My goal isn’t to advocate for a vegan diet, or for eating meat, just to raise a few interesting points and clarify a few common misconceptions, based on my own observations.
About 2 years ago I became a vegetarian, then a year later went vegan. The main reason for the decision was simply health and wellness.
I am currently on a 98% plant based / whole food diet. You might wonder what the 2% is. I don’t always have access to vegan food and at times I go with a vegetarian option and occasionally consume honey.
Vegan Myth #1 — Vegans are healthier.
Not necessarily. Yes, there is a lot of research, supporting the benefits of a vegan diet and it is the right choice for many people on the road to wellness.
But there is much more to the story. There are plenty of unhealthy foods vegans can eat. A vegan diet means no meat and dairy, but it does not disallow the consumption of refined sugar, processed foods, trans fat, fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides and GMOs.
A plant based diet can also be unbalanced, lacking certain nutrients and vegans can also overeat and gain weight.
Putting it into perspective, a meat eater, who consumes a limited amount of “grass fed” meat and otherwise has a balanced diet, that includes organic fruits and vegetables, whole foods with little, or no refined sugar and processed foods, has a healthier diet, than a vegan, who does not choose the healthier options in other aspects of nutrition.
With this being said, those who choose to become vegans, do it for their health and for that reason they typically also pay attention to other aspects of their diet.
The “Achilles heel” of a vegan diet is Vitamin B12 and to some degree Omega 3 fatty acids.
Plants contain almost no Vitamin B12, so vegans need to get it either from B12 fortified foods, of supplements.
This might be the single biggest arguments for eating meat.
If B12 is only found in animal foods, then what are the supplement made of, or the substance used to fortify plant foods?
Are they made from animal products? If they are synthetic, are they safe to consume and do they really fulfill their intended function?
The daily recommended amount of B12 in the United States for adults is 2.4 micrograms.
It is not necessary to take this vitamin in every day, the liver is able to store it and release it as needed. The symptoms of B12 deficiency can take months, or even years to develop and are characterized by anemia, loss of energy, numbness, tingling, sensitivity to pressure and poor memory.
One of the reasons why I didn’t consider becoming a vegan in the past, was that some of the vegans I saw, including a nutrition expert I watched doing a presentation on national television, did appear anemic! Something just didn’t seem right.
In terms of Omega 3 fats, as long as there are seeds and nuts included in a vegan diet, this is not an problem. A single tablespoon of Chia seeds, or 6 walnut halves contain the recommended daily amount of Omega 3 essential fats.
Vegan Myth #2 — You can not get enough protein from plants.
You can and do so quite easily. I will demonstrate it by 4 examples.
On a typical day, I eat about a half a cup of trail mix and a peanut butter sandwich. These two food items contain 28 grams of protein.
The daily recommended amount of protein is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women. The trail mix and the peanut butter sandwich by themselves, contain 50% (Male), or 60% (Female) daily protein need!!
They are rich in calories – two slices of bread + two tablespoons of peanut butter + 1/2 cup of trail mix = ~ 800 calories.
However, 800 calories are only about 30% of my average daily calorie intake, that maintains my weight, so there are plenty of opportunities to get more protein the rest of the day.
One of my favorite vegan dishes is quinoa with black beans. A small bowl of it contains a half a can of black beans and about a cup of quinoa, it has 26 grams of protein.
A serving of pad thai made with rice noodles, tofu and broccoli contains about 20 grams of protein.
To put the last nail in the “You can’t get enough protein from plants” coffin, today I had chana masala with naan for lunch. That’s a typical Indian vegan dish with garbanzo beans and Indian style bread.
It was a small portion, but even so I got 20 grams of protein from that.
Fruits and vegetables may not have much protein, but grains, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds contain plenty of it.
On top of that, if the protein is contained in an organic, chemical free, whole food, the body can utilize it better.
Vegan Myth #3 — You can not eat delicious food when you are a vegan.
I am happy to report, that this assumption is false. I’ve had some of the most delicious foods since I started cooking vegan.
Some people may envision chewing on a piece of raw carrot, or celery when thinking of a vegan diet. If that was the replacement for delicious meals, it would certainly not be palatable.
Or, if meat and dairy would simply be omitted from meals, that would also be unappetizing.
However, if a dish is designed from the ground up with no meat and dairy in mind, utilizing the impressive array of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, spices and herbs available, the results can be mouthwatering.
Some of the world’s cuisines like Indian is mainly vegetarian, or vegan, it is delicious and has centuries of experience behind it.
Those with a sweet tooth don’t need to be deprived of anything either on a vegan diet. All sorts of desserts and treats can be made without butter, eggs, or milk.
Vegan Myth #4 — Going vegan is a big change in your life.
Not necessarily, I was actually only eating a small amount of meat on a typical day, so becoming a vegetarian was a small adjustment.
The biggest difference I experienced was that, once I realized that meat was no longer available to me, I looked vegetables through different eyes. While up to that point, they were relegated to the role of a side dish, they now took center stage.
Going vegan was a bit more tricky, I was not consuming a lot of dairy, either, but it was a regular part of my meals.
It’s just a matter of finding substitutes. Since going vegan was part of an effort to completely revamp my diet, it was a perfect opportunity to discover healthier options.
Vegan Myth #5 — Vegans are obnoxious.
Many do seem to be fanatical and judgmental. They won’t eat animals for ethical reasons, so those who do must be unethical. This must be the simple thought process behind it.
People like them were already obnoxious before they became vegan, but unfortunately their attitude gives veganism a negative image. This is one of the reasons why I like to describe my diet, as plant based, in order to avoid being stereotyped.
A better way of saving the animals would be leading by example, simply educating the public about the health benefits of veganism.
That said, the vast majority of vegans don’t have that aggressive attitude, so I will call this myth too.
Vegan Myth #6 — Being a vegan makes you more spiritual.
No, eating chocolate covered kale chips and flax seed muffins with vegan water doesn’t make you more spiritual. It may give some people a false sense of spirituality, or a superiority complex, based on what I alluded to in my previous point.
But many vegans are genuinely çoncerned about the animals and the environment.
It could be argued that compassion and respect for all living beings is a sign of true spirituality.