The vegan movement seems to be growing, and with it I’m seeing a slew of products that are marked as vegan.
Fake honey, fake meat, fake hamburgers, fake cheese…the list is endless.
What is Vegan Honey?
Vegan honey may not be what is seems. It’s worth thinking about where it is sourced from. The main ingredient of vegan honey is coconut sap, otherwise known as coconut nectar. While this may sound innocent and healthy enough let’s explore it a little more.
The nectar (sap) comes from the blossom of the palm tree that eventually becomes the coconut. In the last decade coconut sugar has become popular. I contemplated using it and getting it into the Changing Habits Marketplace but realised that it’s sustainability was not necessarily good for the honey bee. It was also not good for coconut production and all the things that come from the coconut, like coconut water, coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut meat, not to mention all the things that the husk can be used for – imagination has no limits here.
Here is where the dilemma lies – the coconut nectar is collected by the honey bee to take back to the hive to make honey to feed all the worker bees. Inadvertently, the bees collect pollen on their legs and pollinate trees – and not just the palm trees, they pollinate everything in the area.
My question regarding vegan honey is this: If you take the nectar from the blossom then the bee won’t visit, they won’t have any honey to feed the hive and they might die, so is this really vegan honey? It’s worth thinking about!
Changing Habits decided that organic rapadura sugar was more sustainable and we could guarantee that it was organic. To make your own sustainable “vegan honey”, or as I like to call it, “Maleo” (which is Columbian for sugar syrup), simply mix 2 cups of Changing Habits organic rapadura sugar with 1 cup of boiled filtered water, stir until all sugar is dissolved and place in the fridge. It has a consistency remarkably like honey and the less water you use the thicker it becomes.
Vegan Meat – Not on My BBQ!
Firstly, I don’t understand why, if you are choosing to be vegan, you have fake foods that imitate the very food you have chosen to stop eating for ethical reasons.
Secondly, I question the ingredients found in fake meat products. One vegan meat patty I saw in my local store had the following ingredients:
Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract
I wondered when I saw it if people who purchased this non-meat lookalike product realised that some of the ingredients could be tested on animals and that many of the ingredients were straight from a chemical laboratory. Further, the chemicals behind the words included solvents and diactyl (also called 2,3-butanedione), which is a chemical that has been used to give butter-like and other flavors to food products, including popcorn. This chemical has been used as a marker of exposure to flavoring vapors in investigations evaluating lung disease in microwave popcorn manufacturing facilities. Some of the ingredients could even be made by genetically modified organisms and, to top it off, if the canola oil is genetically modified then it may have the cancer-forming herbicide Roundup within it. I could go on but I think you get the picture.
Plastic Fantastic Vegan Cheese
Cheese is also something else that I’ve seen manufactured (it is certainly not a cooking or fermenting process) without animal products. I’ve seen the following ingredients in vegan cheese: soy protein (shiny, slick, rubbery varieties), solidified vegetable oil (like coconut, palm, cotton seed, canola or safflower – these will be either hydrogenated or interesterified), nutritional yeast, thickeners (agar flakes), tapioca flour, natural enzymes, vegetable glycerin, assorted bacterial cultures, arrowroot and pea protein.
These types of vegan cheeses are highly processed with more additives than a luxury car.
For people who are not necessarily vegan but are dairy intolerant then these cheeses may seem like an good option. However, I’d like to steer you away from them and direct you towards a beautiful cheese that my daughter made recently from cashews. All the ingredients are real food, not chemicals from a laboratory or in any way over processed. The ingredients include cashews, seaweed salt, filtered water, apple cider vinegar, garlic, dill, coconut water kefir or sauerkraut juice and olive oil. Now doesn’t that sound like real food? Click here for Tarnea’s recipe.
I’ve also noticed that in some of my favourite organic shops these cheeses are being made commercially. So read your ingredients and make sure you are eating real foods and not a storm of chemicals.
If you choose to be vegan or vegetarian, then become educated as to what your body needs. I personally do not agree with the vegan diet; it has no historical perspective and while some people can do this diet and be successful, there are many that cannot sustain their health with a vegan lifestyle. Vegetarianism does have an historical perspective. It has been the eating pattern of the Hindu religion for well over 5000 years, but it must be done right.
No matter what you choose in your dietary philosophy, it’s important to eat foods that are nutrient rich, grown on nutrient-rich soils, free from chemicals and artificial fertilisers. We have an obligation to protect this planet for future generations; regenerative local farmers who do not use chemicals are the ones that will sequester carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil and these are the people we should support. The chemicals in your fake cheese and meat is not the way to be powerful with your choices. We don’t want to only save the animals, we also want to save insects, bees, humans, plants and the planet. We are entering the 6th greatest extinction of the planet. It’s time to wake up and educate yourself about your food choices and make a difference.
Nutritionist and lover of the regenerative nutritive rich food movement.
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