What is vegan?
What isn’t? Learn the top ingredients to avoid, as well as common foods that tend to be tricky.
Ingredients to watch out for:
Gelatin is sneaky because we don’t associate it with animals. However, it is derived from collagen protein in animals, found in flesh and connective tissues, such as horn, hooves, bones, organs, as well as the intestines of cows, chicken, pigs, and horses. It is found in most gummy candies and marshmallows.
Most commonly known for the nursery rhyme and as a protein supplement in the bodybuilding community. Whey is what remains after milk has been curdled and strained, and is a by-product of cheese.
Rennet is made from the frozen stomachs of cows and used to coagulate milk efficiently. It is also used in soy cheeses. Soy cheeses that aren’t vegetarian are produced for people who want to reduce rather than eliminate their dairy intake. If you want to get a vegan cheese fix, there are soy cheeses available but pay attention to the ingredients.
Casein is a family of proteins found in milk, commonly used in the production of cheese, as a protein supplement, or as an ingredient in processed, cheese flavored products.
Lanolin is a waxy substance secreted from glands on the skin of wooly animals. You’ll find this ingredient in cosmetic products and in the manufacturing of Vitamin D. When supplementing, buy a plant-based Vitamin D. Also, be wary around enriched and fortified cereals.
Even a new vegan would know never to touch anything with lard in it, right? You’d think so, until one day you accidentally reach for the re-fried beans or a tortilla without checking first. Lard is pig fat, used especially in ethnic cooking and by contemporary chefs and bakers.
Carmine (alternatively Cochineal, Natural Red 4, Carminic Acid, or E120)
To produce this deep red dye, cochineal insect bodies are boiled with ammonia or other chemicals. It is most commonly found in red juices, yogurt, and candies.
To help you figure out what is vegan or not, review this list of the most commonly misunderstood foods:
- Mayonnaise – Most contains eggs. You can find safe versions in specialty grocery stores or go DIY and prepare it yourself.
- Margarine – Most contain dairy derivatives.
- Bread and pasta – Check for milk, eggs, and especially honey in breads.
- Cereal – Fortified cereals may contain animal-derived Vitamin D.
- Refined Sugar – While sugar doesn’t contain any animal products, it is processed using animal bone charcoal. Alternatives include raw sugar, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, and agave.
- Soy cheese – Some soy cheese is made for people trying to reduce their dairy, not eliminate it. A surprisingly large number of soy cheeses contain casein.
- Vitamin supplements – Many contain animal-derived Vitamin D, B12, and other vitamins.
- Re-fried beans – Often contain lard unless marked as vegetarian.
- Asian food – Keep an eye out for fish sauce, commonly used for a fishy flavor. Alternatives include soy or black bean sauce, or sauce prepared from cornstarch. Also, ask for meals to be cooked in water rather than chicken broth.
- Wine – While wine may not be an obvious source of animal products, many wines are processed with animal derived filters such as marrow, egg albumin, and fish bladder membranes. Find a list of vegan wine makers here, or do your own research online.