The Essential Healthy Vegetarian’s Guide to Avoiding Accidental Meat
Here are some hidden non vegetarian ingredients in what you otherwise might assume are dead animal-free supplements and health foods.
- Gelatin Caps. Thankfully, more and more supplement companies are switching to plant cellulose capsules and seaweed (carrageenan) softgels. But it pays to double check, especially since sometimes companies switch back and forth! Look on either the front, bottom of the container for the type of capsule, or on the back label, under “other ingredients.”
- Collagen. We all want me to have beautiful skin, but all collagen comes from animal bones (usually cow or fish). Don’t be fooled – there is no such thing as a vegetarian source of collagen. Luckily, your body produces collagen! And, if you want to produce more if it, there are plant-based supplements that include ingredients that help to promote your own collagen production. Alternatively, you could just eat leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit (vitamin C helps you synthesize collagen), broccoli, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, turmeric… in other words, a healthy diet.
- Sugar. White cane sugar is processed with the charred bones of animals. Sweeteners such as coconut and beet sugar, honey, monk fruit and maple syrup re not stripped of their nutrients, like white sugars, and they are not processed with animal parts. Beware: Brown sugar is just processed white sugar with some of the molasses added back in.
- Food Glaze. Most manufacturers like to make their chocolate-covered nuts and other treats shiny, thinking that our brains are akin to the brains of kittens and this will entice us to buy their products. Most often, they make their candies shiny by coating them with “confectioner’s glaze.” Sounds wonderful! What is it? It’s the wings of the female lac beetle, ground up and dissolved in alcohol. At least 100 billion are killed every year to make candy shiny. The good news is that many organic chocolate covered nuts available at health food stores are vegetarian-safe. The key is to avoid snacks that include “confectioner’s glaze,” or other euphemisms for lac resin.
- Oscillococcinum. This is probably the most popular homeopathic remedy on the market. It addresses flu-like symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s made from duck livers. Homeopathic preparations are made by diluting a substance to the point where it make not contain any of its original molecules. Nonetheless, the initial source is not vegetarian.
- Some Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 supplements come primarily from lanolin, a wax secreted from the sebaceous glands of sheep and other wool-bearing animals. However, vegan alternatives exist. Vitamin D can come from mushrooms or lichen. If the package doesn’t list the source, you may have to look at the brand’s website.
- Red Dyes in Food and Natural Cosmetics. Thanks to Judi Hoffman for this one: Red color from carmine and cochineal are from insects. Used in numerous foods, cosmetics, and as dye for fiber:
- Silver leaf. It’s become trendy to decorate sweets with silver leaf. Unlike gold leaf, silver leaf is made by pounding silver between layers of animal intestines.
If you know of other unexpected non-vegetarian ingredients in supplements and healthy foods, feel free to share in the comments, and I’ll update this blog post.