27 Jun 2019
Today, you likely know a handful of vegans. A decade ago, though? Likely not.
According to GlobalData, the number of US consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017—a 600% increase. Sure, 6% is only a minimal part of the US population, but it’s a growing number that deserves attention, respect, and understanding.
Misconceptions abound for what vegans can and can’t eat. "Vegan" is still a relatively new concept that US residents are trying to wrap their mind around. See, the world is reaching an unprecedented level of comfort. For millennia, food purchasing decisions were based primarily on price, convenience, and taste (in that order). Now, consumers are buying food based on environmental impact, animal cruelty, health, and a combination of other factors.
It’s a wonderful time to be alive, but it’s different. So let’s take it one step at a time to help the world understand vegan nuances.
One question that regularly gets asked is “do vegans eat fish?”
The simple answer: no. But let’s dive a bit deeper and figure out why they don’t—and why they shouldn’t.
1. Vegans Don’t Eat ANY Animal
Vegans don’t eat animals or any animal byproducts. It doesn’t matter whether that animal lives on land or sea.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
The confusion comes from two other terms you may be familiar with: pescatarians and ostrovegans.
Pescatarians are people who refrain from land animals but eat fish and dairy—so they’re not even a branch of veganism. It’s more a branch of vegetarianism. Ostrovegans avoid all meat and dairy, but they do consume some seafood called bivalves: mussels, clams, and oysters. One rationale being these animals lack a central nervous system, so they don’t feel any pain being eaten or killed.
So, with that clarification out of the way, vegans don’t eat any animals. No exceptions.
2. Plants Have Everything a Vegan Needs
Vitamins, minerals, macronutrients—you can find everything your body needs by eating plants alone. Yes, bivalves are a great source of protein and micronutrients (like vitamin B-12, a difficult nutrient to obtain as a vegan), and they provide sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. But with a well-balanced diet and supplements, you don’t need to turn to seafood.
To obtain adequate levels of vitamin B-12, there are a number of reliable vegan sources:
As for protein, a variety of plants pack a protein punch:
Vegans can also meet the suggested omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating omega-3-rich vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweed, and algae.
See, plants really do have everything a vegan needs—it just takes a little more work.
3. Fish May Cancel Out the Vegan Benefits
Not everyone chooses a vegan lifestyle for the animals’ sake. Sure, it may be a part of the reason, but many people turn to veganism for the host of science-based health benefits.
Many components of a typical vegan diet provide vitamins and nutrients necessary to protect your body against cancer. Yet, some animals products have been proven to increase the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers.
Eating fish may cancel out a prime reason you chose to be vegan—the health benefits. By avoiding meat products, including fish, you continue to aid in your body’s battle against cancer, and other conditions or health concerns that may arise from consuming various meats. Many studies have shown that even though not all meats cause negative side effects, it can be even healthier to only eat plant-based food.
Ultimately, vegans don’t eat fish. And, no, they don’t need to, either. Vegans can get all the health benefits and nutrients there body’s need by sticking strictly to a vegan lifestyle—no fish necessary.
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