A lot of people have different ideas of what it means to follow a plant-based or mostly plant-based diet. I hear it all the time and have for most of my life, but where do these ideas come from, and are they true?
In this blog, I'll explore some of the common misconceptions around vegan diets, and what the research actually says!
Ready? Let's go!
Plant-Based Diet Myths -
Myth: Plant-based diets don’t provide enough protein 💪🏻
Truth: Protein deficiency in the US is not common and most Americans eat 1.5X the protein they need on a traditional western diet. High protein diets may impose a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver. Moreover, high-protein/high-meat diets may also be associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease and cancer due to intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol. (1) Most people need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. That means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average woman should eat about 46 grams. (2)
On a plant-based diet this can look like this:
Breakfast: 15 grams protein
1/2 cup rolled oats - 6 grams of protein
2 tablespoons hemp seeds - 6 grams of protein
1 tablespoon chia seeds - 2 grams protein
1/3 cup blueberries - 1 gram protein
Lunch: 24 grams protein
2 cups spinach - 1 gram protein
4 ounces tofu - 19 grams protein
1/4 cup Shredded carrots -.5 grams protein
10 cherry tomatoes - 1.5 grams protein
1/2 cup cucumber slices - 1 gram protein
1 tablespoon hummus - 1 gram protein
Dinner: 15 grams protein
3 oz whole wheat pasta - 12 grams of protein
1/2 cup broccoli - 1 gram protein
1/2 cup zucchini - 1 gram protein
1/2 cup tomato sauce - 1 gram protein
Snack: 12 grams protein
Honeycrisp apple - 2 grams protein
2 tablespoons almond butter - 8 grams protein
2 squares dark chocolate - 2 grams protein
Total: 66 grams protein
I've said it before - PLANTS HAVE PROTEIN. As you can see, getting enough protein on a plant-based diet is pretty easy when choosing balanced, whole foods. This is also a very simple example and does not include things like chickpea pasta or other sources of added protein like powders.
Myth: You need dairy for calcium and strong bones 🦴
Truth: Cow’s milk is not the only or even best source of calcium available and this has been pushed a lot by the dairy industry, but excess calcium can actually increase your risk of prostate or ovarian cancer. (3) While dairy also often contains more calcium than their plant counterparts, their absorption rate is around 30%, so 100 grams of calcium on a label actually equals about 30 grams your body will be able to use. Plant calcium is absorbed at 50% so 100 grams of bok choy calcium gives 50 grams to your body.
Lots of plants like leafy greens, nuts, edamame, tofu and are packed with calcium, and many plant milks, yogurts, and cereals are fortified with calcium. Vitamin D also increases calcium absorption and can be found in many of these plant foods or taken in supplement form.
Myth: Plant-based diets result in nutrient deficiency 😵💫
Truth: A healthy plant-based diet filled with a variety of Whole Foods provides an abundance of nutrients needed. There is very little evidence to support that any diet, with sufficient calories, is more likely to be deficient in any nutrient. Let's break itdown some of the most common ones.
Iron & zinc: Those following a plant-based diet may have lower iron stores, but are not more likely to be iron deficient. Iron & zinc are both less bioavailable in plant foods, but there is little evidence to show this functionally has any impact on those not consuming animal products. (4)
Vitamin B12 - This one has some truth to it, B12 is not typically found in plant-based foods, but is found in nutritional yeast, soy products, seaweed, and many fortified plant-based foods like cereals and non-dairy milks. Some vegans will need to supplement with B12 or a b complex which is fairly easy to obtain. Given that 16% of meat-eaters are B12 deficient, making an argument that just eating animals foods will avoid deficiency, isn't necessarily sound.
Myth: Vegan = Healthy 🌱
Truth: A lot of processed foods are vegan including Oreos, Fritos, and Sour Patch Kids. Simply cutting out animal products doesn’t ensure a balanced diet if you aren't mindful of what you're choosing. But it's nice to know you don't have to give up some of these classics just because you don't eat animal products ;)
Also, those who aren't used to eating plant-based might have a hard time knowing which foods to choose to feel full and can often end up snacking more on some of these options. Need help? Shoot me an email, I'd love to help create a balanced, plant-based meal plan for you!
Have you heard these? Which is the most surprising? Let me know in the comments!