Are Peppermints Vegan?
Everyone has a sweet tooth, even those of us on a plant based diet. But even treats can be manufactured in ways that fall outside of vegan diets. This applies to even the most basic of goodies, such as candies. Some candies are manufactured with ingredients made from animal parts such as:
- carmine (red dye made from crushed insects)
- gelatin (cow and pig remains)
- confectioner’s glaze (made from insect excretions)
Fortunately for vegans with a sweet tooth, there are many vegan friendly candy options out there. But homework does need to be done. Take peppermints as an example. It seems to be a fairly straightforward candy, but many well known brands contain products that vegans want to steer clear of. So how can they indulge candy cravings without betraying their diet?
Benefits Of Peppermint
There's little that's not to love about peppermint, the plant. This herb:
- is a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome
- helps treat cold and flu symptoms
- can help improve skin health
- has been linked to cancer treatment
But let's be honest. When you're in the mood for an after dinner mint or a breath freshener, you don't really want to chomp on a leaf. You would like a piece of candy. So are peppermints vegan or not? The answer is both yes and no.
A number of peppermint candies are manufactured with vegan no nos, such as cream and gelatin. These are the ones that are easy to spot. But other peppermints may not contain what appear to be offensive ingredients, but are manufactured using bone char. Bone char is the cremated bones of animals. While these charred remains aren't actually placed in sugar, they're used as part of the process that filters and bleaches cane sugar.
Any ingredient that uses bone char in its making isn't considered part of a proper vegan diet. However, manufacturers aren't required to identify products processed with bone char. The good news is that candies are made (including peppermint ones) without using the bone char process. Beet sugar does not require bone char as part of its refining process.
Your quest for the perfect vegan candy in general (and peppermints in particular) should start by establishing that a non bone char sugar is the product's primary sweetener. Below is a list of other ingredients that you want to see in vegan peppermints. Keep in mind that just because you may not see "no go" ingredients on a certain list doesn't mean that they're not there other another name. This is perfectly legal under FDA rules, so learn all the names of the enemy.
Be aware that ingredients can be dissimilar among candy manufacturers that make peppermint candies that would appear to be almost identical. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is "secret sauce". In order to make sure their peppermint is better than all of the others, manufacturers may use certain ingredients for taste or preparation purposes.
There's another candy ingredient fact that vegan consumers should be especially aware of. Candy manufacturers may not use the same ingredients with every lot of candy that they produce. This is a common practice, and the reasons range from ingredient availability to price. As a consumer, it's unlikely that you'll ever notice a taste difference.
But be aware that unless a peppermints product is being manufactured as strictly "vegan", the manufacturer's biggest concern is finding ingredients that are tasty and cost effective. Vegan consumers will have to check the label with every purchase. Below is a list of ingredients in a peppermint candy that is very popular. Many vegans enjoy it, assuming that it is safe. But is it? Any non-vegan ingredients in it are highlighted.
- gum arabic
- oil of peppermint
- corn syrup
Gelatin automatically disqualifies this as vegan peppermints. "Sugar" is a little suspicious since we're not sure here if it's cane or beet. And while corn syrup is vegan, it's not the healthiest overall sweetener. This manufacturer does produce a "sugar free" version which lacks gelatin. But don't forget that such products have now come under their own health scrutinies.
It is certainly possible to find a vegan peppermints product that meets all of the requirements if one is willing to do homework. Remember that the same rules that apply to other aspects of vegan living apply here as well. Seek out organically produced items whenever possible. But be cautious, as not all organic is created equally. Consider kosher peppermint candy, as kosher requirements often make such candy vegan as well. And don't forget to look online for dozens of vegan peppermint candy recipes. Such a technique offers not only the guarantee of humane sweets, but the pleasure of creating them as well.