We get a lot of questions from our customers wondering if our Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls and Vegetable Gyozas are vegan-friendly. We are excited to have Helen Sanders, founder of HealthAmbition.com, help us break down what it means to eat vegetarian and vegan. Helen and her team at Health Ambition break down complicated health advice and information into something that everyday people can understand. Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us, Helen!
When considering vegetarian and vegan diets, most people think of the main points – no meat for vegetarians, and no animal products at all for vegans…simple, right?
Let’s take an example – french fries. Ingredients: potatoes and oil. So no problem for vegetarians or vegans…or are they? If they’re cooked in animal fat, french fries are a no-go for vegetarians and vegans.
So working out whether or not a food is suitable for vegetarians or vegans – or both – is more complex than it seems at first glance.
We look at the difference between vegetarian and vegan and highlight some of the ingredients of foods that cause confusion.
Vegetarian Or Vegan?
A vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Some vegetarians also exclude dairy and eggs.
A vegan diet omits all foods produced using animals or animal products, so as well as no meat, poultry, fish and seafood, a vegan diet also excludes any animal milk products, eggs and honey.
Many vegans also choose not to use any animal-derived products, including clothing.
Any foods that are appropriate for vegans are by definition also suitable for vegetarians, but the reverse is not necessarily the case.
Most manufactured food contains a wide variety of different ingredients to make it taste and look good.
A quick check of the ingredients list may tell you all you need to know, but some ingredients listed in products are made up of numerous components themselves. Sometimes these aren’t listed, which is another pitfall for vegetarians and vegans.
Most people know that gelatin is an animal product, and not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Gelatin is used in many foods, from marshmallows to some yoghurts and desserts, and many cereal products.
Isinglass is a fish-based gelatin that is also sometimes used in jellied desserts and alcoholic beverages, so is also not appropriate for vegetarians or vegans.
Eggs are suitable for vegetarian diets, but not for vegans. Many processed foods contain albumin – egg white.
Some products may list lutein, a yellow food colouring, as an ingredient. Lutein can be produced from either eggs or marigold flowers.
While sugar appears to be fine for vegetarians and vegans, it depends on the manufacturing process. Some manufacturers use animal bone, tissues and fluids when making their sugar.
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt are reasonably straightforward: fine for vegetarians – although any cheese must be made with vegetarian rennet – but not for vegans. Even some soy cheeses contain casein – a milk protein.
Products derived from milk, like lactic acid and lactose, are an ingredient in many different foods. Examples include pickled foods, preserved olives, sauerkraut, candy, frozen desserts and fruit preserves. These would be unsuitable for vegans.
Oleic Acid and Stearic Acid
Also known as oleinic acid and octadecanoic acid respectively, these are made from animal fat. You will find them in synthetic kinds of butter, cheese, some vegetable fats and oils, candy, ice cream and some beverages and condiments.
Lecithin is often added to foods as an emulsifier, to improve their texture. While many forms of lecithin are plant-based and suitable for both vegetarian and vegan diets, some forms of lecithin are made from animal tissues.
Red Food Colouring
Many foods like commercial juices, sodas, candy and coloured pasta contain carmine – used to give food a red colour. It is made from ground insects.
While we most closely associate vitamin A with carrots, it can also be obtained from egg yolk and fish liver oil. All natural vitamin B12 is sourced from animal products, although there is a synthetic vegan and vegetarian-friendly version called cyanocobalamin or cobalamin.
Vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol, comes from either fish oils or lanolin, which is a wax secreted by animals like sheep. The former is not suitable for either vegetarians or vegans, the latter would be appropriate for vegetarians but not vegans.
Trying to figure out which products are suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet can be complicated, and some ingredients are suitable for vegetarians but not vegans. We have highlighted some of the more common ingredients, but this list is not exhaustive.
If you want to make sure that you follow the rules of your chosen eating plan, do lots of your own research, get to know the ingredients of the foods you eat and where they are sourced from. Provide yourself with good knowledge and information so that you are able to make an informed decision about the foods you eat.
Helen Sanders is the chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.