What myths or misconceptions have you heard about vegans? In this episode, we are going to go through some of the most common vegan myths and debunk them. We talk about the difference between plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan, and give some insight into where veganism actually began. Whether you’re just interested in broadening your horizons about veganism so you can relate to your friends or family, or if you’re considering becoming vegan or changing your lifestyle – this episode is for you!
Plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan are the same
They are not the same!
Plant-based: a healthy food choice, and as it says in the name is based on eating MOSTLY whole food, minimally process plants like fruits and veggies, with few or no animal products.
Vegetarian: Excludes eating meat, but not always animal byproducts like cheese, eggs, or honey.
Vegan: A form of vegetarianism, but takes it a few steps further. It is choosing not to partake in any exploitation of animals – and by definition, the Vegan Society says “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” So while most vegans do eat a strict plant-based diet, they are not the same thing.
All Vegans Only Care About Animals, Not Humans
This isn’t true, and people actually choose to become vegan for few different reasons! Maybe they don’t think it is morally right to treat animals the way they are treated, so they choose to become vegan for ethical reasons. We know that the meat and dairy industries are extremely destructive to the planet, so some choose to become vegan for environmental reasons. And some see the health benefits of being vegan and choose it for that reason. But for most people, it’s a combination of these. It isn’t just extended to a diet, it moves beyond food into a lifestyle of not having animal products in clothing, household and beauty products, and more.
Veganism is inherently a political and intersectional issue. Admittedly, most vegans fall short of recognizing and embracing this as part of the cause. At its core food is political. From how it is produced to how it is controlled and regulated, all the way down to its consumption and accessibility has to do with systems of power and oppression. It’s not just caring about animals, it’s caring about the conditions of the farmers and laborers who grow our food, the people who have been systematically experienced food apartheid due to social and racial inequalities, the treatment of shop workers who produce the items we consume, and even the effects that plant-based mass production has on indigenous people and lands. We know that everything is connected, so to look at only the food itself is ignoring the root of some of these problems – racism, sexism, classism, ableism, speciesism, and more.
Now, if you google or search on Instagram, “Vegan” most of the pictures and videos that come up are of white people smiling with bright fresh from the farmer’s market food, which leads a lot of people to our third myth.
Veganism is a new trend for only rich white people
Being vegetarian or vegan isn’t new, and it isn’t rooted in White western culture. You may be surprised to know that the history of veganism dates back 2,000 years and has deep roots in India, the Mediterranean Basin, and Africa, and has played a significant role in religion and national customs. Even to this day, Greece, India, and Isreal are the leading vegan countries. Where does America stand? Well, we have the largest number of meat-eaters per capita, more than anywhere in the world – eating about 220 pounds of meat per year. But within the country, studies have shown that Black Americans are almost three times as likely to be vegan and vegetarian than other Americans.
Although vegan and vegetarian diets have a long history, the modern term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society, which is another reason why some people associate it as a new idea.
Now the vegans that date back centuries were mostly driven by necessity, but as I said the vegans of today see many health benefits to living a vegan lifestyle. This leads me to one of the biggest myths – and that is….
All Vegans are Unhealthy
A lot of people think that we don’t get vital nutrients and vitamins. I actually love to debunk this one because I think it’s really important for everyone to understand the food we as humans put into our bodies and why. It does have a few pieces to it though. The big piece people love to talk about is protein – data has consistently shown that people consume more than the actual recommended daily intake of protein. This is due to health marketers and the meat and dairy industries pushing more meat, more protein powders, more supplements, and people thinking mass amounts of protein is associated with weight loss (which is a whole other subject that I encourage you to look into) The truth is if you’re eating a healthy, whole foods diet – you’re getting enough protein. Vegans get their protein from a variety of plant sources, including legumes, soy products, grains, nuts, and seeds. There’s a whole host of athletes who are vegan and aren’t worried about getting enough protein, including football star Colin Kaepernick, bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian, NBA star Kyrie Irving, tennis star Venus Williams, and MMA fighter James Wilks.
So the next thing people say is “well you’re not getting enough calcium” because vegans don’t drink milk. Fun fact – milk is not necessary for any diet. Everything in milk can be found in whole plant-based foods like leafy kale, broccoli, bok choy, and more, with added bonuses that milk doesn’t have – like fiber, folate, iron, antioxidants, and the bone-health superstar vitamin K. AND the calcium actually absorbs better in our systems from plants versus dairy milk. Dairy milk increases the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, and constipation because of the high saturated fat and cholesterol content – so yeah I think I’ll pass on those and stick to my non-dairy alternative thanks!
And the last piece of the “vegans are unhealthy” myth is that some people think too much soy in the vegan diet can cause hormonal issues and breast cancer due to estrogen in the soy. Let’s bust this one because plants actually have Phytoestrogens, which is different than the estrogen produced by humans and animals. They mimic estrogen when taken into the body, but not all Phytoestrogens are made the same. Some act as an estrogenic and some act as an antiestrogenic – but overall studies show that phytoestrogens lead to decreased cholesterol levels, improved menopausal symptoms, and a lower risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers, and actually can help to fight breast cancer! And due to the fact that most animals for production are pumped with steroid hormones, especially poultry, consumers of those products are unfortunately at a higher risk for breast cancer.
I will say that there ARE unhealthy ways to be a vegan, including eating ultra-processed junk foods or only eating fake meats and cheeses, or not making sure you have a well-rounded diet to get all of the nutrients you should be getting.
All of that information probably has your head spinning, and you may be thinking the mental image of vegans you’ve had has been completely disrupted. Vegans are strong, mentally and physically! It can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your chances of getting cancer, and can help to manage and prevent diabetes, as well as a slew of other benefits.
Well, you may be saying, “ok Lena that all sounds great but another myth is …
Vegan Food Is Too Expensive
Well – is it? Consider this – the average cost of a boneless chicken breast per pound is a little over $3, while a pound of dry beans will usually run $1.39 per pound and yield much more servings than meat. Vegan staples are beans, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables – all staples that cost very little and most people already have in their kitchen anyway. While the average price of organic fruits and veggies is higher than non-organic by about a dollar, you’re still looking at a shopping cart that’s cheaper than an omnivore. The average price of ground beef on the lowest end at $3.82 is still about the same price compared to even some of the highest-priced organic items, like organic cherries or potatoes. You can even reduce that high organic price tag by shopping sales and stocking up, comparing unit prices, or even growing your own seasonal fruits and veggies so you’re reducing the amount you need to buy.
Vegan Food Isn’t Filling or Tasty
Well, we know that legumes, vegetables, and nuts are all great options that keep you feeling full for a long time – and again, they are staples on a vegan plate so you can cross that one off your list! As far as the flavor? I’ve never had more nutritious, exciting, and flavorful food than when I started eating vegan. One of my favorite things is to make food for people without telling them it’s vegan and see their reactions about how good it tastes! But you’ll have to taste that theory for yourself! One of the easiest ways to dip your toes into plant-based or vegan eating is to take your favorite go-to meals and instead of cooking with meat or dairy, use non-dairy flavorful substitutions and see the difference!
There you have it! 6 common vegan myths quickly debunked! If you have any friends or family that need to hear this – make sure you hit SHARE! It all comes down to what works for each individual and their lifestyle, but hopefully shedding a light on some of these myths will help to squash the beef and let people understand what it means to be a vegan.
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