Vegans don't consume any food or food product that originally came from an animal. While the diet’s limitations are straightforward when it comes to meat and dairy products, which clearly come from animals, there are hidden animal-based ingredients which complicate foods that might otherwise be viable options. These peripheral ingredients and additives are easy to miss but are important for vegans to recognize.
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Gelatin in Marshmallows and Candies
Gelatin is an ingredient responsible for thickening marshmallows and desserts such as pudding, candies and fruit gelatin. While some of these foods might seem like acceptable choices for vegans since they do not contain any meat or obvious animal products, the gelatin is animal-based. Gelatin is actually a type of protein created by boiling tendons, ligaments, bones and other parts from animals, usually cows or pigs, in water. Gelatin is also used as an outer coating for dietary supplement capsules, though vegan capsules are available.
Lactose in Dairy and Nondairy Products
While most vegans know to avoid milk, dairy products and products that contain milk as an ingredient, some vegans may not realize that lactose, a protein derived from milk, is often used as an extra ingredient to prolong the shelf life of certain foods. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, lactose is found in some types of bread, baked goods, salad dressings, candies and instant mixes for potatoes, soups and drinks. Lactose may also be found in both prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as those used to treat stomach acid and gas.
Carminic Acid and Other Food Dyes
Carminic acid, also known as carmine or cochineal, is a red food dye obtained from the dried Coccus cacti L insect. The dye is used in many artificially colored foods, such as red applesauce and red candies. While it is safe for human consumption, it is a nonvegan ingredient because it comes from an animal. Many other food dyes and colors are made from pigments derived from both plant and animal sources.
Oleic Acid From Beef Tallow
Oleic acid is a fatty ingredient used in several foods, soaps and cosmetics. While it is possible to produce oleic acid from vegetable sources, it is more commonly made from tallow, the inedible fatty portions of beef. Derivatives of oleic acid, such as oleyl oleate or oleyl stearate, also don't comply with a vegan diet.