It’s official – with 2.5% of the U.S. population adjusting their diets, veganism is no longer just a fad.1 And for those who have already decided to go vegan or are on the fence about it, this is great news.
And even if you’re not interested in going vegan, it’s always great to hear the truth about one of the fastest growing diets on the planet – it could help you transition to a healthier diet with plants, and less meat.
But here’s the thing about veganism. There are a lot of vegan diet myths out there about the vegan lifestyle – and most of them are dead wrong. It’s not always clear how veganism can affect your body and it might be tough to understand the practicalities of integrating veganism into your lifestyle.
So, how do you clear up the vegan diet myths?
Well, understanding where the non-truths about veganism stem from and why they aren’t true can help you create a healthier, more well-rounded diet.
Myth #1 – Going Vegan Means Salads Forever
No. Though this is likely the first thing you’ll hear from naysayers when you talk about plant-based diets, going vegan doesn’t limit you to just greens greens and nothing but greens.
For one, plant-based diet is more than just one subset of vegetables. Starches like rice and potatoes are still on the menu. And it’s important to remember that legumes, seeds, and nuts all happen to fall under the vegan category.2
Furthermore, vegan-friendly options are popping up all over the place to fill gaps in flavor and texture.
For example, you probably already know about tofu as a common replacement for meat. But have you ever heard of tempeh? It’s another fantastic soy-based product. Tempeh has a deliciously nutty flavor and doesn’t crumble as easily as tofu, making it a great component in several imitation-meat dishes.3
Almond milk has become a common staple in many stores, but there are a slough of other products out there too that are flying way under the radar, from coconut yogurts, to macadamia nut cheese.
Another great example? An innovative egg replacement, called aquafaba. It’s the water from canned chickpeas or other beans, and It mimics the texture of eggs, thereby opening up the possibility of vegan butter, cream cheese, meringues, and more.4 Plus, it puts something to use that’d normally be thrown out, eliminating food waste.
Myth #2 – Vegans Miss Out On Key Nutrients
Sure, there are some studies out there showing that on average vegans have a higher risk of missing out on certain nutrients. Some of the biggies here might be vitamin B12, iodine, or zinc.5,6,7 Of course, each of these nutrients play an important role in your body. So, since they’re a little harder to come by, some folks feel that a vegan diet can be harmful.
But, there’s a big difference between a vegan diet and a poorly balanced vegan diet.
The vast majority of nutrients out there have some sort of plant-based source. For example –
- Sea vegetables are a great source of iodine.8
- Legumes, seeds, and oatmeal are the best vegan sources of zinc.9
- Many fortified cereals have added vitamin B12 to help fill the presumed nutritional gap.10
And, dietary supplements can be a helpful alternative for anyone – and not just for vegans, but for anyone with special dietary needs. Of course, you should always consult with a doctor before using any type of supplement.
Myth #3 – Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein
Out of all the nutrients that you hear about, protein is probably the one that people bring up most when discussing their concerns about veganism.
How can you get the proper amount of protein without meat?
Well, meat isn’t the only source of protein out there. In fact, legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas can be your best friends when it comes to getting the protein you need.
Also, check out quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and even spinach. And you might actually be deceived when it comes to exactly how much protein you need. Turns out, about only 1 calorie of every 10 we take in needs to come from protein. That’s a fairly attainable goal when eating plant foods.11
Myth #4 – You Can’t Have Healthy Bones Without Dairy
Wrong! Well, sort of. You’ve been taught that you need milk for strong bones. This is really only a half-truth. What you need is calcium. And while vegan milk may not have the most calcium out there, there are plenty of calcium-rich vegan foods.
In particular, zero in on –
Leafy green vegetables –
Focus on spinach, kale, bok choy, and rhubarb for nutrient-dense plant-food. They are also the best vegan-friendly sources of calcium. So, make sure that you add these to your meals and get them throughout the day.
Also, many vegan food options are fortified with extra nutrients. So look for great calcium fortified non-dairy milk, juices, and ready-to-eat-cereals.11
Myth #5 – Veganism Isn’t Right For Certain People
A balanced vegan diet can actually work for anyone. But some say, “What about those with special needs?”
Sure, you may need to make some adjustments, but you can still eat vegan. For example, if you’re pregnant, you will definitely want to talk to a medical professional who understands vegan diets. Of course, you’ll likely want to incorporate prenatal vitamins – just to play it safe – but there’s no scientific data that suggests a vegan diet could be harmful to developing babies.12
Also, if you’re an athlete – eating vegan will work for you. There are plenty of plant-based foods out there conducive to working out and building muscle.13 You may need to make a few adjustments. For example, you might want to up your quantity since there’s a lower calorie count for most vegan meals.14
Myth #6 – Vegan Food Is Automatically Healthy
It may be surprising, but vegan junk food is a thing. And some main-stream junk food, like potato chips and oreos, just happen to be vegan.
While a vegan diet can be a great way to handle sugar cravings, there are certain vegan foods that should be enjoyed in moderation. Vegan cookies, chips, and sweetened cereals can do more harm than good if they become the staples of your diet. Though they’re vegan, they could also be high in added sugars and oils.
And processed vegan “meats” like veggie burgers should be avoided. They may hit the spot, but they can also be really high in sodium. So, try to keep these to a minimum and look out for other vegan snacks like dried fruit and raw nuts.15
Myth #7 – A Plant-Based Diet Is Just Too Hard
This is simply not true. But often people get scared off from veganism because they think it’s just “too difficult.” They may imagine obsessing over every label or searching for second-rate replacements for their old favorites.
Many experts recommend trying new vegan foods before focusing on dropping your old faves. This way, you can open your horizons and crowd out the old options.16
A great way to start is by adopting the habit of planning your meals. Not only does this take the pressure off of finding something vegan to eat every day, it’s better for you. Balance is important for a healthy vegan diet, and planning lets you set up meals with a diverse set of nutrients for each day.
Though some of these myths are out there, newcomers and vegan vets alike have more options than ever before to get their plant-based faves. So, work around the myths and work out your own personal vegan diet. Focus on balanced, planned meals and you’ll be well on the path to a healthier, happier lifestyle.