How to read labels as a vegan

Updated: Apr 9

When I started out as a vegan, I had no idea how to read product labels. The truth is that you don't have to be vegan to learn how to read the ingredients list of the products you consume since it is important that you are aware of the things you consume and eat.

Obviously, in this post I focus on several tips to help vegans or people who want to start a vegan diet, who do not know if the products they buy are really safe for them to consume.

Does the product claim to be vegan?

Let's start with the simplest, and the easiest way to identify a vegan product, which is by looking for those products that have a vegan certification on the label. Nowadays, there are more and more products including this vegan certification in their products because the demand for this type of products is wider, so supermarkets and manufacturers have a greater knowledge of veganism. I would recommend, even whene having the vegan certification, to read the ingredients list to make sure that the product has ingredients that you consider safe. Beyond veganism, in my case, I also care that they are clean and healthy ingredients.

Is it a vegetarian product?

Second, you can look for vegetarian options on the market. If the product claims to be vegetarian, think you're halfway there. Most of the ingredients in this product will be safe for you to consume, simply read the label to identify if the product really contains any animal or animal derived ingredients that you cannot consume. Many times the reason a product is marked as vegetarian is because although the product itself does not contain animal ingredients, perhaps animal products were used in the production process. In this case, it depends on your principles if you want to consume this product or not.

The truth behind the "may contain" ingrendients list

I imagine that you have come across products that have a “may contain” warning where animal derived ingredients are usually listed. You may even find this warning on products that are marked vegan. The truth is that companies are required by law to place this type of warning on their products mainly due to allergies, which are often associated with animal ingredients such as milk and eggs. For this reason, companies place this warning list in bold. My recommendation in this case, to save yourself a bit of time, is that you read this part of the label first and then know if it is worth continuing to read the list of ingredients of the product.

On the other hand, it is important to note that this warning in some cases does not mean that the product actually contains the "may contain" ingredientes, but that these ingredients are used in the production factory for other products and for allergy reasons, just in case, companies must place by law this information on their labels. So it will depend on your principles, according to your reasons for being vegan, if you consume this product or not.

Non-vegan ingredients to avoid

In this list you will find the most common non-vegan ingredients used in food products.

- Casein: a milk protein

- Lactose: a milk sugar

- Whey: a by-product of milk

- Collagen: from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals

- Elastin: found in the ligaments of the neck and aorta of bovines

- Keratin and gelatin: obtained by boiling animal skin, tendons, ligaments and bones

- Honey: food for bees, produced by bees

- Vitamin D3: from fish liver oil or sheep's wool

- Pepsin: from the stomach of pigs, used in vitamins

Although it seems like a long list (and there are still many more), many of these ingredients are not used in products. Once you learn to identify the products that suit you or make you feel more secure, it will also be much easier to identify those that are not suitable for you.

Remember that if you have any doubts regarding a specific ingredient in a product, it is best to do a little research on the Internet to ensure that the ingredients are safe for you, or in other cases contact the manufacturer directly.

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¿Cómo leer etiquetas como un vegano?

Cuando empece como vegana, no tenía ni idea de cómo leer las etiquetas de los productos. La verdad es que no hay que ser vegano para aprender a leer la lista de ingredientes de los productos que consumes ya que es importante que estés al tanto de las cosas que consumes e ingieres.

Evidentemente, en esta publicación me enfoco en varios tips para ayudar a veganos o personas que quieran empezar un tipo de alimentacion vegana que no sepan si los productos que compran son realmente seguros para ellos consumir.

¿El producto dice ser vegano?

Empecemos por lo mas simple, y la manera más fácil de identificar un producto vegano que es buscando aquellas productos que tengan una certificación de vegano en la misma etiqueta. Hoy en día, existen más y más productos incluyendo este sello de certificacion vegana en sus productos ya que la demanda de este tipo de productos hoy en día es más amplia por lo que los supermercados y los fabricantes tienen un mayor conocimiento del veganismo. Yo recomendaría, aún teniendo la certificación vegana, leer la lista de ingredientes para asegurarte que el producto tenga ingredientes que tu consideras seguros. Más allá del veganismo, en mi caso, también me importan que sean ingredientes limpios y saludables.

¿Es un producto vegetariano?

En segundo lugar, puedes buscar las opciones vegetarianas del mercado. Si el producto dice ser vegetariano, piensa que estás a mitad de camino. La mayoría de los ingredientes de este producto serán seguros para ti de consumir, simplemente lee la etiqueta para identificar si el producto realmente contiene algún ingrediente animal o de origen animal que tú no puedas consumir. Muchas veces la razón por la que un producto es marcado como vegetariano es porque aunque el producto en sí no contenga ingredientes animales, quizá productos animales fueron utilizados en el proceso de producción. Allí depende de tus principios si querer consumir este producto o no.

La verdad tras el “puede contener” en los productos