Ever Wondered What ‘Vegan’ Really Means?

November 1st is World Vegan Day.

Which actually launches the whole world into Vegan Month.

(Perfect timing—given we all start OUR three-week Food Day Challenge this weekend too!)

Here are some fun facts about vegans and veganism to help us celebrate.

What is Veganism?

Vegans eat a plant-based diet which avoids all animal-based foods.Fresh carrots bunch isolated on white background

But it is more than just a specific diet—it is a philosophy. As the Vegan Society explains, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

One question I get asked a lot is what is the difference between a whole food plant-based diet and veganism?

As I explained in the Great Vegan vs. Plant-Based Debate the difference is pretty straightforward. A plant-based diet is about what you include – whole, plant-based foods with an emphasis on avoiding processed or packaged goods—while a vegan diet is about what you exclude (i.e. animal proteins and animal-based foods).

Also, the vegan diet puts much less of an accent on ‘whole foods’ (a lot of processed foods are accepted) while a whole food plant-based diet stresses the importance of eating food that comes directly from the source—Mother Nature.

Famous Vegans Making Veganism Famous

It’s hard to say just how much of the world population practices veganism, but by recent estimates it’s about 1% of the US population and about 0.3% of UK residents.

And as more and more celebrities start to adopt the diet, veganism has recently received quite a bit of attention, especially in the US.

Watermelon fruit cube sliceSome famous vegans include:

  • Woody Harrelson: Now in his fifties, the former Cheers star shows no signs of slowing down. He’s a strict vegan and he eats a raw food diet – which means whole veggies, fruits and nuts in their purest, most nutritious form.
  • Emily Deschanel: The Bones star has been vegan for over 20 years.  Her decision came after watching Diet for a New America in high school.  The documentary inspired her to stop eating and wearing animal products.
  • Prince: “His Purpleness” has been a vegan since the 1990s. Nominated as the “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian”, Prince claims he couldn’t stand eating red meat as a child.

There are lots more including former vice president Al Gore and many famous athletes.

Suffice it to say, these famous enthusiasts prove that veganism continues to enter the mainstream a little more every single day.

The Birth of World Vegan Day

First celebrated on November 1, 1994, the global holiday commemorates the 50th anniversary of the UK Vegan Society and the term “vegan” itself.

Unsurprisingly, “vegan” derives from the word “vegetarian” and was coined by Donald Watson to differentiate the two because, unlike vegetarians, vegans don’t eat any eggs or dairy products.

5 Startling Reasons to Eat Vegan

Here are some shocking statistics that will make you think twice next time you are tempted to eat animal foods.

  1. In the US alone, 500,000 animals are slaughtered for their meat – every New potato and green parsley_iStock_000016094362_Mediumhour of every day. Each vegan saves about 200 animals per year. Over 25 years, that’s 3,000 animals saved from the butcher’s block.
  2. A plant-based diet increases your metabolism. For at least 3 hours after a meal, your body will burn calories over 15% faster than bodies on meat-based diets.
  3. You can grow about 200,000 pounds of potatoes on one acre of land. That same acre can only produce 165 pounds of beef.
  4. 7 billion livestock in the US eat enough grain to feed 800 million people.
  5. Meat is packed with protein, but acre for acre, plants produce ten times that amount of protein.

Celebrating the World’s Vegans

So what to do to celebrate World Vegan Day?

Well, if you’re in our 21-Day Food Day Challenge, you’re off to a running start.

But if not, here are some great ideas for celebrating all things vegan.

  • Watch Forks Over Knives and learn how many chronic health problems can be improved or reversed by adopting a plant-based diet.Nov-1_RecipeChefChad
  • Eat something you’ve never tried before. Ever wondered what Jabuticaba (the Brazilian “tree grape”) tastes like? Here’s a list of ten “weird” things to try.
  • Donate your wearables. Strip your closets of leather and fur and send them out to charity. Or at the very least, don’t wear them today.
  • Cook for non-plant-based friends. Share your love of plants and animals by showing your meat-eating friends how delicious plant-based meals can be. And remember the dessert!
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Show your love for our furry friends by spending some time with them – even if it’s just to clean cages. Or, give your own pet some extra loving and hugging today.

While the vegan diet “allows” for some processed foods that the whole food plant-based lifestyle doesn’t, it’s still a healthier and more humane way to live and eat.

So today we celebrate the world’s vegans and congratulate them on the difference they’re making in their health, their lives and the world.

And to celebrate in style here’s a very special recipe of Garlic Mashed Potatoes With Wild Mushroom Gravy for you as we commemorate Vegan Month AND start on our very own Food Day Challenge.