Hive Health Media

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]

 

President Barack Obama as a Vegan

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.

Conclusion

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]

 

References

  1. 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.
  2. Tavernise, Sabrina. “Vegetable Gardens are Booming in a Fallow Economy” NY Times, September, 2011.
Jonathan Bechtel is the founder of Health Kismet, a green superfood powder that condenses 35 types of raw produce into a powder that can be mixed with water, juice, smoothies, or into a meal. He blogs at blog.healthkismet.com.

18 Comments

  1. emedoutlet

    December 20, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Veg is better for health. Veg has got everything. You need to choose Veg according to your requirement.

  2. MaliMunchHawthorne

    December 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    There’s no such thing as a vegetarian diet. Those fields that had to be plowed to grow the plants displaced or killed hundreds of smaller animal like mice.I’m fine with people being vegetarian, I just cannot stand smugger-than-thou vegetarians.A grass-fed cow ends far fewer lives per person it serves than a field of grain does.

    • healthkismet

      December 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      @MaliMunchHawthorne Sorry if I came off as a “holier than thou” vegetarian. I wasn’t trying to be demeaning. However, there IS such a thing as a vegetarian diet, but I agree that there’s no diet system that doesn’t result in the death of animals….if that’s what you meant. But I never commented on whether or not vegetarian diets are more “humane” or not in the article. I only listed lifestyle/health aspects of them.

      The only exception is the comment about the environment, but I clarified that in the comments below.

    • BenjaminOrphanEksouzian

      December 27, 2011 at 10:05 am

      @MaliMunchHawthorne and what do you think they will feed the cow?

  3. MaliMunchHawthorne

    December 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    There’s no such thing as a vegetarian diet. Those fields that had to be plowed to grow the plants displaced or killed hundreds of smaller animal like mice.I’m fine with people being vegetarian, I just cannot stand smugger-than-thou vegetarians.A grass-fed cow ends far fewer lives per person it serves than a field of grain does.

  4. MyAthleticLife

    December 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    “Better for the environment” – Not really.

    • healthkismet

      December 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      @MyAthleticLife If you think there’s not an ecological difference between meat/non-meat diets, here are three good links to read:

      http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/664S.full

      http://www.ajcn.org/content/89/5/1699S.full

      http://www.eve.ucdavis.edu/catoft/eve101/Protected/PDF/lit/Baroni_etal_2007.pd

      Meat and cheese require more water, fertilizer, and energy intensive mechanical inputs than plant food sources. And while it sounds humorous, cow flatulence is actually a large source of greenhouse gases….even moreso than cars! (I believe)

      • hivehealthmedia

        December 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm

        Yeah, I’m with Jonathan on this one. @healthkismet @MyAthleticLife

      • MyAthleticLife

        December 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm

        @healthkismet Thanks – In looking through some of the material, the authors of the studies certainly leave a lot of wiggle room for different production systems as well as for the impact on transportation on bringing in alternative protein sources.

        If you look at small-scale, pasture based agriculture, you will find that the differences aren’t material. I have 2 cows that eat 98% of their diet from the grass that grows beneath their feet. And their poop makes the soil dramatically better. I also have about 30 chickens (for eggs) and while I do feed them some grain, they get a lot of sustenance from bugs, grass, and table scraps. Plus they provide nutrients for my garden. I don’t think that agriculture without animals is sustainable, but I also think it is about appropriate scale.

        And FYI, I was a vegetarian for 8 years.

        • hivehealthmedia

          December 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

          @[email protected] For the record I had a delicious steak for dinner and I’ve never been a vegetarian. :p

        • healthkismet

          December 19, 2011 at 10:32 pm

          @MyAthleticLife You’re right that those studies, all by themselves, don’t point to specific figures that you can hang your hat on. They remind me of climatology studies, where small changes in different variables can lead to radically different outcomes, so relying on them too much can create an illusion of certainty.

          I wouldn’t say because of the links I provided that vegetarian diets are 4.58922838495829384895 less energy intensive than meat diets. Just that, overall, industrial livestock agriculture is more environmentally damaging than industrial plant agriculture.

          I agree with the rest of your post.

      • KeithThundergunLyons

        December 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

        @[email protected] Not to mention all the chemical run-offs and sewage from the processing plants. Plus all the dangers associated to the health of the general public from increased possibilities of colon cancer and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease from the in-humane and disgusting ways they process the animals in the factories. Public health is as big an issue as environment. I don’t preach vegetarianism, but facts are facts. Check out the Seven Day Adventists study.

        http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/cancer.page

  5. PavSwede

    December 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’m not sure why a vegetarian would want ‘bacon’ or ‘chorizo’ looking or flavored products. The whole idea of cutting meat out of one’s diet seems cheapened by creating imitation products – why look for the taste of something you don’t want to eat? Veggie burgers are fine as long as they don’t taste like meat – after all, then it’s just a patty, and there are tons of types of patties.

    • healthkismet

      December 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      @PavSwede The point I was trying to make is that being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite flavor sensations, which I think is a big sticking point for lots of people. Occasionally I get cravings for meat like things, and these days I can satisfy those cravings without a problem.

      And it’s not that I don’t want the flavor of meat….it’s the meat I don’t want. So if I can have a vegetarian product that gives me the sensation of eating meat, all the better.

    • KeithThundergunLyons

      December 20, 2011 at 11:08 am

      @PavSwede I personally like these choices as I love the taste of meat. I just don’t like to eat it because it hurts my stomach, I don’t like how some animals are treated, and I believe it increases chances of certain cancers. However, I didn’t quit eating meat because I don’t like the taste, I don’t think anyone really quits for that reason. If they made a beer that was good for you but still got you drunk I’m sure a lot of people would like that. Benefits without the negatives!! That is why I personally love veggie burgers and ground meats, etc. Then I can make healthier options, that still taste like the burgers I used to eat and love.

  6. Sebastian

    December 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Fantastic article. Just one thing – please correct the word “nations” to “notions” in your last sentence. Then delete this comment and pretend that it was never there. Good information often loses credibility because of poor grammar and spelling. And I’d hate for your list of five to get immediately dismissed by grammar nazis (like me)! ;)

    • healthkismet

      December 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      @Sebastian I’ll get it fixed, thanks. Glad you liked the article!

  7. JimCorcoran

    December 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    There are many reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life-altering choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

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