Ok, so we all know that the vegan diet has been much maligned throughout history, from its false association with limp-wristed, noodle-armed non-athletes throughout the 20th Century and the decrying of its cause by the food mainstream. As a child, if you saw a particularly wan, pale and skinny individual, you would remark to your friends, "Why, perchance that fellow has not had his quota of dead animal snacks today? Perhaps half a roast chicken would straighten him up and put a bit of colour in his hide!" I remember this really clearly when I was younger, with the older generation particularly distrustful of non-meat eaters but the younger generation rushed to try to keep up with this jaundiced viewpoint!
With this article I'm going to give you vegan types a chance to fight back against this misinformation and present an argument actually based on science! Logic won't always prevail against a particularly braying antagonist but gosh darn it, I'm going to see you go into battle armed with the most concise arguments against the five most common myths about veganism!
Let the wisdom commence!
Myth #1: "You don't get enough protein from plants and stuff!"
I need to take a deep breath with this one. A very common (and inane) argument that can be surprisingly hard to counter, this is definitely a myth. As I outlined in my previous post about proteins, the essential amino acids can be found in every plant, vegetable and fruit. You can get all of the essential ones easily as long as you have a varied diet of fruits and vegetables, as they will combine together to get you a more than ample amount. No special combinations are required either, as is often thought, so you don't need to fret about matching split peas with pumpkin seeds; just enjoy the food and keep it varied!
Myth #2: "But vegans are just sooooooo pale and skinny, they must not get enough fat!"
Ok, I could trot out some sort of testimonial from some amazing healthsome bodybuilding vegan who is rosy of cheek and packing some serious guns, but this is not necessary - there are plenty of those people out there! Vegan diets do tend to be lower in fat than most conventional Western diets but this doesn't mean a lack of them; often vegans are eating higher quality fats and fats that are traditionally considered healthy (the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones). I will defend the often falsely maligned high quality saturated fats to my last breath, but it is true that most Westerners eat poor quality saturated fats from unhealthy animals and since an unhealthy animal stores its toxins and unwanted nasties in its fat, this can often be a problem for any of us higher up the food chain!
As a vegan, you will sidestep that whole issue and can instead focus on getting a healthy amount of fats from the other groups. Again, keep up variety and don't be afraid to chow on the fat. Fat will make you fit, not fat. (Ignore your common sense reading of that, as it will lead you in a completely wrong direction. Mine sounds crazier, but it is true!)
Myth #3: "You must get bored just eating carrots and green stuff?"
I am not vegan, as I have mentioned in previous posts. However, the above statement makes my blood boil so hot, I often want to beat the sayer of nonsense over the head with a half eaten swede and garrotte them with a shallot. Vegetables, fruit, herbs and the like are what give the best meals the most exquisite flavours. If you remove these from the equation, you are left with a poor quality meal that needs artificial flavourings and sugary, gloopy sauces to give it a vestige of flavour. Skip that glutinous, poisonous filth and just get the taste from veg! It really is that easy! The better quality the produce, the stronger and more varied the tastes, and the influence it can have over your food. Trust me; organic garlic, onions and ginger pretty much makes a delicious aromatic dish on its own before you even add anything else!
It is true that vegans will drop whole food categories from their diet but what you might lack in categories, you can make up for in a greater exploration of the ones you have. Try new veg and fruit, explore new herbs and try out alternatives to dairy and meat products. Some of them might taste bland (as any foods can) but most are delicious, as my girlfriend and I found with a batch of dairy-free ice cream we bought. I was a bit sceptical, being an ice cream fiend, but my stomach and brain were completely won over - truly delicious! Keep on experimenting and just try to emphasize the variety aspect when you meet with a doofus!
Myth # 4: "Don't vegans need a vitamin supplement? B12 or something? Humans aren't meant to live like that!"
Sigh. Again, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing! People often think that because vitamin B12 is necessary for optimum human health and that vegans often need to supplement their diets with B12, that somehow this makes a vegan diet completely unnatural and unholy. This is straight up, grade-A hypocrisy! The $25 billion industry for supplements in the United States ALONE suggests that vitamin B12 isn't the only that this is being missed form our modern diets, and that it isn't just vegans buying them (unless they are really big spenders!). A large number of people supplement their diets, especially with Vitamin C (bizarrely, since fruits and vegetables are so widely available) and Vitamin D (understandably, as we have moved away from the equatorial regions that gave us enough sunlight to absorb ample amounts of it). We may as well claim it is unnatural to move away from our species starting point in Africa!
Myth #5: "Doesn't it hurt when you first become a vegan? I heard you get totally sick!"
There is no need for someone to become ill when they transition from carnivore or veggie to full of vegan. The common logic goes that when you change, you are detoxing, releasing loads of toxins that have accumulated for years in your systems and you get a kind of cumulative thrashing as your body tries to sort itself out.
This isn't true.
There is no such thing as a "detox diet". This was invented by marketing men to sell you new things.
Long term healthy eating will help your system run at optimum efficiency, not a fad diet. Your body is full of super efficient organs that will help you out throughout and will work more efficiently as you release them from the strain of taking in poor quality food. You should feel perfectly fine and in fact, if the quality of the food you are eating improves, you should feel much better than you did previously! The old adage is true: you are what you eat, so if you want to feel clean, clear and fresh, start with some delicious high quality organic foods!
Of course, we could write an entire book on the benefits of a vegan diet (and people have; check out the groundbreaking China Study) but here are at least a few bits to help you out in an argument with a particularly ignorant slughead. Feel free to shout "TOUCHE!" as you use it and help stop the spread of misinformation! Go out into the world just a little better armed.