7 myths & misconceptions about Vegan diets busted
Find out as we play true or false on common vegan myths
By Shreya Jain
Veganism and a vegan diet have become wildly popular in the recent few years. Thanks to several documentaries like The Game Changer, Cowspiracy, and various celebrities advocating the cause, veganism is gaining momentum.
Despite all the widespread information, many people still have their reservations about adopting a vegan diet owing to certain misconceptions that float around.
Here, we attempt to clarify some common vegan myths for you. But before we get started, let’s understand what veganism means exactly.
What is Veganism & What is a Vegan Diet?
A lot of people confuse a vegetarian diet with a vegan diet. A common confusion due to the similarity in the names, but veganism and vegetarianism are far from each other.
A person following a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, ﬁsh, and seafood. However, a person following a vegan diet only consumes plant-based foods. They exclude all animal and meat-based foods from their meals including items that may be extracted from animals like dairy products.
Moving on to the second part of this misunderstanding; the difference between veganism and a vegan diet.
An individual who follows veganism refrains from the use of any animal-based product. This includes foods, apparel, accessories, and everything you can think of. Veganism is a lifestyle choice. However, a person following a vegan diet only limits this to food choices.
Now that we have established the basics, let’s unravel most popular myths around a vegan diet.
Common Vegan Myths Busted
1. Vegans don’t get enough protein
This is certainly one of the most popular ones. The idea that you need animal meat for protein has been around for centuries. When a certain piece of information is repeated, again and again, it tends to be perceived as true. Hence this misconception.
But we are here to challenge this with some facts and figures. When you consume animals for protein, do you ever wonder where did they get it from? You guessed it right – Plants.
There are several sources of protein in a plant-based diet namely, soya, lentils, pulses, broccoli, seaweed, peas, spinach, beans, brown rice, whole wheat bread, cashews, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, seitan, tofu, chickpeas, spirulina, quinoa, oats, wild rice, seeds, asparagus, artichokes, and brussels sprouts.
So the next time you consume meat for protein, remember you’re consuming the same plant-based protein but through dead tissue or extracted produce from an animal. You can definitely choose the less cruel route.
2. You can’t make gains on a plant-based diet
A vegan diet has protein sources but you have to consume a lot of it to match up what you could get from a little amount of animal meat, right? Nope. Essentially, when you consume any food, the protein in it is broken down into amino acids. The profile of amino acids varies from animal protein to plant-based protein.
Compared to the protein contained in meat and other animal-based foods, the protein found in plants can be somewhat more difficult for your body to consume. That said, the current evidence suggests that this difference in absorption is likely too minimal.
According to medical studies:
- an adult woman needs approximately 46 grams of protein per day (71 grams if pregnant or breastfeeding)
- an adult man needs approximately 56 grams of protein per day
Comparing this requirement below in terms of animal and plant-based protein
- Animal protein: A little over two-and-a-half 3-ounce servings of meat.
- Plant-based protein: 1 cup of dry beans has 16 grams. Three times of that meets the daily requirement.
What is great about choosing the plant-based option is that it will be cheaper in price. Plus, vegan diets help you feel more energetic compared to eating animal meat as your body doesn’t have to use as much energy to digest your food.
Remember that muscle growth is stimulated by strength training. So, do your workouts and consider following them with leafy greens, beans, and seeds.
3. Soy gives you Man Boobs!
soy is an integral part of a vegan diet. This is by far the most interesting vegan myth to have come across. To quote Ross Geller, “That’s a boo-hockey!”
Soy contains isoflavones, which is a phytoestrogen, that binds with the same receptors in the body as estrogen. Additionally, plant-based estrogen, i.e., phytoestrogens are different from animal-based estrogen (which is present in large quantities in cow milk) and extremely beneficial to health.
There is no evidence to prove this claim (yep, we scrolled to the ends of the earth to find it) and hence it is pure fiction.
4. Vegan food is not tasty
Any change to your diet will initially taste bland and different. It is because our taste buds are immune to the taste we give it. But listen beyond what your taste buds are saying. Yes, it will be boring if you only stick to salads and only chose soy milk but that’s only because you haven’t tried all the other options yet.
Every dish can be vegan-ised, just give it a shot. So mix it up and experiment.
5. Don’t you need cow’s milk for calcium?
Cow’s milk is not the only source of calcium out there. It is a popular one but not the only one.
Several vegan myths and misconceptions revolve around vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. But this is only because we have been consuming certain foods for so long that we never thought of finding alternatives. A very intriguing vegan myth for sure. While we are at it, let us look for what deficiencies are commonly associated with vegan diets and some vegan alternatives to switch to.
|Nutrient or Vitamins||Non-vegan sources||Vegan Alternative|
|1. Calcium||Milk & other dairy products||Poppies, nachni (ragi), almonds, kale, broccoli, beans, tofu|
|2. Vitamin B12||Meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese||Plant-based milk, Vegan-friendly B12 supplements|
|3. Vitamin D||Oily fish, red meat, egg yolks||Sunlight, cereals, orange juice, mushrooms|
|4. Zinc||Poultry, seafood, eggs||Beans, nuts, pulses, legumes|
|5. Iron||Shellfish, red meat||Leafy green vegetables, whole grains, lentils, dry fruits, quinoa|
6. One vegan can not make the difference
Individuals forget the power they hold. One vegan can inspire so many other vegans and create a ripple effect. This ripple effect will not just give the boost the vegan movement needs but also create more demand for vegan foods and alternatives.
So, yes one vegan can make a lot of difference. We need more and more imperfect vegans than a few perfect ones. Like Mother Teresa said, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.“
7. Veganism is hard & takes a lot of time
Finally, a myth associated with any big lifestyle change. Veganism is only hard if you decide to do it the right way from the beginning. A vegan lifestyle is a personal journey. You need to find what works best for you. If making small dietary changes or checking products for cruelty-free options suit you, then start with that.
No one expects you to change overnight. Go slowly, and make small progress each day. To quote L.M. Montgomery, “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” What you chose to consume is certainly your choice, but is it fair that you give up even without trying?
These were just seven of the most common vegan myths that we came across. Sure, there are many misconceptions out there that will hold you back to take the leap and make a lifestyle change. But all you need is that one compelling reason that drives you every day.
So, choose what is best for you and remember, this is a marathon not a sprint!
Shreya is a design graduate from NIFT, Bangalore. After working seven years, she realised the importance of making sustainable fashion choices and is now associated with the Slow Fashion Movement, an NGO registered in Amsterdam. Shreya is a fitness enthusiast and turned her hobby into her profession. Now, she now trains people and shares her fitness journey on her Instagram page. Her aim is to help as many people as she can to make conscious choices, both for their own health or the environment.