Vegan Nutrition Myth Busters

Sarah Reasoner, vegan bodybuilder

The number of people choosing plant-based eating continues to grow. It’s important to have all the right information when making the transition, but it can be challenging to determine truth from urban myth.

As a Registered Dietitian and a vegan, my role includes searching out the best evidence-based, scientifically sound information available for my clients. Below are some common vegan myths and the facts that can lead to success.

Vegan Myth Busted!
“It’s hard to get enough protein.” It’s easy if one eats a variety of protein foods throughout the day.

No need to “combine foods” at the same meal. Rich protein sources include legumes (beans, lentils…), soy foods (tofu, soymilk…), meat substitutes (veggie burgers, beef-free crumbles…), nuts and seeds, and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice…).

 

“It isn’t healthy.” The American Dietetic Association has said that “vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Plant-based diets are shown to decrease risk of developing obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and and some kinds of cancer.

 

“It’s expensive.” Vegan staples such as beans, tofu, and whole grains are much less expensive than meat.

Buy produce in season and check the bulk bins for great deals. Choose less expensive whole foods more often and splurge on meat substitutes and other more costly items once in awhile. Stock up when your favorite non-perishables are on sale.

 

“It can’t provide important nutrients.” Eating enough food, choosing a wide variety of food throughout the day, and using fortified foods or taking a B12 supplement can meet your nutritional needs. Picky eaters or those with small appetites may want to consider a multivitamin. (This is true of any meal plan!)

A varied vegan diet can provide iron (collard greens, kale, legumes…) and calcium (collards, kale, broccoli, almonds, fortified dairy substitutes…), as well as Vitamins A, C, and omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, hemp, and soy).

 

“Soy isn’t safe.” In fact, soy is a good source of nutrients and has excellent health benefits. Studies show that as little as 1 serving/day for children and teens decreases breast cancer risk later in life. Soy may also be helpful in reducing heart disease risk, relieving hot flashes, preventing prostate cancer, and promoting bone health in postmenopausal women.

 

“You can’t be strong.” There are many world-class (and world-champion!) vegan athletes. A quick online search brings up a long list of plant-fueled bodybuilders, runners, cyclists, tennis players, national sports league stars, boxers, fighters, and many other kinds of athletes. Anyone who says you need meat to make muscle hasn’t got their facts straight.

 

This article was originally published in the 2016 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living.

Suzy Sorensen is a Twin Cities-based Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator who holds a Certificate of Training in Vegetarian Nutrition.  She has served at the state and national level for the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, and in 2010 she opened her own nutrition practice, Move2Veg Nutrition Counseling. For more information, visit move2veg.com.

References:

  1.  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets (2016)
  2.  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group RD Resource for Professionals: Vegetarian/Vegan Myths (2012)
  3.  greatveganathletes.com
  4.  Davis, Brenda, RD, and Melina, Vesanto, MS, RD. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. Summertown: Book Publishing Company, 2003.

 

 

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