What does ‘vegan’ mean, anyway?  And what does a vegan eat?

The answer may seem obvious to readers at the Plant-Strong Fitness Blog, yet it’s one of those questions that is never too silly to ask and begs a specific spot for an answer and an easy reference.  After all, there’s plant-strong and plant-based.  There’s vegetarian, which seems to have gotten diluted over the years with dairy and eggs.  And then there’s my husband’s decades-old definition, “eat nothing with a mother or a face”.

A vegan diet includes all grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and the nearly infinite number of foods made by combining them.

A vegan diet  excludes any animal products:  meat, fish, dairy, poultry, honey, and eggs for example.

Some people who follow a vegan diet also embrace a vegan lifestyle, which means passing on the use of leather goods or any items or foods using animals in their processing.

Where did the word ‘vegan’ come from?

When Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, coined the term vegan in 1944, it was specifically to disassociate from vegetarians who also eat dairy and eggs. The primary unifying principle with the original members of the group – originally called an association of “non-dairy vegetarians” was the humanitarian opposition to the use of dairy products for humanitarian reasons.

Watson struggled with what to name these dietary practices himself. When considering the term ‘non-dairy’ didn’t address the use of eggs and he wanted a name that was more pro-active.  Something that would state what he DID eat as opposed to what he did NOT eat.

Donald Watson coined the word 'vegan' in 1944

An interesting read with this very debate – what to name this non-dairy, non-animal foods way of eating – can be found in the first edition of the Vegan News:

Click HERE to read the Vegan News first edition, November 1944

Does ‘vegan’ mean healthy?

It should be pointed out that a vegan diet is not necessarily healthy – depending.  I could eat soda pop and french fries all day and be following a vegan diet, though it certainly wouldn’t be healthy.

This is where the heroes such as Drs. Campbell, McDougall, Esselstyn, Barnard, Ornish, and Fuhrman et al  come in, completing the picture and pointing the way to compassion teamed with healthy practices.  As a matter of fact, you’ll find that these plant-strong dietary luminaries prefer to use the word “plant-based”, “nutrarian”, and “starch based” over the term ‘vegan’ for it implies important health considerations as well.

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