and number of vegans is growing each year, a lot of non-vegan restaurants are starting to offer at least one vegan option on their menus.
There is a similar trend with gluten-intolerance and celiac disease that’s being spoken about more.
Many restaurants put little keys/legends on their menu to show you what is gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan. This is very handy for eating out as a vegan.
14) Can you be vegan if you’re poor?
Contrary to popular belief, eating a vegan diet does not have to be expensive.
Here’s a little article about it if you don’t believe me.
This little lady on Youtube literally calls herself the ‘Cheap Lazy Vegan’. She makes a ton of recipe and grocery shopping videos showing how you can be vegan while on a tight budget.
So, if you want to be vegan, you shouldn’t let your financial situation stop you.
You might have to spend an extra 15 minutes planning and finding deals before you head out to the grocery store but… I think your health is worthy of a few extra minutes!
15) What famous people are vegan?
There are actually quite a few famous vegans and the list keeps growing…
Here are a few:
- Natalie Portman – Queen Amidala in Star Wars & she’s the narrator of a film called “Eating Animals”
- Jaden Smith – Will Smith’s son, he’s a little weird but it takes a weird person to see the light and go vegan 😉
- Kyrie Irving – Basketball superstar, he’s even been featured in a Nike ad promoting veganism
- Nathalie Emmanuel – The hot sidekick of Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones
- Peter Dinklage – Also from Game of Thrones, he’s Tyrion Lannister
- Will.I.Am – Black Eyed Peas frontman and Grammy winning producer
- Ellen Degeneres – You know this lady, her wife is vegan too!
- Woody Harrelson – You gotta watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
- Sarah Silverman – Love her or hate her, she’s a badass vegan
- Danielle Brooks – She’s Taystee on Orange Is The New Black
And SO many more!
Hope you learned something new about the vegan lifestyle and got some of your questions answered. – Abby!
Check out our guide Vegan 101 if you need some further assistance going vegan! And give us a follow (@TheMentalVibe) on your social media accounts. You’ll help us reach more people looking to make the transition. #VibeFam