Despite so many years of eating a vegan diet, I’m still learning more about how to read vegan product labels. Sadly, I’ve discovered that a lot of products which I had thought to be free of animal products may not be.

A long time ago, a friend warned me to look out for cholesterol. He urged me to assume that cholesterol meant animal products were in the food. Now I have read that there can be some small, even minute amounts of cholesterol in plants.

I’ve come to accept that this veganism is a counter-cultural way to live. I have to read labels intelligently. I have decided that any cholesterol I take in can come from the actual plants I consume. If a product lists cholesterol, it’s not for me.

Another valuable recommendation is to read the allergy warnings on product labels. Any milk, soy, wheat, and egg contents should be listed. Since many food-conscious eaters have food sensitivities or try to avoid gluten, it’s helpful for them to know about the wheat. For me and other vegans, it is critical to know about eggs and milk in order to avoid them.

Unfortunately, avoiding dairy products is harder than just reading that allergy warning. I’ve just learned that vitamin D-2 is not derived from animal sources, but vitamin D-3 usually is. Then the milk protein—casein—is frequently in soy cheese or just about anything that contains lactose.

So now, I’m really confused. Despite my long experience as a vegan, I sometimes feel as if I need to be a chemist in order to be a good vegetarian vegan. I’ve read that ingredients other than lactose that begin with the prefix “lac” can be trusted by a vegan. Then there are the flavorings. If they are “natural,” they may be animal-based. If they are artificial, I could probably trust them. Why would I want to eat that if I’m already striving for the most natural and healthiest diet I can?

The wisest advice I’ve gotten is to seek out products with few and easily- recognized ingredients. Another important warning is not to fall into the trap of assuming a product won’t be changed. Even if it has seemed trustworthy in the past, a product may be modified by a manufacturer with no warning to the consumer.

From the beginning of my adoption of a vegan way of life, my vegan friends have been very kind in supporting my seeing this change in my life as a process. There was so much more to learn than I had anticipated. Initially I’m sure I unwittingly consumed products that have some animal-derived content. I came to understand that those items are usually listed last on the labels. It’s necessary to read the entire label all the way to the end.

When I started out to eat vegan, I could easily have made two self-defeating errors. First I could have concluded that it’s too hard to do this and it won’t matter since the amount from animals would be so small. Conversely, I could have decided that I might as well give up and go back to eating the same way most people do.

I’m told that looking for Kosher foods can also be informative as to whether there is meat inside. There still could be egg or fish, so this is not fool-proof. It is, however, another source of information.

Reading vegan product labels may take some people so far as to consider whether foods are being processed on equipment that is also used with animal products. I know some people who might feel that concern would be taking this too far, but I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that. I’ll go on reading vegan product labels and learning from my mistakes.

Reading labels for vegans is essential if they want to closely adhere to their principles.  Unfortunately the task is not as easy as it sounds but my online Amazon.com eBook can greatly help.  So, download it straight into your Kindle, iPad or PC today and enjoy; a) the learning experience and b) the very low promotional price.

Filed under: Certified Vegan Products

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