Not all vegans are weaklings, live in communes or wear their hair in dreadlocks, FYI. We dispel veganism's biggest myths...
Vegans very often get a bad rap. The general public are coming round to a plant-powered way of living thanks to the likes of Beyoncé , but tired stereotypes stubbornly remain. We’ll kick off dispelling a vegan untruth, and then let our vegan sisters and spokeswomen take it from there.
1. Myth: Vegan food is expensive
Truth: You don’t need to give your pay packet to Wholefoods to live, or even dabble in, a vegan diet. Learn to spice up veggies, take tofu to the next level and whip up vegan protein pancakes and neither your wallet or your body will be left wanting. You’ll save by skipping out animal products, so that the likes of quinoa won’t hit you that hard anyway. If you’re struggling, our Ultimate Vegan Recipe Guide comes in at a very reasonable £6.95 and gives you all the tools you could ever desire to do vegan on the cheap, or alternatively splash out if you so wish and show your mates/ partner/ anyone who’ll come over how delicious, inventive and frankly good-looking vegan food can be.
2. Myth: You can't get the best results from your workouts if you’re a vegan
Truth: The amount of protein each of us needs is highly individual, and yes, you can eat a vegan diet high in plant proteins, but I eat a relatively low protein vegan diet and still manage 3-4 Crossfit workouts per week. After much trial and error that's what works for me and I feel great. There's no conclusive correct answer about what's right or wrong, but it is worth playfully experimenting with your diet to find out what makes your own body sing.
3. Myth: It's hard to eat out as a vegan
Truth: In seven years of being vegan I've never been stuck for something to eat. In today's excessive society, it's pretty hard to actually 'go hungry'. Asian, Middle Eastern and South American menus are particularly easy to order from, and if I'm really stuck, say at a modern British or traditional French place, I'll order three or four side dishes, and then possibly have some dark chocolate when I get home. The only tool you need for getting something you want is a big smile and some good manners, and waiters are usually happy to accommodate you.
In terms of making changes when you order out, I encourage staying inside your comfort zone on this one. Keep it abundant, order lots of food, eat things that excite you. If you're only ever ordering mixed salad, it'll feel too restrictive and will backfire (not to mention you can't thrive on such little fuel). Have hummus, edamame, avocado sushi rolls, guacamole, grain bowls, pastas, burritos, and celebrate yourself while doing it.
4. Myth: It's restrictive
Truth: Any lifestyle is what you make it. It's the same with eating healthy as an omnivore; you could have plain baked chicken breasts and broccoli or you can sautée the whole thing with garlic and spices and add some relish and suddenly it’s way more exciting. It's exactly the same thing with eating vegan; a sense of fun is crucial for making something sustainable in the long term.
5. Myth: You'll lose weight automatically
Truth: There is a ton of junk food out there that qualifies as vegan: oreos, french fries and fizzy drinks to name a few. Will these make you drop pounds and feel awesome just because they're free of animal foods? No. Is there room for them as occasional treats when the rest of your diet is healthy? Absolutely. Just don't do what I did and get lured into thinking that just because it's dairy free or gluten free, I can eat it till the cows come home (no pun intended).
As a vegan I get asked a lot of questions. Some from people who don’t understand why I made this decision, and some who seem genuinely interested. I work in the fitness industry, which seems to be heavily slanted towards the paleo lifestyle (completely opposite to veganism). My usual response is to not believe all the myths and horror stories you may read about. You could research the negatives of any diet out there, so why does veganism get all the stick? Whether you’re interested in veganism or not, I’m here to clear up some of these misunderstandings.
6. Myth: Vegans simply don’t get enough protein
Truth: Yes protein is necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. Protein consists of chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks for our body. They are needed to repair and reproduce cells, break down food and create hormones. However, we don’t need as much as you think and we can find it from different sources. Animal products like chicken, beef and fish are traditionally seen as the main sources of protein, but foods like peas, nuts, beans and pulses are also just as great. There are so many plant-based sources of protein, you just have to make sure to eat enough of it.
7. Myth: Vegans usually suffer from some kind of deficiency
Truth: This annoys me as anyone can suffer from a deficiency if they don’t eat a balanced diet. Just because you choose not to eat animal products doesn’t mean that you’re going to be seriously lacking in a macro or micronutrient. The most common deficiency amongst vegans is a lack of vitamin B12, which is harder to source from plant-based foods. This is easily solvable by eating foods that are fortified with B12 or through taking supplements. One of my favourite B12 rich products is nutritional yeast. I use this sprinkled over many meals as it gives a cheesy taste and a Parmesan-like texture.
8. Myth: Vegans have no energy
Truth: It’s not scientifically proven, but most vegans tend to eat a greater volume of whole foods than non-vegans. As a vegan I eat an abundance of healthy food, and constantly feel satisfied. It’s a win-win situation. You eat more, and have far fewer cravings.
9. Myth: Vegan food is boring
Truth: Vegan food is absolutely not boring. You can basically make any meal and turn it vegan if you get creative. Take my old favourite macaroni cheese. Instead of making it with lashings of cheese and milk, I make it by blending cashews, almond milk, nutritional yeast and flour. I can’t tell you how much it tastes like the real deal, if not better. If you have a sweet tooth, make some brownies by replacing the egg and butter with dates and coconut sugar, which instantly makes it healthier. Is this making you hungry?...So to conclude you can eat anything you feel like or used to love before you were a vegan.
10. Myth: If you’re on a vegan diet, you’ll have very little muscle tone
Truth: I thought I would address this topic, as I am a personal trainer. Being in the gym, surrounded by endless protein shakes, I get to see how dependant some people have become on packing protein into their systems in any way that’s convenient. I’m not disputing that this works, but there are so many other healthier ways of gaining muscle. Did you know there exists something called a ‘vegan bulk’? This simply means upping your intake of nuts, seeds, chickpeas, peas and lentils etc. Just get more into your system and watch that butt grow!
I hope this has cleared a few things up in your mind about vegans. If this has inspired you to try veganism then great. I’d recommend going vegan for one day a week at first, and really educating yourself. There’s so many great plant based meals out there that are just waiting for you to sink your teeth into!
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