21 Myths About Vegan Diets


There are many things that people don’t understand about vegan diets. Just like any lifestyle, the vegan one has its share of good and bad when it comes to health. Don’t believe everything you hear – and just to be sure – here are some of the most commonly encountered myths about being a vegan eater.

1. All Vegans Eat Healthy

Many people believe that a vegan diet is inherently healthy. In order to debunk this myth, we need to understand what “vegan” means – according to most definitions, it is a diet that excludes all major animal products: meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

What’s left is pretty much fruit, vegetables and legumes. So, you’d think that someone who only eats fruit, veggies and beans would by definition be eating healthy. However, you’re forgetting that there are things that do not contain ingredients of animal origin but are still not exactly healthy – think of white flour, sugar, junk food and processed foods.

A person can be a vegan and still have an unhealthy diet, if he or she doesn’t eat enough vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruit. Some vegans eat a lot of chips, fries, candy, sandwiches and fast food and their diet is definitely not a healthy one. However, these examples are not particularly common.shutterstock_324825989


2. Vegans Don’t Have Enough Energy

Another myth surrounding vegan diets is that if you don’t eat meat you don’t get enough energy. This myth is ridiculous because it’s common knowledge that energy comes from calories and calories have nothing to do with being vegan or eating meat.

In fact, many foods of non-animal origin are packed with calories, for example bread, desserts, pasta and such. It is, however, true, that if they are not careful, vegans can be at risk of iron and vitamin B12 deficiency. These nutrients are mostly found in meat and their insufficient intake can eventually lead to weakness and fatigue, among other effects.

Furthermore, iron found in plants is harder to absorb than the kind found in meat, so vegans do need more of those sources. Still, this has nothing to do with energy and being tired. Most vegans are aware of these issues and they make sure to get enough of both iron and B12, through natural sources and/or supplements.shutterstock_250134547


3. Vegan Diet Doesn’t Contain Any Omega 3

Over last couple of decades the importance of Omega 3 fatty acid and other fatty acids has become almost a matter of common knowledge. While most people realize now that it’s important to include plenty of Omega 3 in the diet, many don’t know that this fatty acid is not found just in fish.

Granted, fish is the single most valuable source of Omega 3, but it’s definitely not the only one. Vegan diets include plenty of sources of this precious fatty acid. Many kinds of seed are packed with Omega 3, most notably flax, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

This fatty acid can also be found in leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, collard greens and such, and also in cabbage, avocado, winter squash and beans, especially mung beans, navy beans and kidney beans. Soy is another good source of Omega 3, but since it has become somewhat controversial lately, some dieticians don’t recommend it as a source of fatty acids.


4. There Is No Substitute For Animal Protein

Technically speaking, animal protein really can’t be replaced, because there is no analogue to it among the non-animal food sources. However, the body’s need for protein can be met in a vegan diet in a way that is just as efficient, safe and healthy as a meat-based one.

The number one plant source of protein is soybean, which contains all the essential amino acids and the human body is able to digest 91% of its protein. The most protein-rich soybean products are edamame and tempeh. Other great sources of protein include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast and some algae.

Vegans are usually advised to get informed on non-animal sources of protein because our body can’t function properly without it. General guidelines say that healthy adults need 0.80 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Peanuts contain 9 grams of protein per ¼ cup, chickpeas have 18 grams per cup and edamame has 29 grams per 4 ounces.shutterstock_219506257


5. All Vegans Eat Is Soy

Another common misconception about vegan diets is that they are heavily reliant on soybean products. This is partially true since soybean is recognized as one of the most protein-rich plant foods and many, if not most vegans include it to some degree in their diets.

The problem is that lately soy has been deemed harmful by many experts, due to the presence of phytoestrogens, phytic acid and protease inhibitors and as such it is today considered to be not so healthy. However, all health-conscious vegans are aware of those properties of soy and are trying to model their diet accordingly. Ideally, soy should be present in a diet to a certain degree – the key is to be moderate about it, and vegans know it.

So, it’s not at all true that all vegans eat is soy and soy products. There are many vegans who don’t even like soy. The nutrients found in this controversial bean can also be found (although in smaller amounts) in other foods, especially in legumes, so there is no need to base your diet on soy.shutterstock_229571359


6. Vegan Diet Equals Raw Food Diet

Most people see vegan diets as very restrictive, which is understandable, since so many food items are not allowed in it. Vegans are often perceived as extreme when it comes to the way they eat, so some people mistakenly believe that vegans eat only raw, uncooked food.

This is absolutely false. Veganism and raw food diets are two completely different things. Some vegans may also be raw foodists or even macrobiotics, but most of them are not. On the other hand, most people who eat only raw food are in fact vegans, since eating raw animal products is uncommon and, more importantly, unsafe.

This misconception has its roots in the fact that most vegans are very health-conscious and they understand that eating as much raw, uncooked food as possible is one of the best ways to get all the essential nutrients, which otherwise get destroyed by cooking. However, vegans also eat many cooked foods like pasta, soup, porridge, stews, roasted veggies, bread, pastries and such.


7. Vegans Don’t Get Osteoporosis

This is a myth that some vegans believe in, based on several studies that have linked osteoporosis with dietary habits based heavily on meat and dairy. This quite dangerous myth draws a connection between the supposedly lower risk of low bone density and osteoporosis in people who do not consume food of animal origin and their need for calcium. The logic that if you don’t eat meat you don’t get osteoporosis and consequently don’t have to take care of your calcium intake. Because of this, some vegans actually do have problems with their bone density and they are more prone to fractures and osteoporosis.

Another problem with this matter is that calcium in human consumption comes mainly from dairy products. Vegan diets prohibit dairy products so we end up with insufficient calcium intake. Unless, of course, the person in question is extremely well-informed about plant-based sources of calcium and takes supplements too.


8. Vegan Diets Make Supplements Unnecessary

Some vegans resist taking supplements because they’re afraid that if they do, they’ll prove their opponents’ point that vegan diet is not perfect and does not provide all the important nutrients. While it is true that vegan diets can provide you with most vitamins and minerals, if you are informed enough, it can’t be said that they include all the necessary nutrients. There is one vitamin that is extremely hard to find in plant-based foods, and it’s vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, milk and dairy products. It can’t be found in any kind of fruit or vegetable. Insufficient intake of this vitamin can lead to B12 deficiency with symptoms like fatigue, depression, anemia, nerve damage, memory problems and even dementia.

Dieticians and nutrition experts agree that vegans should be taking this vitamin in form of supplements, but they can’t agree whether the supplementation should start the moment the person switches to vegan diet, or it can be safe to wait a few years, because that’s how long it takes for the deficiency to develop.


9. Children Shouldn’t Be Vegans

Up until several years ago, it was virtually impossible for a paediatrician to give parents the green light to raise their children vegan. There were even some cases where people called the police or at least social services on parents who weren’t giving any animal products to their kids.

It was believed that children, who are in the rapid process of growing and developing, absolutely need both meat and dairy products in order to grow properly and stay healthy. Today, we know this isn’t necessarily true. Vegan diets can be absolutely healthy and complete even for toddlers.

The important thing is for the parents to understand their children’s nutritional needs, to get informed on how to provide all the necessary nutrients and to observe closely their children’s development and health. Their diet must be diverse and must include plenty of fresh produce, seeds, nuts and whole grains, as well as adequate amounts of iron, B12 vitamin, protein and calcium, which in some cases might have to be provided through supplements.


10. The Vegan Diet Is Not Good For Pregnant Women

Today we see more and more women who have been vegans for ages continuing with their diet after they get pregnant. Today this is really not a big deal but until recently pregnant vegans were exposed to criticism and even called irresponsible towards their unborn child for keeping on with their vegan diet throughout the pregnancy.

Most ob/gyns agree that continuing the vegan diet throughout the pregnancy does not pose any particular risk for the baby, as long as the mother makes sure to take all the necessary nutrients. During pregnancy, especially from the second trimester onwards, the nutritional needs of the expecting mother increase as the unborn baby starts using up much of her nutrients. This is why iron deficiency, among others, is so common in the third trimester.

Pregnant women also need more protein, also in the later months of the pregnancy. Pregnant women who are vegans are advised to have regular check-ups and to control their blood for iron, glucose and protein, and to pay extra attention to what (and how much) they eat. Prenatal vitamins are also highly recommended.


11. Vegans Never Get Sick

While it is true that a healthy diet based on fruit, veggies, legumes and lean protein is definitely the way to go if you want to be healthy and live longer, it’s not really all it takes in order not to get sick. Diet is an important part of human health, the most important one, probably, but it’s not the only one.

People, both vegans and non-vegans, still get sick for reasons that often remain unknown and there are so many factors at play here that to reduce this issue to diet alone would be silly. Vegans often say that they are healthier than people who eat meat, fish and dairy and that they never (or at least rarely) get sick. They also say that their immune system is better and that because of it they are less prone to disease, from banal ones like cold to serious ones, like cancer.

Vegan diets have been linked to reduced risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease, but this still needs proper confirmation. Vegans are not bulletproof and they can definitely get sick. They just might have a slightly lower chance than those who follow less healthy diets.


12. Being Vegan Is Too Much Work

People think – If I can’t eat meat and cheese, what else is there to eat? Finding nutritious, delicious substitutes for food of animal origin definitely seems like an arduous task to many who are not familiar with veganism.

They think that vegans have to think extra hard about their food, to invest a lot of time to buy and prepare their food and to actually make them palatable. This seems like a lot of work, but the truth is that vegan diets are only as complicated as you want them to be.

The main thing is to find out what plant-based sources of nutrients are available and to make sure to include them in the diet. The rest is a piece of (vegan) cake. Why would making a dinner consisting of, say, baked beans with tomato sauce with some roasted veggies and a nice salad be any more difficult or complicated than a dinner of steak and potatoes?


13. Vegan Diet Leads To Weight Loss

Some people go vegan because they think it will help them lose undesired weight. If this is your motive for switching to a vegan diet, think again, because being vegan does not necessarily include being thin.

This misconception, like so many others surrounding vegan diets, comes from the false belief that vegans only eat super-lean, raw food that doesn’t contain any fats or sugars. This, of course, is not true. A vegan diet usually excludes meat, fish and dairy products. Everything else – vegetables, fruit, cakes, bread, pasta, veggie burgers, tofu, even junk food like pizza, fries and chips, stays the same.

Now, imagine a vegan who is not really into vegetables. He or she will probably eat too much food rich in carbs, like bread, pastries and pasta. Such vegans are bound to be overweight, just like everybody else. So whether you will lose weight or not definitely does not depend on whether you eat animal products or not. It depends on how much carbs and fats you eat and on your general calorie intake.


14. Only A Vegan Diet Can Revert Heart Disease

People who suffer from heart disease often turn to dietary changes in order to get better, alongside appropriate medication, of course. This is highly recommended since it has been proven time and time again that certain diets can be very helpful against serious diseases. However, to claim that only a vegan diet can not only prevent but actually revert heart disease is simply inaccurate.

There have been several studies proving that veganism is associated with healthier cholesterol and other biomarkers levels and in some cases it even succeeded in basically curing heart disease. However, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions here. These studies involved participants who also exercised and introduced other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. Some of them even used medications. Therefore, it cannot be said with 100% certainty that vegan diets are the only diets that can revert coronary disease.


15. Animal Protein Is Bad For You

Some (not all) vegans claim that it has been proven that animal protein is actually harmful for humans. When asked about the credibility of this claim, they usually cite a study that was performed on rats and that “proved” that animal protein has harmful effects and can even be fatal.

The problem with this is that, for one, the study was done on rats and didn’t involve any humans. The second problem is that the study used isolated proteins and refined diets, which is not something that occurs normally in life.

On the other hand, almost every study in the effects of protein, both animal and plant-based, that involved humans, proved that protein is not only not harmful, but it is absolutely necessary for health and longevity. If anything, there is more and more evidence that we should be eating more animal protein, not less. Whatever the potential negative effects of animal products may be, they definitely do not come from protein.


16. Humans Are Not “Meant” To Be Carnivores

Yet another common argument that vegans make when they are trying to justify their dietary and lifestyle choices or to convert someone to veganism. According to them, humans were made herbivores, not carnivores. We have been eating meat for millions of years, literally. In fact, human digestive system is nowhere close to that of herbivore animals.

Humans have a short colon and long small intestines, with enough hydrochloric acid to break down protein. Herbivores have much longer digestive tracts and are not equipped with substances that help digest meat and other animal products.

Another proof that humans are actually meant to eat meat is that it is now known that consumption of meat helped in the evolution of our large brains. Also, we would not be needing any vitamin B12 if we were meant to eat only food that doesn’t contain any of it. Not to mention that our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, based their diet largely on meat, and they were the necessary step in human evolution.


17. Meat Causes Cancer And Heart Disease

Another argument that vegans love using when they are trying to make the point for veganism is that meat is the main cause of serious, fatal diseases like cancer and heart disease. Aside from the fact that this theory is grossly simplistic and almost silly, we have to remember that these diseases, as we now them today, haven’t actually been around forever, and that man, on the other hand, has been eating meat since forever.

Diabetes, more precisely type 2 diabetes, became widespread only by the late 20th century. The worldwide heart disease epidemic started sometime around early 1930s and cancer has been on the rise in the last several decades. On the other hand, anthropology, archaeology and history taught us that man has been eating meat, fish, eggs and milk even since the pre-human phase. So the two are not really connected. More likely it’s a combination of environmental factors, ever-increasing pollution and exposure to toxins, stress and unhealthy habits than something as simple as eating meat.


18. Fat And Cholesterol Are Harmful

We have always been taught that high cholesterol is the number one cause of heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke, and that cholesterol is directly influenced by the amount of fat we eat. There is some truth in this, but to say that all fat all cholesterol are bad is just plain wrong.

First of all, not all fats are the same. The fat we consume can be roughly divided into two groups: saturated and unsaturated fats. The latter ones can again be divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Until recently, the general consensus was that saturated fats, found in meat and dairy, were bad and unsaturated ones, in seeds, nuts and some veggies, were good.

However, several recent studies have found that not even saturated fats are that bad for you and that they even raise the levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, which protects the heart and the blood vessels. As for the bad cholesterol, or LDL, saturated fats may increase their levels but they often transform LDL from small particoles to large ones, which actually reduce the risk of heart disease.


19. Vegan Diets Are Dull And Bland

People often think that if you take out meat, eggs and milk from a meal, you’re basically left with nothing but tasteless, bland heap of nothing. While there is no point in discussing the matters of taste, since we all like different things in life and on the plate, but it’s really unfair to say that vegan diets are dull and bland, since this actually couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Vegan diets can be very exciting, as long as you have the imagination and inspiration to make it so. Just look at the fruit and veggies alone and think of what incredible delicacies can be made from it. Without dairy, eggs or meat? Impossible, you say. But you’d be surprised. Vegans had to find alternative ways to make their diet fun and delicious and so far they did an amazing job. Vegan treats and delicacies are sometimes way tastier than many dishes based on animal products. Also, vegans are always looking for new, exotic food items, which makes their cuisine that much more interesting.


20. Vegan Diets Turn You Into An Extremist

There is often this image of a crazed activist with a bucket of paint ready to splash it on some socialite’s shiny fur coat, or chained to a tree that is about to go down. In all fairness, we all probably know at least one vegan who comes off as a bit pushy or annoying with his agenda, but most vegans are actually people just like the rest of us – they do the things their way and don’t bother anyone else with it.

It’s useful to remember that some people follow a vegan diet because of their beliefs, whether they are religious, ethical or even political, while others choose this lifestyle because they want to live more healthily. The latter group rarely tends to be self-righteous and preachy, and even those who are vegans for ethical reasons rarely push their agenda in an extremist way. To say that vegans are extremists is a form of prejudice, and like all prejudice, it’s unfair.


21. Vegan Diets Make You Annoying

For an omnivore, or a person who doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, vegans are like cats in the dark – they all look the same. However, there are many different types of vegan diets, as well as many different motives to switch to this type of diet.

The general rule of veganism is that all animal products are prohibited – this includes meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Some vegans also exclude honey, since it is a product of bees. Others eat honey, but only if it comes from local beehives, while some eat honey quite freely. Some vegans only eat plant-based foods, meaning they don’t consume refined and processed foods, even if they qualify as vegan by not containing any animal products. Some vegans only eat raw food and there are even those who mainly eat junk food.

Some vegans only apply their philosophy to their diet and the others have an overall vegan lifestyle which excludes leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics that contain animal products or have been tested on animals, and so on. There are as many versions of veganism as there are vegans.

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