So, you want to fully embrace a vegan lifestyle, including vegan food, fashion and beauty and even everyday household items? You’ve probably asked yourself the question, ‘just how vegan is vegan’? This can be a challenge for those new to a plant-based lifestyle.

It can be quite an eye-opener to realise just how many consumer products contain animal-derived ingredients. Let’s look at vitamin supplements for example, which many vegans will consider taking to ensure optimum health. In many cases, they’re not vegan friendly - three important ones to do your research on are Vitamin D, B12 and Omega-3.

Vitamin D, which is essential for our immune health and for keeping our bones and muscles healthy, is not always suited to vegans. While many of us believe we can get enough vitamin D from natural sources (sunlight), in winter months and with increased time spent indoors, this is often no longer the case. It can also be very difficult for anyone to get enough daily Vitamin D from food, which is where supplements come in. However, while vitamin D2 is derived from plant sources and suitable for vegans, vitamin D3 is often derived from lanolin from sheep’s wool (and not vegan). So it’s important to buy the vegan alternative that’s made from lichen (algae).

B12 is another to watch out for, particularly as this very important vitamin is one that vegans can not get from their plant-based diet. Neither plants nor animals make B12. Rather, it’s produced by bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. When animal products are eaten, B12 is also ingested.

While vegans can increase their intake through foods that are fortified with B12 (including some cereals, plant milk and soy products), a supplement is also recommended. While many brands use animal-derived ingredients, a simple ingredient check quickly identifies those that are vegan.  Even more exciting, is that many brands are now including their vegan credentials on the front label.  

When thinking of Omega-3, most people think of fish oil or fatty fish like salmon and tuna. The health benefits of Omega-3 are widely known - from reducing inflammation to possibly lowering the risk of developing dementia). For vegans, fish-derived Omega-3 is not an option, however supplements made from algae (algal oil) can provide comparable nutritional availability of EPA and DHA (these fatty acids for great for brain and heart health) to that of seafood.  

Finally, don’t forget the capsules used for many supplements. Many of the casings use gelatin, which is also used widely in desserts and confectionery. Gelatin is derived from boiling the bones, hooves, tendons, ligaments and other tissue lining of various animals (usually cows and pigs) and is often the first ingredient listed. Fortunately, more brands are using cellulose, a plant-based material, for their capsules.

One thing's for sure, as the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle continue to grow, so too will demand for (and supply of) products that fit this ethos.

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