Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What’s Really in the Food You’re Eating?


What if someone told you that the lipstick you were wearing, or the gum you were chewing contained a dye made from beetles? And what if that same dye was an ingredient in the wine you just sipped, along with another ingredient taken from the bladders of fish. Would you still want to drink it? What if you knew that the dairy milk protein you just ate was considered by some physicians and health professionals to be one of the causes of abnormal behavior in children diagnosed with autism? Sounds crazy, but the use of animal ingredients like these ones are more common than you may think.

Animal Ingredients and By-Products

When you first begin to shift to a plant based diet it might feel a bit overwhelming. Walking freely into any store and choosing what you want based on your mood or cravings no longer is an option. Now you have to read and inspect product labels and you may come to realize that this is not always an easy task. Food labels list words that are difficult to pronounce, and even more difficult to understand. It’s usually at this point that people get discouraged, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Even seasoned vegans don’t always know what each and every product ingredient means. The good news is that there are numerous vegan options out there to choose from and by arming yourself with the knowledge of some commonly used, and not-so-obvious animal by-products, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Animal ingredients or by-products are substances derived from the hair, skin, bones, meat, blood, organs, or any other part of an animal, used in the making of items like food and cosmetics. They are often left over from the slaughtering process and come in many forms. Some are very unusual and may seem weird to someone hearing about them for the first time, such as beetle dye, (carmine), and the substance taken from fish bladders used to filter alcoholic beverages (isinglass). Some are so common that they can be found in many places throughout most households. By-products like wool fat (lanolin, found in most cosmetic and beauty products, and vitamin D supplements), gelatin (generally made from cow or pig skin, bones and connective tissue, used in candy and the gel capsules of certain vitamins/supplements) and animal glycerin (animal fat used in soaps, toothpastes and other cosmetics) are some examples.

If you're looking to identify more animal by-products check out this link to happycow.net. It's also a great vegan/vegetarian resource and a useful tool for finding veggie restaurants and health food stores all around the globe:

http://www.happycow.net/health-animal-ingredients.html

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