What is a Vegan? Interview with David Román (*)

What is a Vegan? Interview with David Román (*)

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I must confess that on some occasions I have been repulsed by certain smells of meat or dishes cooked with meat. I think that when you have fully established ideas, you simply exclude that possibility and somehow there is no room for such desires.

What is a vegan?
DR>Veganism is the philosophy and practice of compassionate living. The term "vegan" was coined to distinguish vegans from vegetarians, although vegans are usually included within this broad group as "vegetarians", they sometimes call us "strict vegetarians". A vegetarian is one who lives off the products of the vegetable kingdom with or without the addition of eggs and / or dairy products. The term vegetarian refers only to diet, not to any other animal product apart from food. The motivation to go vegetarian can be ethical or health, financial or religious, or any combination of these. How is a vegan different from a vegetarian? Mainly in the degree of ethical practice. Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards the animal kingdom, and includes reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the vegetable kingdom to exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs, honey, animal milk and their derivatives, and promotes the use of alternatives for all everyday items derived in all or part of the animals.
With this definition it can be seen that veganism is much more than a simple matter of diet. Vegans avoid killing, harming and exploiting animals. Vegans are also interested in maintaining an excellent level of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being. A vegan does not hunt or fish, and does not condone the cruel and unnatural training and confinement of animals in circuses and zoos, or their use in bullfights or rodeos.

How are your meals, or rather, how is a full day of food?
DR>Well, the first impression many people get is that if all of that is removed, there is not much left to eat. But it is not true, my current diet is much tastier and more varied now than when I was on a conventional diet, in which I used to eat the same things regularly. Initially, there are plant substitutes for any of the commonly used animal products: there are plant meats, soy-based milk, almonds, oats, etc. and derivatives such as cheese, margarine, etc., with which the vast majority of conventional dishes can be made "vegan". You just have to replace or eliminate ingredients of animal origin. But these elements are not necessary, although it is true that they can be very useful to some people who find it hard to change their diet, and in fact, we personally do not usually consume them regularly.

We refer to breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.
DR> Our diet basically consists of the following: to eat exclusively seasonal fruits for breakfast, once or twice throughout the morning, depending on hunger or the characteristics of the fruits. For lunch, a hearty salad followed by a carbohydrate dish (potatoes, cereals or legumes) accompanied by vegetables. We do not usually have a snack, only exceptionally with some fruits, or some vegetable milk in summer (tiger nut horchata, almond, etc.). For dinner there may be a hot soup with vegetables or a good salad, more nuts (oleaginous), in cold weather or something lighter in hot weather (a simple salad or only seasonal fruits).

Is it difficult to prepare the menu every day?
DR>Unlike. Now we know a lot of new foods and frankly, we lack days in the week to be able to program all the dishes that we want! We usually supply ourselves with the widest possible variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (those that are produced each season in our region), and then there are a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, etc., with which the combinations are multiple. Basically it is about opening the refrigerator and choosing what we want the most at all times. Add also a selection of condiments and dressings, and the variety is certainly very wide.

What foods do they use that are not common?
DR>There is a wide range of cereals that are often unknown to people, who basically consume wheat and rice. A wide variety of recipes can be prepared using millet, quinoa, polenta, bulgur, couscous, buckwheat, etc. Another ingredient that oriental cuisine has discovered is seaweed (sea vegetables), there are a large number of edible varieties, and they add a delicious touch to many dishes. Another example is sprouts, also common in oriental cuisine.

How do you get them, do you make them or is there a place or places where you have easy access to them?
DR>Most of these products are usually found in health food or health food stores. They are bought packaged and usually have the advantage of coming from organic farming. But for example we make sprouts at home, according to our needs.

And if you make them, are they easy to achieve for those who today decide to adopt this lifestyle?
DR> Sprouts are a valuable food and are very easy to obtain. Anyone can do it. It involves allowing a handful of good quality seeds to germinate (lentils, green soybeans, alfalfa, etc.) for a few days. To start germination, you have to put them in a jar (cover the mouth with gauze, so that they perspire) and leave them to soak in pure water for one night, the next day the water is removed and during the next few days one or more are rinsed. twice a day (emptying all the water), until they reach the desired size. They are consumed when they have begun to remove the germ that would become the new plant, like any other fresh vegetable, in salads or in cooked recipes. We also usually make some other foods at home, such as bread, which is very easy and is so good that it is a great personal reward; also some vegetable milks made from nuts, such as almonds, cashews, tiger nuts, etc.

How are the foods that can be prepared, varied and tempting or are they monotonous and can they risk boring those who are just starting out?
DR>Certainly the meals are varied and tempting, you just need to have a little imagination and stock up on a wide variety of raw materials. Obviously, if you do not have a variety of ingredients when starting out in this field, it can be monotonous, so I recommend buying a vegetarian / vegan cookbook, since they always bring new ideas that enrich our cuisine.

Are there shops that are dedicated to preparing and selling ready-made food for those who have little time?
DR>In general, buying prepared meals or eating out is complicated, because if it is already rare to find vegetarian restaurants, it is even more so for the vegan diet, since being stricter reduces the possibilities of dishes that we can eat in restaurants conventional. In pizzerias you can usually eat "vegan", ordering a pizza without cheese, but you always have to be careful (for example, in some pizzerias they include milk to make the dough). But hey, you can always find something; We recently spent 15 days traveling through France and we have been able to eat vegan looking for vegetarian places or restaurants with a variety of salads on the menu, etc.

Is it true that they have to study the combination of foods very well so as not to suffer from protein and vitamin deficiencies?
DR>This is one of the myths surrounding the vegetarian diet in general, but they are unfounded. It was thought that different foods had to be combined at each meal so that the supply of essential amino acids was complete (as happens with meat). But now it is known that it is not necessary, the body has the ability to temporarily store essential amino acids from a meal that may be lacking in another subsequent meal. In any case, there are those who still prefer to combine cereals and legumes in the same dish to obtain the full ration.

And if this happens to them, what do they supplement it with, with some medicine or does this possibility have no place in this lifestyle?
DR>Personally, we do not use supplements, although some do, they use, for example, vitamin supplements, or brewer's yeast, wheat germ, lecithin, etc. We think that it is not necessary, because a varied vegan diet is complete in itself, although if someone likes them, it is perfectly valid.

What is the truth for you, when a medical professional, who is not vegan, says: Vitamin D is difficult to obtain without animal food or Vitamin B12 and iron is not in any vegetable in adequate amounts.
DR>Medical professionals generally make these judgments without being well documented. More and more doctors are realizing the advantages of the vegan diet and coming to defend it, especially in the US This is the case of the PCRM (Committee of Physicians for Responsible Medicine, http: //www.pcrm. org) or the famous pediatrician Dr. Spock, who in the latest edition of his bestseller went on to recommend the vegan diet for raising children. Indeed, these vitamins are the most delicate in the field of vegan nutrition, because plant foods lack them, although the experience of many vegans (who have not taken vitamin supplements) shows that such accusations are unfounded. Vitamin D is made by the body itself thanks to exposure to the sun, and in reality it should only be of concern to vegans who live far north where the hours of sunshine are very scarce. In some very specific cases, vitamin B12 deficiency has been diagnosed, although this also happens in omnivorous people. This vitamin is produced by microorganisms, and thanks to this we find it in products of animal origin. In general, it is thought that vegans can absorb it from their intestinal flora or that the small residual amounts they can ingest in their food are enough, but to avoid complications it is usually recommended to consume a food enriched in B12 or a vitamin supplement that contain it. As for iron, it is true that vegetables contain less than meat, but being accompanied by a greater amount of vitamin C facilitates its absorption and in any case the levels are usually more than sufficient, as shown by the fact that vegetarians do not have anemias.

In the case of pregnant women, how and with what do they supplement the contributions of iron, folic acid, calcium and vitamins, which they need in this state, in greater quantity?
DR>The truth is that during my wife's pregnancy, we did not take any additional measures in her diet. I insist that we think that it is already a complete diet. From what we know, it seems that during pregnancy the body itself adapts to its needs and increases its absorption capacity; However, it is true that the food rations increased somewhat, especially nuts (due to a higher protein intake).

What sensation do they experience when they see a succulent and tasty meat dish, with an exquisite aroma, and see, with what satisfaction, the diner savors it? Indifference, disgust, the aroma makes you want to try it, or nothing?
DR>I must confess that on some occasions I have been repulsed by certain smells of meat or dishes cooked with meat. I think that when you have fully established ideas, you simply exclude that possibility and somehow there is no room for such desires.

Obviously, it is obvious, that you are vegan by your own conviction, but the question is this: can a person become vegan at any age, or is it a lifestyle that is passed from one generation to another?
DR>Most vegans that I know have converted on their own initiative, fewer are born vegan, but in any case it can be passed from one generation to another, why not? We are going to try it with our son, but of course, the last decision will always be his in the future, he can decide the path he wants to follow.

Does eating a different style from the majority lead you to form a closed nucleus between you? Or do they participate in a life common to all, with the difference of food? And if so, how do you do, when you must attend a meeting or party, where the food is not what you are used to?
DR>It is undeniable that the limitation in diet reduces the possibilities of social relationship. It is positive to interact with people who share the same ideas, to strengthen the approaches, because it is hard to go against the current in modern society. But in principle, we do not isolate ourselves from the world, we usually go out and maintain social relationships with the maximum normality, because it is not something that makes us ashamed, but on the contrary, we want people to know our lifestyle and, who knows, the same try to try !! - Our families, who at first took it as a hard blow, have become accustomed and no conflict is generated for it, on the contrary, they tend to show greater interest each time. The important thing is mutual respect, without trying to impose personal criteria.

If you need a medical consultation, do you do it with doctors related to your own ideology and practice, or with conventional doctors?
DR>We usually go to professionals related to our lifestyle, although to tell the truth it is very rarely. But it is true that the conventional ones are usually reluctant, and they tend to be suspicious of the diet for anything, although as we all know, diet is not everything, there are many other factors that influence health. Instead, they find it difficult to accept that conventional diets are largely responsible for many of the problems that plague "normal" people.

If so, do you have problems with the professional?
DR>Yes, that's right, we are victims of misunderstanding, in many aspects of life. For example, when we monitored the pregnancy and the first months of our son's life, we went to the public health services, and although he presented normal development and has never been ill for a single day, they always showed us their reluctance regarding diet .

In general, one associates the intake of vegetables with a healthy diet; Has it been proven that among vegans the incidence of diseases is lower than among those who have different eating habits?
DR>Indeed, there are studies that show a lower incidence of certain diseases among vegetarians than among omnivores, and vegans still tend to have lower rates. In general, these health problems are those related to fat intake, which is lower in vegetarians and much more in vegans, as we reject dairy products that provide a significant amount of saturated fat in the diet. On this topic, there is a very interesting article at

How do you control children, so that with this diet, they do not produce mineral, vitamin, iron and zinc deficiencies?
DR>Well, in principle with a balanced vegan diet there can be no deficiency. On the contrary, it is a complete and healthy diet. The only obstacle is that sometimes children have difficult tastes, they refuse to eat certain foods and in this case, if their diet is not varied enough, should we take precautions? But these rejections also happen with omnivorous children (I know cases), although it seems that with an omnivorous child nobody cares too much about it?
All parents want the best for their children. But I think that most parents are not well informed about nutrition, and what is in animal products. It is not cruel to deprive a child of something that is harmful to health, but rather something very sensible and recommended. Precisely children usually begin to have diseases at a very early age. This is abnormal, and is due in part to the urge to introduce undesirable foods too early, especially dairy, which end up saturating the baby's sensitive body.

Can women in the menopausal stage follow a diet that effectively compensates for the loss of calcium and estrogens?
DR>One of the first questions we are asked when learning about our diet is: "where do you get calcium if you don't eat dairy products?" This is the result of the cultural conditioning that we receive in today's society, and that is another unjustified myth. Milk is a food that does not meet our physiological needs, and they seem to forget that cows extract all the calcium from the plant foods they eat. Eliminating dairy from the diet is not dangerous, but very beneficial, as studies show. The Harvard Nurses' Health Study, which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed that increased milk consumption does not have a protective effect on fracture risk. In fact, higher calcium intake from dairy products was associated with an increased risk of fractures. So, in menopause too, a wise position would be to maintain a balanced vegan diet, excluding dairy products and of course considering other factors that also influence bone health. On the pages of you can find extensive information on the issue of dairy in the diet.

And for the elderly, does it cover all the required needs?
DR>Yes, indeed, it is valid for all ages. Some problems that appear in the elderly are related to the loss of the absorption capacity of certain substances, but in principle if this deficiency does not appear, the vegan diet would be equally valid.

What are the most common diseases among vegan people?
DR>The incidence of many diseases is lower among vegans, but this does not mean that we never have any health problems. I am not aware of any morbidity studies referring only to vegans, so I do not know the most common possible diseases. Of course, the state of health depends on many other factors, in addition to diet, and each person operates in a different environment, with different habits.

Finally, what valid arguments could you give us that would lead us to think that the possibility of being vegan is well worth it?
DR>In the first place, the fundamental message that we are proposing is very simple: that human beings do not need products of animal origin to survive, we do not need to exploit any animal and therefore doing so is an unjustified whim. But leaving aside all this, it has been shown that all products of animal origin are harmful to human health, even those of organic production, due to their own intrinsic composition. Meat is already well known (and with the current state of livestock, much more); Eggs are the food that is richest in cholesterol, and dairy ("liquid meat") is linked to a long list of problems ranging from allergies or asthma to certain types of cancer to cardiovascular disease, diabetes or osteoporosis. When these products are not organic, the pollutants only aggravate the problem, accompanied by a good proportion of hormones, antibiotics, pesticide residues, etc. In addition, livestock in itself is anti-ecological, due to the waste of nutrients, water and energy they require, and the polluting waste they generate. So for a large number of reasons veganism is the healthiest and most respectful option with animals and the environment.
However, becoming (ovo-lacto-) vegetarian is usually the first step, and it is already a big step. I believe that the term "vegetarian" is generic and should encompass all the different approaches that are within this broad way of looking at things. Any step towards veganism, no matter how small, is good for the welfare of animals, people and the planet.

(*) Interview with Mr. David Román, from IVU (International Vegetarian Union)

Video: The Denzel Washington Interview That Left Katie Couric Shaken (July 2022).


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