The A-Z of vegetarianism

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A is for...

Aardvark cucumbers: The only fruit eaten by the aardvark, a cuddly nocturnal solitary creature, native of Sub-Saharan Africa, that otherwise feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites, has very good hearing and is an exceptionally fast digger. Aardvark cucumbers are also known as aardvark pumpkins or aardvark dung. They fruit underground and have their seeds propagated through faeces. Perhaps best not to ask for it in your local greengrocers.

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Abernethy: A hard biscuit, usually suitable for veggies, often flavoured with caraway seeds and sometimes described as a cross between an all-butter and shortcake. A good dunker.

A deliberate action (or inaction) designed to bring about change. Perhaps something like writing to your headteacher about improved veggie school meals! Author Alice Walker claims that activism is her rent for living on this planet.

Additives: See E numbers!

Agave syrup: Also known as agave nectar, it's sweeter than honey, consists primarily of fructose and glucose and has a lower glycaemic index (GI) than many other natural sweeteners.

Albumen: Another name for egg white. Must be free-range to get the Vegetarian Society seal of approval.

When you’re old enough to be tempted, keep an eye out for animal derived products that are often used in the fining or clearing process or as colourants and anti-foaming agents in alcohol.

almonds Almond:
This nut, often flaked, ground, chopped or even sugared, is found in sweet treats (it's usually the main ingredient of marzipan) and savoury dishes. It's a useful source of protein, calcium and zinc. For more nutritional information about nuts, click here.

Alpaca: Usually refers to the hair of the Peruvian alpaca, a relative of the llama, but can also be a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair. Might also be produced from similar fibres, such as mohair or sheep wool.

Amino acids: Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids, eight of which must be present in the diet. These are the essential amino acids. Unlike animal proteins, plant proteins may not contain all the essential amino acids in the necessary proportions. However, a varied vegetarian diet means a mixture of proteins are consumed, the amino acids in one protein compensating for the deficiencies of another.

Anchovies: Small shiny, silver fish similar to herring, not to be confused with sardines and often unfortunately found on pizzas and in some brands of Worcester sauce. Anchovies are abundant in the Mediterranean and are a significant food source for almost every predatory fish, marine mammal and bird. As its population plummets due to commercial over-fishing the number of predatory species is also sadly expected to decline.

angora rabbitAngora: A fibre obtained from a special breed of rabbit. The rabbits are not killed for their wool, but sheared regularly. They are kept in cages in much the same way as rabbits bred for meat, but as they have a longer commercial life, their suffering might be said to be even worse. Males produce only about 75% of the wool yield of females and so are often routinely killed at birth.

Animals: The most common reason for becoming a meat and fish-free zone is because we know that it’s wrong to kill animals for food and we’re opposed to the pain and cruelty inflicted upon animals reared for meat. Disagree? See 'Why Go Veggie'

Ascorbic acid: Also known as vitamin C and essential for healthy skin, bones, teeth and gums, resistance to infection and wound healing, energy production and growth. Found in citrus fruits, broccoli, spinach, berries, peppers.

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