What do Beyoncé, Einstein, and Woody Harrelson have in common? They all dabbled in the plant-based diet known as veganism. While it’s undoubtedly cool to brand yourself as vegan these days, what’s a little trickier is understanding exactly what veganism entails.

If you’re a little confused about what veganism is, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll talk about what veganism is, what it’s not, and address some common questions and misconceptions.

What is veganism?

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Simply put, veganism means to abstain from all animal products. This includes products that involve animal slaughter (such as meat) but also products that are non-fatal to animals (such as milk).

Why go vegan?

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Typically, people choose to go vegan for either dietary reasons or ethical reasons, or both. When going vegan for ethical reasons, there’s a tendency to look at veganism as more of a lifestyle than just a diet.

In these cases, the individual is likely to avoid animal-derived products of all sorts, beyond just food. For example, they are likely to avoid shoes or clothing made with leather or fur and/or products tested on animals.

What do vegans eat?

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Vegans focus on a totally plant-based diet. This includes a lot of different types of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains.

What do vegans not eat?

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A common misconception is that a vegan diet is a vegetarian diet. While vegetarians avoid meat, vegans take it a few steps further. They not only avoid poultry, fish, and meat, but all other animal products including dairy and eggs. Many vegans even avoid honey.

How do vegans get protein?

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A common concern about a vegan diet is that it lacks sufficient protein. It’s true that many plant-based foods don’t pack as much protein as, say, a steak. However, with dedication, this isn’t a hard obstacle to overcome.

Legumes, certain vegetables, and nuts can provide ample protein, and supplements can be added to the diet to fill in any gaps.

Additionally, with the rising popularity of veganism, there’s been an increase in protein-rich plant-based products. For example, the popular Beyond Meat burger packs an impressive 20 grams of protein into a single patty — as much as about three eggs.

Is veganism healthful?

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Is veganism healthful? It’s a simple question, but the best answer is “it depends.” As discussed above, one common concern with the vegan diet is that it’s lacking in certain nutrients and proteins that primarily come from animal products. However, with diligence and supplementing, this can be overcome.

Perhaps the bigger concern that makes this a hard question to answer is that the healthfulness of a vegan diet depends on what you’re eating.

For instance, one could technically be living off of Oreos (which are naturally vegan), fried tofu nuggets, and coconut cream ice cream and call themselves vegan. However, would this be healthful? No. To ensure that you’re eating healthfully, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting sufficient nutrients from a variety of sources.

Will you lose weight on a vegan diet?

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With the many books and articles extolling how a plant-based diet will help you lose weight fast, it’s obvious that it’s trendy to go vegan for weight loss. But will a vegan diet really help you shed unwanted pounds?

Once again, it depends. If you were previously eating a diet of burgers and fries, fried chicken, and frozen pizza with processed cheese, then it’s highly likely that by switching to a plant-based diet, you’ll lose weight. After all, plant-based products tend to be less calorie-dense. Consider sugar, a plant-based food that is high in calories. However, once again: long term success with weight loss will depend on what types of foods you’re eating on a vegan diet.

Veg out!

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Veganism is a completely plant-based diet. Unlike a vegetarian diet, which can include dairy and eggs, a vegan diet excludes animal products entirely. Some adopt veganism on a short-term basis to attain specific dietary goals, where others adopt it as a long-term diet for health and ethical reasons. Regardless of motivation, one thing’s for certain: You don’t have to tell a vegan to “eat your veggies” twice!