The Green Vegan – anyone for coffee?

Posted on 14 October 2011

Welcome readers to my first blog entry. :-)

… a regular eco-friendly feature by Terri Morris

For those who read my introduction to Vegan SA on the blog recently, one of my main reasons for going vegan is the impact on the environment of eating animals and products of animal origin. Before going vegan I thought my carbon footprint was admirable; after all I didn’t eat much red meat and I went out of my way to recycle, until the day that I realised that there was so much more I could do.

Coffee cups - photo by Johnny Grieg: www.JohnnyGrieg.comI started reading up on green living tips and read many pages of various eco websites and blogs and looked at what else I can do to be more green. While I’m not ready to live completely off the grid, I have found lots of ideas for reducing, reusing and generally being a smarter consumer so that I can walk lightly upon the Earth, and I would like very much to share these findings with you.

The first first tip I want to share is ways to reuse coffee grinds. It stems from advice my aunt shared with me years ago. She told me that pouring the grinds out in the rose beds kept the bugs away, so every morning I rinsed my plunger and swirled the grinds out into one of the rose bushes in my garden. Then one day I thought to try it on the spinach and basil that seemed to be getting eaten by insects. It worked! So now each morning the diluted leftover grinds get poured onto one of the edible herbs in my garden, which is now also mostly pest free.

This got me thinking – what else can I re-use the coffee grinds for? After a bit of research I discovered a couple of beauty secrets.

Coffee rinse to darken hair:
Needed – strong brewed coffee and a bowl.
Allow the brewed coffee to cool then wash your hair.
Turn off the water and pour the coffee through your hair with a bowl underneath to catch it.
Repeat the process several times until you achieve your desired color.
Wash and condition your hair.

This can be repeated monthly to maintain a natural dark colour.

Coffee treatment to darken hair:
When your hair is a bit dry and you want a more intense colour try this –
2 cups of leave-in conditioner (adjust according to your hair length)
2-3 Tbsp of used coffee grinds
1 cup of cold brewed coffee

Mix the above in a bowl and put it on your hair as if using “regular dye”. Leave it in for 30-90 minutes, depending on how dark you would like it to go, then wash as normal.

Please note the coffee smell will almost certainly remain in your hair for a couple of days.

Coffee Cellulite Scrub
Used coffee grinds
Body wash/shower gel
Used paper coffee filter or old pantihose
Cling wrap (ok, I know the cling wrap isn’t very green but you could rinse the wrap that comes from your produce and recycle it when you are done …)

Bring all the items in to the shower; open the window as the aroma can be quite strong. Wet your skin and turn off the shower and mix a small amount of body wash with the grinds in the bowl – you may add some grapefruit oil to assist with detox if you like. Then rub the mixture into your thighs (or other affected areas) and cover yourself with some cling wrap. Then wait 10-20 minutes for the coffee to really do its thing.

I’m not convinced of the science behind this treatment but it does exfoliate and left my skin looking smoother – might be a good time to scrub the shower tiles too!

Place the filter or pantihose over the drain to catch the grinds and rinse and towel dry. Then pour the well-used grinds into your garden.

I hope that you will leave a comment below, letting me know what topics are of interest to you – what ideas you or your colleagues have heard or wondered about.

More green tips coming soon.

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Complain about fur in a shop that sells meat?

Posted on 18 October 2010

Some of you may be aware of the Fur Free anti-fur group and you may be on their mailing list. If so, you would have received an alert recently about the cat box pet-hyper (Linden) selling products which are made of fur.

Of course all animal lovers are against fur and in this case Fur Free have asked that we write to the establishment head office politely expressing our disgust at the shop selling these items.

But this got me thinking: I have been to this particular pet shop quite a few times and when you enter you are greeted with large ostrich bones, hooves and other animal product chew toys. The pet food certainly isn’t vegan so can we really write to them expressing our disgust at one item when there are shelves of products which are the result of animal cruelty and suffering?

Can we really complain about products with real animal fur being sold in a shop which has always sold real animal flesh and bones?

Question posed by Lesleigh Harnwell

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Celebrating new life

Posted on 14 October 2010

Spring has arrived, blossoms are blooming, spirits are lifting and there is a general sense of relief from the cold and the guilt of having our heaters on. Our warm and sunny days are welcomed with picnics, park visits and garden get togethers.

Just as the trees shed the last of their dying leaves and sprout new green life, we too clear out the old to make way for the new, and with the arrival of Spring we welcome the abundance which our gardens can bring. Not only do we tend to our gardens but we also take into consideration what havoc cooked and fatty foods may have reaped on our bodies during winter and, with the warmer weather upon us, eating mostly raw food is a cinch and almost certainly as enjoyable as our winter treats.

Some of us may have recently visited the natural and organic show and one of the focuses, something which you may have been considering, was to grow your own veggie garden. With the warmer weather, new growth and weaving weavers, there is no better motivation to get out there and plant something. And if you don’t have the space, pot gardens are equally as rewarding and somewhat easier to maintain.

Some good nutritional veggies to plant this spring are carrots which give you vitamin A and B, and spinach – a great source of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C and K, iodine and more. I would definitely say pop some tomatoes in your garden or pot as these are very hardy plants and are a good source of vitamin B and C. Also plant some dwarf or runner beans. These are very appealing to the eye and will give you your protein and zinc provisions. And another hardy vegetable to plant, the ever so popular potato and sweet potato, which as we know is a great carbohydrate but also provides other vitamins such as B and C, and some minerals such as phosphorus, sulphur and potassium. A great nutritional and often forgotten herb which we should definitely consider for our delightful dishes is parsley, which is a source of calcium, iron, vitamin C and D.

Growing your own veggie garden will ensure you get the correct foods at the correct time of year and adapting a raw vegan diet will ensure you receive good plant-based nutrition. The benefits are immeasurable and with a growing awareness toward healthy eating in South Africa, there are plenty of raw eating resources which can help push you in the right direction.

If you are unable to grow your own veggie garden, your local organic market will be more than adequate and if you are willing to give the growing a go, the most sustainable and eco-friendly way of growing organic is with permaculture principles. I strongly recommend that some information on growing with permaculture principles is acquired before starting your garden, or even as a guide for an already established garden, as this will only benefit your garden plants and soil quality and help alleviate the need for commercial pesticides or excessive water use.

As we celebrate the joys of Spring with the cleaning of our houses and planting of new life. We disperse the toxins from our bodies with fresh produce and replenish the dry bark of our souls with lively new green leaves of friendship and the outdoors.

We as South Africans embrace the warm weather with welcoming arms and flourish under our nourishing sun. And for Jo’burg resident,; we anticipate our first rain so it may wash away all the dust and smog. Green will prevail again, the season has changed. Hooray spring is here!

Written by Lesleigh Harnwell

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So, you think you’re a vegan?

Posted on 30 August 2010

Do you own a pet? Do you visit aquariums or safari parks occasionally? Do you have a feather pillow? Do you sometimes use cosmetics or skin creams from your local supermarket?

Well then my friend, you’re just not a vegan.

…or so some people might tell you.

Contrary too what you might think, the question of whether you are a vegan is not as straight forward as it first appears. So, just what or who is a vegan?

Well first let’s explain what veganism is. The UK Vegan Society (who coined the term ‘vegan’) define veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. So veganism, under this definition, is a lifestyle choice, and one can deduce by extension that a vegan is someone that practices this lifestyle. I term this the philosophical approach to veganism.

So what or how then, must a person conduct their life in order to be a vegan?

In order to avoid animal exploitation, a vegan should not consume, use or support any of the following products or practices:
* Foods that contain products of animal origin: meat, fish, dairy, eggs, cheese, honey, gelatine, etc.
• Clothes or personal wear made from origin products leather, wool, silk, down, fur, animal skins
* Cosmetics/personal care items/toiletries/home care products that contain animal ingredients and/or are tested on animals
* Keeping pets, pet shops, puppy mills, breeding, buying or selling animals, confining animals in cages or fish in bowls
• Fishing, hunting, rodeos, cockfights, and other forms of animal ‘sports’
* Circuses, zoos, aqua parks; safari parks, oceanariums and aquariums
* Dog racing, horse racing, dog shows, horse-drawn carriages, horse riding
• Using animals as beasts of burden

This non-exhaustive list is already quite substantial and many would say onerous. The likelihood probably is that we are all (nearly all) guilty of breaching one or more of these edicts. But how many breaches does it take before someone will say “you’re not a vegan” anymore? When does one change from being a vegan to not being a vegan? Or is being vegan just a meaningless article of faith, a badge or label that anyone can carry around … just like, for example, a ‘Christian’ that has affairs outside his marriage, doesn’t keep in touch with his parents, works on Sundays, doesn’t believe in the Old Testament, is an overt racist, cheats on his tax returns and swears like a trouper?

In reality, the truth is that no such scorecard exists. Anyone can claim to be a vegan, saying that they live their lives in order to avoid animal exploitation, but this approach leaves a big black hole … The hole of FAILURE. Often people’s lives are markedly different in reality from their lofty ideals. And so this definition of being a vegan fails due to its non-verifiable and unquantifiable nature. In this sense it is just a rather unsatisfactory and vague term that may or may not mean something specific about the way a person conducts their life.

Note importantly, people who have a vegan diet for health reasons, religious purposes, or as a means of combating global warming, are excluded from this idealistic version of being a vegan. This is because they do it for the “wrong reasons” as they aren’t eating vegan in order to avoid animal exploitation. This reasoning smacks of bigotry and echoes faith-based illogic that says, for example, under Catholicism that most of the world’s leading humanists such as Ghandi would be banished to hell for believing in the wrong god. This rationale has strong negative consequences for the vegan movement as I believe it leads us down a cul-de-sac.

I believe that a different approach to finding a meaningful definition of being a vegan is required. The most obvious tenet to being a vegan is the consumer element, and it is also readily verifiable. So this is how I define a vegan:
“A person that does not consume animal products” … (‘consumption’ here meaning use, wear, buy, eat …)

That’s it, the practical definition of a vegan – short, simple, and modest. And easily tested.

I’m not suggesting that the other forms of animal exploitation are insignificant; far from it. They are equally as important and therefore deserve their own movements to halt these horrors. So animal-testing and pet breeding can be tackled by anti-vivisection and animal rights activism, and so forth. This simple approach allows us to pitch resources and expertise at each issue individually, instead of trying to fruitlessly tackle all the issues as if they are one. This is not watering down the ideals of veganism. It is merely reclassifying issues under more appropriate labels – animal welfare and rights issues are handled under those identifiable banners.

Note also that the Vegan Society implicitly accept this in their definition of vegan food. They make no attempt to verify if foods were brought to market by oxen or ploughed in fields by buffaloes. This is because they realise it’s impractical and self-defeating to ask these questions.

An additional and ultimately overriding benefit of the practical definition of vegan is that it is an inclusive approach. People that choose a vegan diet for health, environmental reasons, or religion, will be warmly greeted inside the vegan movement, instead of being rejected as they are under the philosophical and elitist alternative approach. This can only be a good thing for advocacy and growing veganism into a more powerful association for social change.

Written by Sheldon Hey

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Human or animal – who would you help?

Posted on 26 August 2010

Human rights are protected by law, to lesser or greater extents, in all societies around the world.

Additionally, it is now accepted by most scientists that human moral behaviour has developed from prehistoric times, when our less evolved ‘forefathers’ lived in social groups and developed bahavioural patterns that best allowed them to succeed in their own clans, i.e. helping out other members of their group often lead to later and reciprocal rewards.

Given the above 2 factors, what would you do in the following scenario:

– You see a man out walking his dog down a busy street. You see him about to cross the road and he clearly hasn’t seen the car rapidly approaching. It seems that unless you act then both will surely be killed by the rushing car. But you can only reach one or the other – dog or human. Which one would you save, and why?

– If you had chosen to save the dog, would you then be guilty of a crime punishable by law?

Question posed by Sheldon Hey

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How far are you prepared to go to help animals?

Posted on 19 August 2010

As I read of 30 brave and aspiring activists in Wietze near Hannover, Europe, squatting on a piece of land to prevent the construction of a large chicken slaughter house which would have been responsible for the death of 2.5 million chickens per week, I ask myself how far would I go to help farm animals?

These guys were great, they ensured they were not easily evicted by building a tripod, and chained concrete barrels around themselves. While squatting, they drummed, ran vegan workshops on cooking, animal rights and others. They received vegan food from the locals and managed to stand their ground. The owners of the land and police were gobsmacked as they had no legal right to evict them. I am unable to find out what happened with the squat, if anyone can read German or knows please let us know. :) For some great pictures of the ‘chicken squat’ please visit in a new window

There are many brave activists out there who go out on a limb for animals, and although we do our bit by being vegan does it stop there? Would you squat for the chickens?

Questions kindly posed by Lesleigh Harnwell

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Test tube and slaughter-free meat and eggs

Posted on 27 July 2010

1. How do you feel about synthetic meat and what are your views on testtube burgers?

Meat that’s grown in a lab might be the next new craze … “eat without guilt”, but at what cost? When will we know the side effects of lab-grown meat and would you try it (assuming animal cells can be ‘harvested’ in an ethical way)?

2. If you kept chickens and they left unfertilised eggs at your kitchen door would you eat them? My boss keeps chickens and one hen secretly lays eggs which she protects (my boss cannot eat them) and will lay another egg in my bosses bedroom almost as if to say “here you go you can have this one, but not my precious ones hidden beneath the bush” ~ would you eat them?

3. Would you eat an animal if it died of natural causes and lived a healthy natural life? If you would then could you prepare the meat or would you only consume it if someone else cuts it and nicely presents the flesh on a platter, bone- and skin- free?

What are your views on “alternative” meat?

Questions kindly posed by Lesleigh Harnwell

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Cook from clay for better nutrient retention

Posted on 1 July 2010

By Marie Louise Swart

I was thinking of the days in Eden when we were eating fruit from the trees and veggies from the earth and it came to me that we never had to wonder about our food. Since it was raw the food was natural and all the nutrients went into their bodies and didn’t get lost in the cooking process.

Argilla Moca Chino clay potsBut most people don’t always want to eat food raw. Cooking food brings out the flavour and with added spices and herbs it also makes it tastier. Studies in recent years also show that iron and aluminium from cooking pots can leach into food and toxic polymers from non-stick pans are released in to the air, causing several serious health risks.

Cooking with clay pots is becoming very popular and is a healthier option because clay is a natural product. Minerals that are in the clay dissolve into your food, making it tastier and healthier.

Using glazed earthenware has several advantages over metal pans:

  • Food cooks with a minimum of liquid and no additional fat.
  • Food browns in clay pots, even with the lid on.
  • More of the essential nutrients and vitamins are retained in foods cooked in clay pots because food cooks in a closed environment with limited liquids.
  • As long as you don’t overfill the cooker, your oven will remain clean.
  • Argilla clay pots may be used in the microwave very successfully. It is best to use lower power settings.
  • Food can be kept warm by leaving the lid on the pot, after removing it from the oven, without overcooking.
  • You only use one pot for the whole meal.
  • Argilla pots have a glaze which makes for easier cleaning.
  • Clay pots are very durable.

Argilla clay dinner setArgilla clay pots come in mocha and sandstone and are oval and round bakers, pie plates and casseroles. Try cooking dishes like lasagna and other pastas, casseroles and baked goods.

A disadvantage of clay pot cooking is the longer cooking time (1 hour), but the exquisitely tastier food will soon have you forget about this.

For some great vegan dishes that you can cook with Argilla, visit:

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When did you become a vegan, and why?

Posted on 26 June 2010

What made you decide to go vegan? Were you influenced by a person, an event or a movie?

Were you vegetarian first and then later became a vegan? At what age did you become vegan and how long have you been vegan for?

My own story:
I was a vegetarian at 19 a result of my body just not liking meat, and then gradually I let go of other foods like fish and eggs. Finally, milk was the last item, which was the only item that I actually gave up for animal rights reasons; all other animal products and by-products just made me sick. I have been a non-meat eater for nearly 7 years now and vegan for about 3 years. :)

What made you the vegan you are today?

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Burning personal bridges

Posted on 21 June 2010

Quite often we as vegans will get into very heated debates about what we believe in with our loved ones, unless of course we are very lucky and surround ourselves only with like minded people who never question what we do or don’t eat because they understand, but the chances of that are very slim.

It’s very hard to keep an even temper because we feel we are being attacked. We feel very strongly about what we believe in and when people attack our beliefs, we feel they are attacking us … and in some cases they are! This makes it very hard to feel the same way about that person before they charged at us with their archaic beliefs and uninformed insults. So how do you deal with ‘attackers’? Obviously we inform them of the truth and enlighten them on the subject. This too can sometimes have devastating effects with more attacks been hurled at you, and the ending of friendships.

But in cases where the friendship has survived, or as is the case with family who won’t just disappear from our lives, the relationship may still be strained. How do you expel that feeling of betrayal, the feeling which comes with no support from those whom you have always relied on before?

Do you simply shrug it off as naivety and continue as if nothing ever happened?

Do you make it your purpose to convert that person, to change their ways so the conflict does not happen again, realising that there will be a lot more conflict before the change may or may not happen?

Do you cut all ties until they apologise, realising this may never happen and the family brunch awkwardness has escalated to catastrophic levels, and that disowning your family seems the next available best bet?

It seems like such a simple thing but feeling strongly about something which your loved one does not agree with, can be heart wrenching and somewhat stressful, how do you cope?

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Should vegans be anarchists?

Posted on 17 June 2010

You might have noticed that a lot of vegans have an anarchist mentality, and I suppose only fairly so as the petitions and protests don’t seem to work.

Yes we all make a small difference in our own way by not consuming animal products, being more environmentally friendly and more conscious in what we do and buy, but is this really making a difference? There’s only a handful of us vegans, granted growing, but there are millions of them (meat eaters/ media minions).

Yes, you would still need to be be advocating, converting and changing minds in order to get the anarchy movement moving forward, but I feel people are a lot more open to change that benefits them despite their dietary choice (they’ll get over that). Once they are over the sheer shock of having a different governmental system, they will see that anarchy changes everything that we know for the better of everyone; because anarchy is not just about making a difference in the lives of the animals, it’s also about making a difference in the lives of everyone and the environment.

This thinking is based on the understanding that a majority of us are not happy with what is going on in our societies. And those who defend government and, as is often the case, the world banks’ actions, are ill educated on the subject and, more than likely, a prime example of systematic brain washing which has lead nations for decades.

So if we start getting people to question how their world is run maybe they’ll also start asking questions on how their meat is grown?

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How strict a vegan are you?

Posted on 6 March 2010

Not all vegans are alike and many of the issues that face us are not black and white, but rather occupy the grey zone where there is no obvious right or wrong answer, merely personal choice or preference.

So what are challenging issues and circumstances that challenge you in your own life? And where do you lie – what are your own personal boundaries and limits when it comes to vegan issues when there are no right answers?

Would you:

  • eat food that was cooked on a grill that had been used (but scraped down) to cook meat on?
  • dine at a steak or burger house (surrounded by steaks and beef burgers)?
  • cook meat for friends/family?
  • buy animal products for friends/family?
  • buy ‘cruelty-free’ personal care items that contain dairy or egg produce?
  • buy goods that are animal product free but are made from a culture that was grown on dairy milk (e.g. Woolies soy yoghurt)?
  • wear leather shoes?

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New Vegan SA Facebook fan page

Posted on 30 January 2010

Here is some important news for all of you that use Facebook to receive our blog newsfeed…

We have decided to switch media platforms within Facebook. We have now created a new Facebook Fan Page. We have already been assigned our new easy-to-remember username:

Our blog news feed will be displayed on our new fan page wall. Our fan page will also be used to host any other Vegan SA news and features as well as general discussions about issues related to veganism.

To receive our blog newsfeed direct into your Facebook News Feed in the future, all you have to do is become a fan of our new Facebook page. You can do so by clicking on the link above… and then clicking on the “Become a Fan” button on the new Vegan SA page.

Our existing Vegan SA Facebook Group and ‘Vega N SA’ user ID will both be made inactive from 31st January 2010.

Hope to see you all on our new Vegan SA Facebook Fan Page soon!

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Can unhealthy vegan diets cause brain damage?

Posted on 28 January 2010

An article by Adam Kochanowicz for the Vegan ExaminerOpens in a new window

“Vegans face a serious criticism regarding their diet when it comes to research on neurological problems. It’s not hard to find articles that study groups of non-vegans and vegans, and that show the latter group demonstrates a higher rate of neurological damage. This data looks very frightening and seems to give credence to those who reject many of the health benefits of veganism as myth. So why do we still suggest you should go vegan and should not worry about your brain falling apart?

Do we really need to eat meat for vitamin B-12? The answer is NO. Photo courtesy of Johnny Greig: www.JohnnyGreig.comMuch of the research under question is not flawed.  A B-12 deficiency is a serious matter and can lead to faster rates of brain decay later in life.  However, the statements on this undisputed fact become misleading when we make inferences about vegans. The argument is essentially that because vegans tend to have higher rates of B-12 deficiency, veganism itself is an unhealthy way of living and that at least some animal products are necessary.

If practiced correctly, a vegan diet is extremely healthy, animal products are in no way necessary for optimal human health.”

Fallacy: Veganism causes brain decay

Adam goes on to argue that it’s not veganism itself that causes a deficiency in vitammin B-12, it’s individual vegans themselves that cause the deficiency and they need to take special care to make sure they incorporate the vitamin into the diets.

A related misconception to this issue is that vitamin B-12 only comes from animals. This is not true. B-12 is found in many animal food products, but it is microorganisms present in animals that synthesize B-12, not the animals themselves. There are many vegan B-12 supplements and B-12 fortified foods available that eliminate the need to consume animal products. This is one of the so-called disadvantages of veganism that can easily be overcome.

Fallacy: Vegan, among diets, is unhealthy

Adam also suggests that the research data is being used incorrectly to arrive at misleading and innaccurate conclusions.

If we analyse any group or category of people (meat-eaters, vegans, vegetarians), there will be both people with good and less-than-good diets that we could infer some sort of correlation or trend to. This is no surprise. Not all vegans are health experts, just as other people are not too. But this health data remains important to vegans.  Vitamin B-12, calcium and iron are the 3 nutrients that vegans should pay most attention to.  But they can all easily be found from vegan sources.

Adam also questions “why veganism gets singled out as some strange, unhealthy, or unnatural diet.  Much of our bodies are highly suitable for plant-based nutrition … and surely succeed over the diets of many critics… vegans hear a lot of criticism about their diet (much of it is incorrect) while diseases related to high blood pressure top the list of natural killers of human beings.”

Vegans may have a few small and specific nutritional issues, buit this is insignificant when compared to meat and dairy diets high in fats, cholesterol, sugar and preservatives.

Fallacy: Supplements are for vegans only

Some think that, despite all the obesity, disease, cancer and general poor health, people live perfectly well on non-vegan diets, and supplements are for vegans. This perceived disadvantage of veganism is incorrect. Adam points to the similarity between goiter and vitamin B-12 deficiency as a case in point. Goiter is caused by iodine deficiency and was a major public health issue in the early 20th century. This symptom quickly disappeared once manufacturuers learnt to iodize salt. “Now, whenever you see a packet or box of salt, you’re likely to see “iodized” in the name. Most of us don’t have to worry about Goiter because we take supplements [iodine, to counter goiter] and don’t even realize it.”

So we can deduce that vitamin B-12 deficiency would likely no longer be an issue if vegans received a similar response from food manufacturers to this health issue. Some foods are now appearing fortified in vitamin B12, so perhaps we have alreadt turned the corner with this issue.

Adam concludes: “Most of us don’t have perfect levels of every single nutrient we need as human beings. What these nutrients are vary from person to person, diet to diet, and culture to culture. You don’t have to worry about your brain decaying as a vegan. Simply be informed when making your transition and surround yourself with positive, like-minded people.”


For more on healthy rather than unhealthy vegan diets read our the vegan nutrition article.

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Pregnant vegan women – is it safe for my baby?

Posted on 10 January 2010

Happy New Year to all of you out there. At Vegan SA, we’d like to wish you all a prosperous upcoming year and one in which we can contribute in whatever small way possible, to making your lives more fulfilling.

“I’m pregnant and follow a vegan diet. will it harm my unborn baby?”

This is a question that many vegan mothers-to-be will ask. And since it is summertime and the hot season, now is as good a time as any to answer it.

Lesleigh Harnwell has produced an excellent document for us: Vegan Pregnancies. It’s full of nutritional information for any mother-to-be, addresses specific concerns for vegans and suggests some easy and readily available solutions.

This page also dovetails quite nicely with her previous article on Raising Children with a Vegan Diet.

If you are planning for future offspring soon, now you have all the dietary information you need. So go on then, … off you go and do your stuff!

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