Did you know November is World Vegan Month? If you’ve ever thought about becoming vegan, or at least eating less meat and more plant-based foods, there are some important things you need to know before you dive in. These are some common misconceptions about the vegan diet.
X MYTH: Vegans don’t get enough protein.
In actuality, we all pretty much get enough protein. It’s not one of the nutrients we really need to worry about since we have so many sources for it. And a proper vegan diet incorporates plant proteins from sources such as nuts, beans, soy foods, and quinoa. Even athletes, who have particular protein needs, can meet their protein requirement by choosing a variety of plant protein sources.
And although most plant proteins are considered “incomplete” proteins (they don’t have all nine essential amino acids that animal proteins do), as long as you eat a variety of protein sources on a given day, you should be covered.
- FACT: Vegans never eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.
Strict vegans only eat food from plants. Vegetarians may eat dairy and eggs, vegans don’t eat any animal by-products, including honey. While the reasons may vary (animal welfare concerns, environmental reasons, health/weight loss, wellness beliefs), vegans only consume foods and products made from plants.
X MYTH: Going vegan always leads to weight loss.
Vegan diets may prompt weight loss, but it is not guaranteed. You should still pay attention to the nutritional value of the vegan foods you consume. For example, Oreos and French fries are vegan-friendly, but may not be helpful when it comes to weight loss. You should focus on consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans for an increased fiber intake, which can help you lose weight over time.
- FACT: You need to supplement a vegan diet.
Vitamin B12 (critical in cell division and the maintenance of nerve cells) is only found in animal products and not plant foods, which means vegans are susceptible to a deficiency. Vegans should supplement with vitamin B12 pill or fortified cereal. But when it comes to fortified cereal, it is important to read to label to be sure vitamin B12 is covered.
Vegans at risk for falling short on other nutrients (calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids) should meet with a registered dietician who can either suggest how to meet your needs with foods or recommend a quality vegan supplement.
X MYTH: Meat alternatives are healthier than meat.
Unfortunately, many meat alternatives contain lots of sodium, which can increase blood pressure. Ideally, we should be consuming no more than 1500mg of sodium per day (as recommended by the American Heart Association). However, some frozen veggie burgers can contain up to 600mg of sodium per burger. Even more concerning, not all meat impersonators are vegan so be sure to read the fine print.
Vegan or not, we should be choosing whole foods over hyper-processed ones. Vegans should focus on animal-free whole food staples (beans, nuts, whole grains, fruits & veggies) for a nutritious and balanced diet.
Aside from the environmental and animal welfare benefits, there are also great health benefits associated with a vegan diet. Studies show that these diets can lower the risk of cancer, most likely due to an increased consumption of antioxidant- and fiber-rich foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes).
Food can be healing as well, and the foods included in a vegan diet are associated with improved blood pressure, reductions in heart disease, and a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Not ready to jump in? You can benefit from a more flexible approach. Make it a point to consume less meat and more plant-based foods by adjusting your diet. For example, you can designate a day or two during the week in which you consume vegan friendly meals and snacks.
Did you know our vegetarian sandwiches can be made vegan? Simply let our staff know and we will gladly prepare a vegan friendly meal for you! Visit us weekdays from 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm.