Vegetarianism, veganism myths deconstructed

© Kurhan/Dollar Photo Club A common misunderstanding about vegetarians and vegans is that vegetables don’t provide enough dietary nutrition.

Most often when someone decides to change their omnivorous diet to an herbivorous one, a lot of decision-making and thought comes into play.

Some of the top reasons people choose to become a vegetarian or vegan include health, animal ethics and the environment.

One aspect many new vegetarians and vegans do not expect upon implementing this change in their lives, though, is the list of questions their meat-eating loved ones tend to ask.

Questions typically revolve around protein, calcium and vitamin and minerals intake.

In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids and the expense of being adopting the different lifestyle are often brought up.

However, many plant-eaters will tell their peers that their concerns are merely myths created by a misinformed society.

In truth, a plant-based diet holds many benefits. This article addresses the six most common myths.

Myth #1: “You can’t get enough protein without eating meat.”

A common misunderstanding in the United States is that protein, or complete protein, can only be obtained from meat products.

However, many plants are rich in protein as well.

Quinoa, sea vegetables, lentils, nuts and hemp seeds are all examples of complete protein.

The biggest health difference from meat products and plant products is that while they both contain protein and other important nutrients, meat carries cholesterol and higher levels of saturated fat.

According to the award-winning documentary “Forks over Knives,” Americans typically eat more meat in one setting than is recommended.

Myth #2: “The food is so expensive!”

Produce often comes with a price tag; however, there are a few options for shoppers searching for vegetable and fruit products.

For example, if fresh produce gets pricey, a shopper can buy it frozen instead.

Special offerings, such as the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Pete, also help shoppers manage the quality and price of their food.

In addition, meat prices continue to rise.

The U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service predicted beef and veal prices would increase by 11 to 12 percent in 2014, and will rise by another five percent in 2015.

Myth #3: “Your workouts must suffer.”

As with any diet, nutrient intake must be balanced properly in order to produce positive results.

Withholding from meat and dairy does not automatically hinder workout performance.

In fact, there have been many vegan athletes who have gone on to achieve great success, such as former professional Ironman athlete Brendan Brazier.

Myth #4: “You must not get enough calcium if you’re not drinking milk.”

“It’s shocking to me that we’ve become so immune to the idea that we are drinking another species’ breast-milk and it’s not weird,” Sophomore and vegan Claire Russell said. “The ‘Got Milk?’ campaign hit America hard and was incredibly effective, but we’re not designed to keep drinking breast milk after we’re no longer babies. You add in all the pesticides and hormones of today’s dairy industry and it was enough for me to give it all up.”

According to nutritionist and author of “Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health” Joseph Keon, “Milk offers no guarantee of protection from bone fracture while at the same time burdens the body with additional saturated fat and cholesterol, hormones and growth factors and, frequently, antibiotic residues.”

Millions of people around the world maintain their health by consuming calcium from plant sources.

Calcium is easily obtained from leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes and some nuts and seeds.

Myth #5: “Aren’t you worried you’re going to get a Vitamin B12 deficiency?”

“B12 originates from bacteria, not animal products,” said R.D. and co-author of “Becoming Raw” Vesanto Melina. “The reason this nutrient cannot be obtained from plant-foods is because of our sanitary methods of food production. This lack in sanitary plant foods does not mean that all vegans are deficient in this nutrient, because they can easily obtain the recommended levels of B12 via foods that are fortified with B12.”

Such products include non-dairy milks, soy foods, veggie “meats” and breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 supplements are also available.

Myth #6: “All vegetarians and vegans are animal activists and supporters of PETA.”

While some people may change their lifestyle because they are concerned about how animals are treated, any two plant-eaters are just as diverse as any two meat-eaters.

In reality, many follow this particular diet because they do not trust the meat industry to supply them with safe meat.

According to Russell, her decision to be vegan stems far beyond food.

“For me it’s been a journey that has so little to do with food itself but much more with the social constructs around it,” Russell said. “I think the important takeaway here is not ‘don’t eat meat,’ but just to attempt to educate yourself on matters of diet just as you would any issue in our world.”

It is important to recognize that not everyone with this lifestyle follows PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or forces their beliefs onto others.

If students are interested in learning more about why people choose to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, are considering changing their own eating habits or would like to decipher between fact and fiction even more, the award-winning documentaries “Food, Inc.,” “Forks over Knives” and “Vegucated” are all available to watch online.

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