Plant based diet myths debunked: The truth about a vegan diet (vitamins, minerals, carbs, deficiencies, children on a vegan diet, protein, supplements, expense, and more)
“But you will be totally deficient avoiding all animal food…”, “healthy eating is expensive…”, “you won’t get enough protein in your diet…”
Are you realizing that a whole food plant based diet is the healthiest diet out there, could help you reach optimal health, ideal weight, and even reverse disease?
But there may be so many “what if’s” in your head.
I’ve been there, too. Transitioning into a vegan diet was certainly not easy. You will get many comments and lots of unsolicited advice (some might be mean) and of course you worry about not getting the right nutrients.
Today, I debunk 10 plant based diet myths that I have dealt with personally when beginning my transition to a plant based diet. These statements are backed up by my own experiences and most have associated scientific studies referenced.
10 Plant Based Diet Myths
#1 You don’t get enough minerals and vitamins (zinc, calcium, iron)
If you use cronometer.com to log the food you eat you can see your mineral and vitamin intake. A balanced plant based diet gives you more minerals and vitamins than your daily value (DV). With the cronometer tool you can determine if you indeed lack any necessary nutrition. This vegan smoothie already covers 80% of the DV for calcium and iron and 26% for zinc. It is also very rich in other minerals and vitamins.
This curried chickpea recipe covers over 300% DV of vitamin C, 47% zinc, 82% iron, 94% vitamin A, and so much more.
These are just some realistic examples of easy recipes that provide all the nutrition you need, and most likely give you even better nutrition than you had before.
#2 You are eating too many carbs, which is unhealthy (or makes you fat)
On a plant based diet, you will consume lots of carbs. So the vegan diet myth is, that this can’t be healthy. There is a difference between simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs break down fast, cause blood sugar rise, and in high consumption causes insulin resistance. Complex carbs on the other hand break down slowly, balance out your blood sugar, fuel your muscles with energy, and they come (whole wheat, brown rice, fruits, vegetables) with a load of fiber which keeps you full longer.
Weight gain will occur anytime you eat more calories than you burn, BUT it is rather hard to over eat on a plant based high carb (low fat) diet. Carbs have less calories per gram than fat, therefore, they fill you up faster.
#3 You can get omega 3 only from fish
There are two types of omega 3 fatty acids: ALA and DHA. ALA is found in plants mostly in flaxseed and walnuts. Our bodies can transform ALA to DHA. We think we have to consume fish to get DHA. Fish get their DHA from eating plants (algae).
To transform ALA into the recommended amount of DHA we would need to eat approximately 1.5 servings of chia seeds.
Pumpkin seeds and walnuts are another great source. You only need to supplement with DHA (algae) if your body can’t transform ALA for whatever reason (which is rare). There is also evidence that we might not need as much DHA as we thought.
#4 You don’t get enough protein
Women need about 46 g of protein a day. Most people over eat on protein and never have an issue with protein deficiency. On this budget meal plan you get over 60 g of protein a day. That is more than enough protein for anyone who is not an athlete.
You don’t even have to buy expensive shakes, it comes all from simple plant foods. If you are an athlete check out this muscle building smoothie with 37 g protein.
As there is no deficiency of protein in the American culture, we should be more concerned about fiber deficiency. The recommended amount of fiber is 25 g per day and most Americans eat about 10g.
More than 90% of Americans do not eat the recommended amount of fiber. This is bad news, because there is proof that fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. It helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Fiber also binds toxins, lead, and mercury, which is mostly accumulated in animal fat.
It seems like not getting enough protein is one of the most common plant based diet myths out there. If this is something you would like to educate yourself I recommend to read the book “Proteinaholic” by Dr. Garth Davis.
#5 Healthy eating is expensive
That is not only a plant based diet myth, but a healthy eating myth in general. Oats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and beans are very much budget friendly foods.
You can save even more if you buy the bag of beans (instead of cans) and cook them yourself. I want to point out that you should always reach for the seasonal produce or the produce on sale. Here is a budget friendly meal plan suggestion:
Breakfast: Oats with water or plant milk (soy, almond), frozen berries or seasonal fruits, seeds, or nuts.
Lunch: Simple sandwich with hummus spread and topped with vegetables as desired. I like to add olives, mustard, and pickles. You can also place the same toppings on a wrap.
Dinner: The easiest dinner bowl you can make is brown rice topped with seasonal steamed veggies, beans, and the spices you like. I like to add lemon juice, cilantro, basil, garlic, turmeric, pepper, or hot sauce.
You can see a full budget meal plan with shopping list here.
#6 Cooking healthy takes too long
If you make the dinner above you really don’t have to do much and you can always cook in bulk. To be honest, my meals are now so much easier and take far less time to prepare.
Here is a great meal prep idea where you can simply put all ingredients into a pot and let cook. These meals can be stored in the freezer and make a great lunch or dinner prep.
#7 Plant based food tastes boring
You definitely have to learn a different cooking style, but it is not as hard as it sounds. Like I said, it became easier than cooking with meat.
You can do a lot with herbs, sauces, and spices. Sriracha, garlic, cilantro, basil, onions, turmeric, curry, soy sauce, and more are great additions to spice up meals. I can highly recommend this whole food plant based meal planner with new exciting recipes and meal plans every week. Watch the tutorial HERE>>
#8 You can’t reverse disease just by eating plants
Your body is able to heal itself.
But if you keep fueling your body with irritants and inflammatory foods, it simply can’t heal itself. There are many stories of reversed heart disease and diabetes when people switch to consuming a plant based diet.
Our bodies function best when eating plants. They fuel and restore our bodies. You can read more benefits here.
#9 Vegans need to take supplements
There are really only 2 supplements you need to be worried about: B12 and vitamin D. B12 comes from bacteria in the environment. If a cow eats grass it stores B12 from the grass in its flesh and we consume the cow’s flesh and B12. We were able to get B12 from tap water or veggies out of the garden, but in a highly sanitized world this is no longer an option.
Luckily, soy milk is fortified with B12. If soy is an issue for you, get B12 supplements. You really don’t need to eat it every day as B12 can be stored up to 5 years in your body. It is best to talk to your health professional about this.
Vitamin D is really not a vitamin, but a hormone and you get it best from sunlight. This might be an issue during winter season depending where you live. Vegan or not, you might have to supplement with vitamin D during winter. Otherwise, get your healthy dose of sunshine!
#10 The vegan diet is not for kids
Since my family has transitioned to eating a plant based diet, we’ve gotten a lot of worries from friends and family about our child’s development. I know these worries are simply because people care (however misguided), but as a parent it can get quite frustrating, especially if you’ve educated yourself about the vegan diet.
The American Dietetic Society approves a vegetarian and vegan diet as “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes“(source)
In the UK (British Dietetic Association) came out with the same statement:
“The BDA has renewed its memorandum of understanding with The Vegan Society to state that a balanced vegan diet can be enjoyed by children and adults, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding, if the nutritional intake is well-planned.”
Of course the diet has to be well-planned (as any diet) to meet all nutritional needs. The focus should be mostly on protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12 (source). I tracked my toddler’s nutrition for one day and it exceeded the recommended amount of each mentioned vitamin and mineral (except vitamin D which is produced best by direct exposure to sunlight).
So, in my personal experience my family is getting better nutrition along with substantial benefits and reduced risks compared to the omnivore diet. I would advise you to track your nutrient intake with cronometer.com for a while to get a feel for the right nutrition.
Are there other myths you heard about a plant based diet? Let me know in the comments below!