The 5 Biggest Myths About A Vegetarian Diet
There are a lot of good reasons to eliminate meat from your diet. Vegetarian diets are better for the environment, less carcinogenic, and result in better health outcomes for those that follow them. Any plant eater knows this, and the vegetarians I know happily stick to their diet regime without a second thought.
However, certain objections to ditching meat routinely come up. And most of them are junk. You could fill a book with all the non-sensical reasons I’ve heard over the years from people who are certain that being a vegetarian is a bad idea. Some are convinced you’ll be forced to deprive your body of certain nutrients, or that eating plants means subjecting yourself to a prolonged starvation.
[box type="note"]Whenever I listen to these, my first response is to snicker. As a plant eater of five years, I know there isn’t a scintilla of truth to most of the objections I hear, and I’m perfectly fine dismissing them without a second thought. However, I’ve noticed there are five perceptions of being a vegetarian that refuse to die…..and it’s time to put the nail in their coffin.[/box]
Here’s the list of victims….
Myth 1: Vegetarians Don’t Get Enough Protein
It’s true that meats have higher protein content than vegetables, and the amino acid profile in meats is more “complete” than those found in vegetables. However, all foods from natural sources have some protein in them, and as long as you’re eating enough calories, and those calories come from natural sources, then you will get enough protein.
Most people need about 50 g of protein per day, and the typical American gets well in excess of this number. So even if you have to dial back your protein intake, you’re probably fine.
Myth #2: Vegetarian Diets are Lacking in Vital Nutrients
Skeptics of vegetarian diets like to point out that eating food solely from plant sources can leave your body bereft of vital nutrients like iron and vitamin B. Meats tend to be richer sources of these nutrients, but a well-balanced plant diet will easily provide enough of any nutrient your body needs.
My favorite study that illustrates this point is a paper that examines the diets of the most ascetic lifestyles: that of vegetarian buddhist nuns. The result? They didn’t have significantly different levels of ferritin (iron), folate, or vitamin B-12 as their non-vegetarian counter parts. If buddhist nuns in Korea get enough and iron and vitamin B from a vegetarian diet, then so will you!
Myth 3: Vegetarian Diets are Expensive
If you think vegetarian diets are hard on the wallet, you don’t spend enough time in the produce section of your grocery store. Raw oats, legumes, greens, etc, can all be bought in bulk much cheaper than you can buy processed food for. And even better, it’ll actually keep you full!
There was an excellent article in the NY Times that reported many people are migrating back to produce based diets because it cut their grocery bill in half, and it was the best way for cash strapped americans to deal with the Great Recession.
Myth 4: Vegetarian Diets Aren’t as Savory as Meat Diets
This was a reasonable objection 20 years ago, but not anymore. The amount of vegetarian dining options has exploded the last ten years. National grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s specialize in providing vegetarian amenities that previously only meat eaters were used to, and a walk down any city center will provide a wealth of vegetarian dining options.
On my last grocery shopping trip I bought chorizo, burgers, and bacon……without buying any meat.
Myth 5: Vegetarian Diets Aren’t Good for Athletes
Everyday new examples are popping up that dispel the notion athletes have to eat meat. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek was considered an oddity when he practiced veganism while being an elite runner, but it’s no longer considered uncommon.
Sites like No Meat Athlete are dedicated to providing resources, guides, and examples of athletes that are ditching meat…..and improving their results because of it. And it’s not limited to aerobic activities. Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke has been pumping iron, adding weight, and looking great….without a hint of animal products in his diet.
The best reason to avoid going vegetarian is because you just really love to eat meat. If so, that’s fine. Eat it. But too many people suffer from kooky notions that cutting animals out of your diet will lead to deleterious effects on your health that simply aren’t there.
[box type="important"]So don’t be fooled. If you want to go vegetarian, give it a shot![/box]
- Lee, Y, et. al. “The Nutritional Status of Iron, Folate, and Vitamin B-12 of Buddhist Vegetarians” The Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 20, pgs. 42-49.
- Tavernise, Sabrina. “Vegetable Gardens are Booming in a Fallow Economy” NY Times, September, 2011.