Frequently Asked Questions:

What is gelatin? Is there any alternative to it?
Gelatin (used to make Jell-o and other desserts) is the boiled bones of animals. An alternative substance is called Agar-Agar, which is derived from seaweed. Another is made from the root of the Kuzu. Agar-Agar is sold in noodle-like strands, powder, or in long blocks, and is usually white-ish in colour. Some Kosher gelatines are made with agar-agar, some are not. Some things that are vegan that are replacing gelatin are: guar gum and carageenan. Only some 'emulsifiers' are vegan.
What can be substituted for eggs?
A company called Ener-G makes a powdered egg-substitute that they claim is a suitable replacement for eggs in cooking. It costs about $5.00 (U.S.) for the equivalent of 9 or 10 dozen eggs, and it contains no animal products. 2 oz of soft tofu can be blended with some water and added to substitute for an egg to add consistency. One Tbsp flax seeds (found in natural food stores) with 3 Tbsp water can be blended for 2 to 3 minutes, or boiled for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved to substitute for one egg. 1/2 mashed banana 1/4 cup applesauce or pureed fruit 1 tsp. soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. water to substitute for one egg.
What is rennet? Where is it found? How can it be avoided?
Rennet is derived from the stomach linings of calves. Rennet is used to make cheese. True VEGETARIAN cheeses do not have rennet in them, but a substitute. These substitutes can be either from vegetable sources, or may be created in a lab. Vegetable rennet is usually called 'rennin' to distinguish it from the animal-derived type. ** NOTE ABOUT SOY CHEESE: Some soy cheeses contain cassein which is a milk-product. The only true VEGAN cheeses in the U.S. are: SOYMAGE and VEGAN RELLA. In the U.K. there is also a vegan cheese: SCHEESE.
What is miso?
Miso is made from fermented soybeans, and usually is found in a paste form. It is used as a flavouring agent, and for soup stocks. Storing Miso: If it is a dark miso, like hatcho miso, or red miso, it will keep for a while unrefrigerated, especially if it is 3 year miso. However, it does not hurt to refrigerate it. If it is sweet miso like yellow, mellow white, or sweet white, it will not keep unless refrigerated. Also, if the miso has been pasteurized, it should be kept refrigerated. Warning! Some Japanese brands of Miso contain fish stock! Nutritional value, per tablespoon: calories 36 g. protein 2 g. carbs 5 g. fat 1 g. sodium 629 mg. (from Pennington, "Food Values of Portions Commonly Used")
What is tofu?
Tofu, or Soy Bean Curd, is a whitish substance made from soybeans. It has a variety of uses in vegetarian cooking because of its bland taste that soaks up other flavours. It comes in a couple of varieties, basically amounting to soft and firm style. Soft tofu is often used to make frostings for cakes, dips for chips and vegetables, while the firmer style is generally used in stir-fries and soups where it will hold its shape.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a somewhat meatlike substance made from fermented soybeans. It is used in dishes like sloppy-joes, and has a rather strong taste compared to tofu.
What is TVP?
Textured Vegetable Protein (or TVP) is a meat-like substance that is used to boost the nutritional content of meals, while still remaining relatively attractive-tasting. TVP may have a rather high fat content, so check the label. If it contains "defatted" soya flour, it should be low fat.
What is seitan?
Seitan is a form of wheat gluten. It is a high protein, low fat, no cholesterol (of course) food that is usually found in the refrigerated section of most organic groceries/health food stores. It is usually near the tofu and typically comes in small tubs (like margarine tubs). It is brown and sometimes comes in strips 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick. Seitan is made from whole wheat flour which is mixed with water and kneaded. This dough undergoes a simple process of rinsing and mixing to remove the starch and some bran until a gluten is obtained. After boiling in water, this glutenous dough is called Kofu, which can be further processed in many ways. One of which is seitan. Kofu becomes seitan by simmering in a stock of tamari soy sauce, water and kombu sea vegetable. Seitan can be used in sandwiches, or to make dishes such as sweet and sour seitan, seitan stir fry, salisbury seitan, etc.
Can you feed a cat a vegetarian diet? A dog?
Both animals can be fed a vegetarian diet, although neither is a vegan by nature -- dogs are omnivores, and cats are carnivores. While both dogs and cats belong to the class carnivora, this doesn't mean a lot, so does the panda bear and their diet is basically vegan. By nature cats and dogs wouldn't eat anything like what is commonly found in a can of pet food either. Special diets must be provided for cats, as they require an amino acid called taurine -- found in the muscles of animals. Synthetic taurine has been developed (and has been used in commercial (non vegetarian) pet foods for years), and vegetarian cats should be fed it as a supplement. Taurine deficiency can result in blindness and even death. Cats also require pre-formed vitamin A and arachidonic acid. The companies listed below provide all these essential ingredients in their cat foods. Ask your vet about changing your pet's diet. Products: Harbingers of a New Age 717 E. Missoula Ave, Troy MT 59935-9609 Phone: (406) 295-4944 [vegecat supplement for vegan or lacto-ovovegetarian cats] Wow-Bow Distributors 309 Burr Rd., East Northport, NY 11731 (516)449-8572, 1-800-326-0230 (outside of NY only) Dogs: 20lb. bag is $20.35 + shipping Cats: supplement, 15oz. is $15.95 Call: Nature's Recipe for location of a distributor near you. 1-800-843-4008 For cats with food allergies, Wysong has developed a hypoallergenic diet: Canine/Feline Anergen III, a vegetarian diet for food sensitive cats, contains special high-protein vegetables. Wysong Corporation Dept. CF, 1880 N. Eastman Ave., Midland, MI 48640. Natural Life Pet Products, Inc. (For dogs) Available from veterinarians and pet food centres. 1-800-367-2391 Natural Life Pet Products, Inc. Frontenac, Kansas 66762. Evolution Healthy Pet Food Evolution Diet Bldg., 287 East 6th Street, Suite 70, St. Paul, MN 51101 Tel : (651)228-0632 Fax : (651)228-0467
What is Nutritional Yeast? / Which ones provide B12?
Nutritional yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a food yeast, grown on a molasses solution, and comes in powder or flake form. It has a pleasant-tasting, cheesy flavour and can be used directly on vegetables, baked potatoes, popcorn and other foods as a condiment. It is different from brewer's yeast or torula yeast. It can often be used by those sensitive to other yeasts. Ms. Carlyee Hammer at Universal Products (the parent company of Red Star, (414)-935-3910) indicates that ONLY ONE variety of Red Star nutritional yeast (product number T-6635+) is fortified with B12 at the level of 8 ug/g. Ms. Carlyee also claimed that other varieties of "nutritional" yeast contain vitamin B12 at less than 1 ug/g, but was unaware whether this was determined by microbial assay or not. Microbial assays for vitamin B12 are no longer considered reliable due to problems with the cross-reactivity of corrinoids. She indicated that Hazelton Laboratories (608-241-7210) did the assay. From the above two paragraphs, one might conclude that Red Star T-6635+ nutritional yeast, and probably no other variety, is a reliable dietary source of B12 at this time.
Are there vegan marshmellows available?
Yes, from a company called Emes located in Lombard, IL, U.S.A. Phone: (708) 627-6204. The package lists gelatin, but it is not animal derived. Most "kosher gelatin" isn't vegetarian (it's either made from fish cartilage or supervised by a less strict rabbinic authority that permits regular gelatin (a recent issue of "Kashrus" has an article on kosher gelatin)), but Emes kosher gelatin is made from carrageenan (and you can often buy Emes "gelatin" separately).
What airlines serve vegetarian meals?
Most airlines now serve vegetarian meals. Call the airline ahead of time to make your request, and it is suggested that you confirm your meal twice. For more information have a look, in Subject 3 below, at The World Guide to Vegetarianism. The '/other2' file contains details of individual airlines.
Should I be worried about getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet?
The short answer is: "No, sufficient protein can be obtained by eating a variety of foods", but here is a longer explanation: Protein is synthesized by the human body out of individual amino acids. The body breaks down food into individual amino acids and then reassembles the proteins it requires. All amino acids must be present in the body to make proteins. Those that can be synthesized from other amino acids are called "unessential" amino acids. You can live on a diet deficient of these if you eat enough extra of the other amino acids to synthesize these. Those that cannot be synthesized from other amino acids are called "essential" amino acids and must be present in the diet. Protein that contains all essential amino acids is called "complete" protein. Protein that contains some, but not all essential amino acids is called "incomplete" protein. It used to be believed that all amino acids must be eaten at the same time to form complete proteins. We now know that incomplete proteins can be stored in the body for many days to be combined with other incomplete proteins. As long as all essential amino acids are in the diet, it does not matter if the proteins are complete or incomplete. The amount of protein recorded on food labels only lists the complete proteins. A product may contain much higher amounts of incomplete protein that is not listed. Combining such products may increase the total amount of protein beyond the levels expected. The 1989 revision of the FDA's RDA suggests a protein intake of 44-63 grams. Many scientists think this number is too high. Most scientists agree with this number. Here is another (from "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine"): THE PROTEIN MYTH In the past, some people believed one could never get too much protein. In the early 1900's, Americans were told to eat well over 100 grams of protein a day. And as recently as the 1950's, health-conscious people were encouraged to boost their protein intake. The reality is that the average American takes in twice the amount of protein he or she needs. Excess protein has been linked with osteoporosis, kidney disease, calcium stones in the urinary tract, and some cancers. Despite all this, many people still worry about getting enough protein. The Building Blocks of Life: People build the proteins of their bodies from amino acids, which, in turn, come from the proteins they eat. Protein is abundant in nearly all of the foods people eat. A varied diet of beans, peas, lentils, grains, and vegetables contains all of the essential amino acids. Animal products are high in protein, but are undesirable because of their high fat and cholesterol content. Fat and cholesterol promote heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems. One can easily meet the body's protein requirements with plant foods. It used to be believed that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, but many nutrition authorities, including the American Dietetic Association, have determined that intentional combining is not necessary.1 As long as one's diet includes a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.
What about Vitamin B12 on a vegan diet?
The data on B12 is still coming in, so it is impossible to say "Its no problem....", however, the latest information suggests that acquiring enough B12 is not as problematic as it was once thought. If you are concerned about inadequate B12, there are many foods which are fortified with B12, in addition to vitamin pills. Here is the most recent information: From the book: Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals, by Debra Wasserman and Nutrition Section by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. Published (1990/1991) by the Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, (410) 366-VEGE. ISBN 0-931411-05-X Vitamin B12 Summary: The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low. Non-animal sources include Nutri-Grain cereal (1.4 ounces supplies the adult RDA) and Red Star T-6635+ nutritional yeast (1-2 teaspoons supplies the adult RDA). It is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms. Thus, vegans need to look to other sources to get vitamin B12 in their diet. Although the minimum requirement for vitamin B12 is quite small, 1/1000 of a milligram (1 microgram) a day for adults, a vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem leading ultimately to irreversible nerve damage. Prudent vegans will include sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. However, vitamin B12 deficiency is actually quite rare even among long-term vegans. Bacteria in the human intestinal tract do make vitamin B12. However, the majority of these bacteria are found in the large intestine. Vitamin B12 does not appear to be absorbed from the large intestine. Normally, vitamin B12 is secreted into the small intestine along with bile and other secretions and is reabsorbed, but this does not add to the body's vitamin B12 stores. Since small amounts of vitamin B12 are not reabsorbed, it is possible that eventually vitamin B12 stores will be used up. However, we may be quite efficient at re-using vitamin B12 so that deficiency is rare. Some bacteria in the small intestine apparently produce vitamin B12 which can be absorbed. This is one possible explanation for why so few cases of vitamin B12 deficiency are reported. Perhaps our bacteria are making vitamin B12 for us. At this time, research is continuing on vitamin B12 requirements. Some researchers have even hypothesized that vegans are more efficient than the general public in absorbing vitamin B12. Certainly for other nutrients, such as iron, absorption is highest on low dietary intakes. However, these are only speculations. We need to look for reliable dietary sources for vitamin B12 until we can determine whether or not other sources can supply adequate vitamin B12. Although some vegans may get vitamin B12 from inadequate hand washing, this is not a reliable vitamin B12 source. Vegans who previously ate animal-based foods may have vitamin B12 stores that will not be depleted for 20 to 30 years or more. However, long-term vegans, infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women (due to increased needs) should be especially careful to get enough vitamin B12. Few reliable vegan food sources for vitamin B12 are known. Tempeh, miso, and seaweed often are labeled as having large amounts of vitamin B12. However, these products are not reliable sources of the vitamin because the amount of vitamin B12 present depends on the type of processing the food undergoes. Also, Victor Herbert, a leading authority on vitamin B12 states that the amount on the label cannot be trusted because the current method for measuring vitamin B12 in foods measures both active and inactive forms of vitamin B12. The inactive form (also called analogues) actually interferes with normal vitamin B12 absorption and metabolism. These foods may contain more inactive than active vitamin B12. The RDA (which includes a safety factor) for adults for vitamin B12 is 2 micrograms daily. Two micrograms of vitamin B12 are provided by 1 teaspoon of Red Star T-6635+ yeast powder or 1-1/2 teaspoons of mini-flake yeast or 2 rounded teaspoons of large-flake yeast. Of course, since vitamin B12 is stored, you could use larger amounts of nutritional yeast less often. A number of the recipes in this book contain nutritional yeast. Another alternative source of vitamin B12 is fortified cereal. Nutri-Grain cereal does contain vitamin B12 at this time and 1.4 ounces of Nutri-Grain, or a little less than 1 cup, will provide 2 micrograms of vitamin B12. We recommend checking the label of your favorite cereal since manufacturers have been known to stop including vitamin B12. New labeling laws do not require labels to include the actual amount of vitamin B12 in a food. However, added vitamin B12 will be listed under ingredients and you can write to the company inquiring about the amount of vitamin B12 in a serving. Other sources of vitamin B12 are fortified soy milk (check the label as this is rarely available in the US), vitamin B12 fortified meat analogues (food made from wheat gluten or soybeans to resemble meat, poultry or fish) [Midland Harvest products contain B12.], and vitamin B12 supplements. There are vitamin supplements which do not contain animal products.
How is "vegan" pronounced?
The word was invented by the UK Vegan society in the 1940's They pronounced it "vee-gn". This is the most common pronunciation in the UK today. No one can say this pronunciation in "wrong", so this is also the politically correct pronunciation. In the US, common pronunciations are "vee-jan" and "vay-gn" in addition to "vee-gn", though the American Vegan Society says the correct pronunciation is as per the UK. The UK, and US and other places have other pronunciations. This is sometimes a touchy subject, so be prepared to change your pronunciation....
Can I eat at fast food places like McDonalds or Taco-Bell?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this. Many Companies allow individual stores to decide part of their menu, or the ingredients used. In general, you should: 1. Ask for a nutrition information booklet. Asking an employee may not be enough. 2. If the food in question contains an undesired element, ask if it can be substituted for, or deleted altogether. 3. Fill out a comment card, if you think their menu does not have enough selection. If the company receives enough of these, they may decide to follow up on them. 4. Taco-Bell do not use lard anymore in their cooking.
Is Maple Syrup vegetarian/vegan?
Yes, rumours abound about maple syrup containing pork fat. The US vegan society has checked all known sources and found that they are all suitable for vegans.
Is beer or other alcoholic beverages vegetarian/vegan?
Finings are substances often added to beer (especially British beer or "bitter") or wine during fermentation to help clarify out particles and yeast, leaving the finished product clear. Finings are not present in the finished product in any significant quantity, their purpose is to settle out of the product, not stay in suspension. OTOH, if a chemical analysis were to be performed, there would probably be a few molecules of a fining agent still to be found. Some finings are animal derived, the most common are isinglass, made from the dried swim bladders of sturgeons, gelatin, egg or blood albumin (in wines) and caseinates (from milk, also used in wines). However many non-animal derived sources also exist, the commonest ones being bentonite (clay), Irish Moss (a seaweed), silicon dioxide and polyclar. Beer brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law) is not prohibited from using finings since it was generally assumed that finings were not present in the finished product. Animal products are also sometimes used to alter the flavour of the wine/beer or control the head on a beer. See the FAQ for more details (where a lot of this has been stolen.-) Most spirits/mixers are suitable for vegans, common exceptions include some vodkas (may be cleared through bone charcoal) and Campari (contains cochineal, an insect derived colouring).
Is sugar vegetarian/vegan?
Some refined sugars use bone charcoal as a decolourant. In the UK Tate and Lyle and Billingtons sugars are free of animal substances. British Sugar, trading as Silver Spoon (the largest UK supplier) state that their white sugar is vegan but they cannot guarantee their brown sugars as some bone charcoal may be used by their suppliers. No data is presently available concerning sugar in other countries.