Avoid These 5 Surprising Foods That Aren't Vegan

Avoid These 5 Surprising Foods That Aren't Vegan

Time to Read: 8 minutes


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Veganism is an excellent way to stay healthy while also supporting the environment. People who’ve made the switch know that their diet benefits more than just themselves.

Factory farming methods put animals through hellish conditions. Chickens trapped in cages, cows not free to roam. The list goes on and on.

You can find ethical farms, but even moral animal farming has its downfalls. The U.S. uses 87 percent of all its fresh water for animal farming related purposes.

What’s more, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock creates 15 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.

These are negatives associated with farming animals and animal products that you cannot avoid.

If you’ve already gone vegan, we don’t blame you. It’s an incredibly responsible choice for your body and the environment.

If you haven’t started cutting out foods that aren’t vegan, we’d highly recommend it. The benefits far outweigh the positives.

Either way, when you’re vegan you need to pay attention to what you’re eating. Surprisingly, it’s very easy to accidentally consume animal products.

Many foods contain animal byproducts that you wouldn’t believe. Unfortunately, animal products are in some obscure foods.

To make sure you don’t accidentally break your commitment to the earth and yourself, we’re bringing you our 5 surprising foods that aren’t vegan.

Veganism 101

Before we break down foods that aren’t vegan, let’s take a look at what being vegan is all about.

First things first. The vegan diet revolves around not consuming animal or animal byproducts in any way.

This includes the expected meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and poultry, but also things like honey, furs, wool, leather, and some cosmetics.

Beyond our initial environmental impacts, people often turn to veganism because of its health benefits.

Red meat isn’t very healthy, and it turns out other animal products aren’t either. Vegans have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and risks of heart disease than meat eaters.

The main issue with switching from foods that aren’t vegan is balancing your vitamin and nutrient intake without meat products.

Though it’s important to take daily vitamins if you’re vegan, eating smart will get you most of your required nutrients.

Beans and tofu will provide any lost protein, while soy milk will take care of any calcium deficiency.

Surprising Foods That Aren’t Vegan #1: Sugar

The current vegans might alright know this, but most people don’t realize sugar’s made with animal byproducts.

Sugar gets its white color from “filtering” with bone char. What’s bone char, you ask? Charred cattle bones.

The burnt bones act like carbon filtering (think Britta filters) and remove impurities from the sugar.

If you’re thinking, “Oh that’s fine, I’ll just use brown sugar,” think again. Brown sugar is just white sugar with added molasses.

The only way to avoid bone char filtered sugar is buying specifically with veganism in mind.

“Raw” sugars are often available before the bone char refining. These sugars come straight from the cane plant.

Also available are sugars made from different vegetables. Beet sugar is widely available and never comes into contact with bone char.

Though when purchasing any sugar, ensure that the package indicates it’s completely vegan.

Sometimes sugar is processed in factories that also deal with dairy products. This could cause milk to have contact with the sugar.

You cannot have any exposure to animal based products if you’re serious about keeping vegan.

#2: Veggie Based Cheese Slices

Everyone thinking about going vegan always faces the same dilemma; can they really give up cheese forever?

It seems like an impossible task, mostly because cheese does taste amazing (just because we’re vegan doesn’t mean we can love cheese).

However, cheese obviously contains milk, so it’s off limits. Though the craving has many people turning to veggie cheese slices as a substitute.

Veggie cheese is free from animal products, right? Wrong! Surprisingly enough, veggie cheese is made from soy flour and oil and then flavored with milk products.

It makes zero sense, and frankly, we’re not too fond of the companies that decided to ruin our only cheese substitute.

The culprits in veggie cheeses are casein (milk protein) or sodium caseinate (a derivative of casein).

These two proteins make the “cheese” taste like cheese, but ruin the fun for vegans.

Unfortunately for us, even milk proteins are off limits in a truly vegan diet.

#3: Gummy Candy

It seems like everyone is aware that Jell-O contains gelatin, a derivative of animal bones and tissues.

However, for some reason, no one picks up on the fact that anything gummy could also utilize gelatin. They’re tricky among foods that aren’t vegan.

Gummy candy is the big culprit that new vegans don’t account for. There are so many different kinds of gummy candy that people think their favorite must be vegan.

Especially dangerous are the oh so delicious gummy bears. Everyone loves them, but they contain gelatin.

While not exactly candy, marshmallows also contain animal based gelatin. Again, who would think marshmallows contain animal products?

If you need still that gummy candy fix, there are chewy candies that are 100 percent vegan.

Some of them are also really good. Hello, airheads and sour patch kids.

#4: Red Dye (Carmine)

The problem with dyes is that they’re in so many of our foods you never know exactly what you’re consuming.

As vegans, this is an enormous issue. We need to know exactly about all of the foods that aren’t vegan.

The big problem for vegans is a red dye known as carmine, cochineal, crimson lake, carminic acid, and natural red #4.

Yeah, it’s a mouthful, and this makes it difficult to determine if that unnaturally red food we want to consume is vegan.

How we make carmine is actually interesting; that being tiny insects. So red colored foods are made with ground bugs. Weird, right?

When you’re looking for foods containing carmine, just read the product labels. It’s the only surefire way to know that you’re not eating bugs.

We use carmine to color everything from yogurt, to medicine, to chocolate milk. The red dye could easily be in anything with a red tint.

#5: Beer and Wine

Nooo! Every budding vegan will cry in despair to hear that beer and wine unfortunately can contain animal based products.

The usual animal culprit is the refining agents used in some beers. If you’re confused, it’s because you’ve never seen sediment floating in your beer.

Mass produced beers are generally vegan because of the large breweries filter and refine their beers at scale.

Smaller breweries sometimes use gelatin, bone marrow, casein, or isinglass (fish bladder derivative) to filter beer.

This is especially popular with beers brewed in Britain but also occurs in micro breweries around the United States.

This same process holds true for wines. Many wines are clarified using isinglass to remove impurities.

Because it’s nearly impossible to determine how each wine or beer was clarified, you’ll need to do some independent research.

Barnivore makes it easy to search your favorites beers and wines to see if they’re gluten free.

Summing It Up…

Eating vegan is an excellent choice for your own health and for the health of our planet. We always advise everyone we know to consider making the change.

Not only will you feel better about your health, but know that you’re making a difference in other people’s lives. After all, we share this planet we call Earth.

Oh, and not to mention the countless animal lives you’ll save by boycotting products containing certain parts of our less fortunate friends.

Though when you make the switch from foods that aren’t vegan (or if you’re already vegan), make sure you keep this list handy.

It’s far too easy to accidentally consume animals products. While they won’t harm you, they will support the companies who promote the killing of animals.

What’s more, after you’re vegan for long enough, eating something with substantial animal byproducts could actually make you ill.

Your body adapts to the animal product free life, and won’t be happy if you decide to chow down on some scrambled eggs.

Let Us Help You!

If you’re interested in following a vegan based diet, check out our website. We’re offering up the very best in vegan recipes and news.

It’s our goal to introduce people to the benefits of a plant-based diet. And we’re not doing this for ourselves, but for everyone.

We’re already told you how veganism helps save your health, the planet, and the animals, but we want to show you how it happens.

Our service offers weekly meal plan designed to turn your shopping habits vegan-centric.

We itemize our lists by ingredient to make shopping easy. There’s no need to worry about buying foods that aren’t vegan. (we’re looking at you, carmine).

Finally, we design our recipes to be simple enough for even novice cooks. The idea is to help you through the beginning of the vegan transformation.

So if you’re ready to quit foods that aren’t vegan and save the planet, start reading through our plan options.

We offer a 1 month trial for $1 so even those of you on the fence can try out eating healthy risk-free.

About the author

Matt Beedle
Hi! I'm and I've been a vegan for 2 years. I switched to a plant based diet after getting sick with Sarcoidosis while working 16 hour days for several years building a startup. Although health was the original motivation, after learning about the terrible way the meat industry works and extreme damage it causes to the environment I've never looked back. I co-founded Vegan.io to make it as easy as possible for other people to switch to a vegan diet.

Want to try a vegan diet?

We created a meal planner app to help you! Get your fresh customized meal plan full of delicious, quick, budget friendly, healthy recipes.

GET YOUR MEAL PLAN!