With the increasingly large number of climate strikes, Green groups on the rise in politics, documentaries and studies about diet, it is about time to consider veganism as a worthwhile and serious lifestyle choice. But, how can we do that when there are so many common misconceptions about vegans? It's for that reason that here, I have debunked some of the most common vegan myths.
“But, where do you get your protein from?”
This is probably the biggest misconception about vegans; that “unlike meat-eaters” they do not get enough protein. The actual, biological reality is that all protein is made by plants. All protein initially comes from plants, and it is not necessary to eat animal tissue in order to get protein. Only plants have the ability to take nitrogen out of the air, break down those molecules and incorporate them into amino acids to make proteins - the concept of animal protein is simply the idea that the animal has eaten plants to get its protein. So, instead of just eating recycled plant protein, why not cut out the middleman and get your protein directly from the source: plants.
“Vegans are nutrient deficient”
Again, the idea that vegans lack nutrients, for example, calcium or vitamins, is a fallacy. Of course, some vegans may lack nutrients, but equally, carnivores are likely to lack the same nutrients. Due to their drastic diet change, vegans are often questioned about how many nutrients they get, if they have gotten their blood checked, or whether they have been tested for deficiencies. But in fact, surprisingly, not many carnivores are concerned about their own nutrient deficiencies and diet. It seems as if suddenly when someone has made a diet change their nutrients become a problem - when essentially the point of a diet change is to improve your health and avoid these deficiencies...
In the case of calcium, it must be understood that food industries, like the dairy or meat industries, are guilty of flooding the media with exaggerated advertisements to create an illusion in society. For example, many people believe that you can only get enough calcium from milk. It is true that cow’s milk contains more calcium per gram than most vegetables, but what most people do not know is that only about 32% of this is actually absorbed by the body, compared to many green vegetables which have an absorption rate of more than 50%. Foods like beans and kale even have the same amount of calcium (or more calcium, in the case of kale) than a cup of milk.
“But, vegans need to take a million supplements”
It is often said that when someone goes vegan they need to compensate by taking a handful of pills every day - “if you need to take a bunch of supplements, what's the point of going vegan!”. However, in reality, this only relates to one very contested supplement: vitamin B12.
For those that do not know, B12 is an essential vitamin for maintaining your nervous system, red blood cells and DNA. The very common myth is that vitamin B12 comes from animals and therefore a vegan has no access to it. Let me clearly explain the reality: vitamin B12 is produced in a bacteria that lives in soil. It is not ‘naturally produced in animals’, and the only way an animal could obtain it is by eating grass and soil which contains this bacteria. (This would also be true for fruits and veggies, however, in our current ultra-clean world where fruits and veggies are sprayed with pesticides and washed five times before being eaten, they lack vitamin B12). Nonetheless, do not be fooled by the idea that carnivores do get enough B12 - because most do not! Nowadays, especially with factory-farmed livestock, in some cases, animals themselves are injected with vitamin B12 or are given supplements to digest. Therefore for the livestock that is not injected with B12, it results in meat-eaters having a deficiency. So, before questioning vegans on their B12, why not check out your own B12 levels because they could just as easily be dangerously low.
“Veganism is unnatural”
This myth originates from the idea that humans have always been carnivores - “we were made to eat meat!”. The truth is that humans are fundamentally and anatomically herbivores. Many will argue that humans have canines and were therefore made to eat meat. But when you look more closely, human so-called ‘canines’ are small, unlike carnivores’ canines which are large, sharp and capable of tearing up flesh. Human molars are square and flat, made to grind up leaves and vegetables, not rip flesh apart. In addition, when you look at the length of a human intestine, you begin to see that humans were not made to eat meat. In carnivorous animals, their intestines are short because they need the meat to pass through their bodies quickly before it begins to rot and cause illness. Human intestines, on the contrary, are about 7 metres long: they are made for digesting fibres which take longer to break down and absorbing plant-based nutrients. In reality, meat begins to rot in a human’s intestine because the bacteria have time to multiply in the long digestive system, increasing the risk of developing colon cancer.
“But, going vegan is too expensive”
A very common misconception of a vegan diet is that it is more expensive than eating animal products. Put simply; when you go to the supermarket, the most inexpensive items have always been rice, beans, lentils, pasta, seasonal vegetables, canned foods, etc. This is what a vegan diet truly encompasses, the basic plant-based foods that have been around for decades. Of course, when you get the fancy ‘fake meat’ or vegan ‘cheese’ from COOP it is going to be more expensive than animal meat or cheese, but only because these are processed foods, and processed foods have always been more expensive due to their multiple stages of production and processing. Essentially, no diet is simply ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ since it entirely depends on how you approach it and what types of foods you buy. However, a vegan diet can, in many cases, be much cheaper than a carnivorous one.
Those are some of the greatest misconceptions about vegans and the disproving truths behind them. Hopefully, now you have a clearer idea of what veganism is really like - we’re not just a bunch of weak, nutrient-deficient, rich, hippie extremists!
...For more information I suggest you watch the following documentaries (available on Netflix): What The Health, The Game Changers, Cowspiracy. All the photos are ones that I took here in Geneva and they’re all 100% vegan :-)