To be vegan is to be asked (daily) what on earth? Just why? And where do you get your protein from? Vegans throughout their life can expect nothing less than an onslaught of questions and/or ill-founded comments. It is very important, however, that such habitual questions and myths regarding vegan lifestyles are addressed as will be here; saving both someone their time and perhaps an animal their life.
Where do you get your protein?
Most leading scientific journals and health cooperations such as the National Library of Medicine, Medical Journal of Australia, WebMD and PhD Nutrition (to name a few) agree that a vegan diet can confidently provide the recommended protein intake. A study of adults aged between 20 – 50 in the Medical Journal of Australia found male vegans consumed 81 grams of protein per day and a mean protein intake of 54 grams for females. Comparing that to the Dietary Reference Intake report figures, male Australian vegans (on average) will consume about 25 grams more protein, and females 8 grams more than required.
|Food source||Protein count & serving size|
|Peanut butter (unsalted)||8 grams (2 tablespoons)|
|Tempeh||31 grams (1 cup)|
|Baked beans||7 grams (1 cup)|
|Lentils (boiled)||18 grams (1 cup)|
|Hummus||2.4 grams (2 tablespoons)|
|Chia seeds||4.6 grams (2 tablespoons)|
|Oats||5 grams (1 cup)|
|Green peas||8 grams (1 cup)|
|Beyond MeatTM burger||20 grams (1 pattie)|
|Wholemeal bread||7.2 grams (2 slices)|
|Flaxseed||3.8 grams (2 tablespoons)|
|White mushrooms||2.2 grams (1 cup)|
|Nutritional yeast||8 grams (2 tablespoons)|
*All data acquired from the USDA Nutritional Facts protein calculator
“Where do you get your protein? You need meat for that.” But what do cows eat?
Aren’t you deficient in B12?
B12 is a vitamin synthesised by bacteria in soils that can be absorbed by plant tissues via microbial interaction or uptaken by animal tissue when feeding on grass. It would seem logical that if vegans eat enough fruits, vegetables and grains, they would be able to consume the recommended dosage. However, due to the fact that most produce is washed prior to consumption, B12 concentrations diminish.
To put it simply, to ensure vegans are consuming enough daily B12, either take a daily B12 supplement or consume B12-fortified foods such as nutritional yeast, soy milk or certain breakfast cereals.
It is important to note that studies have found that this issue extends to meat eaters as well. Given the fact that over 95% of meat produced is from factory farms, livestock isn’t given the ability to graze on grass fields and ingest B12, instead confined to concrete and cages. Indeed, many factory-farmed livestock are actually injected with B12 (another example of an unnecessary middle-man). A study documented in the National Library of Medicine revealed low or marginal B12 consumption is now present in up to 40% of Western populations. Furthermore, as humans age, it becomes increasingly difficult to consume B12 due to problems with acids and stomach enzymes required to process the vitamin. Hence, Healthline recommends anyone “over the age of 51 — vegan or not — consider fortified foods or a vitamin B12 supplement.”
Why be vegan? You can support animals as a vegetarian
All too often, people mistake vegetarian lifestyles as the cure to animal exploitation and wonder why someone would go to the extent of being vegan. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth; the dairy industry is far more than it appears to be.
- From birth to death in hours
When a cow produces a male calf, the male is sent to markets or abattoirs at just five days or older since they cannot eventually be used to serve as milk production. Based on data from the dairy industry, 60,000 male calves are killed on-farm annually in the UK alone; equivalent to 164 babies slaughtered per day. As for the United States, newborns are (regularly) shot after being alive for just a few hours.
- The ‘lucky ones‘
Many male calves may also find themselves sent to veal crate facilities where they are placed in small plastic huts of 56cm by 137cm and chained around the neck, prevented from movement or socialisation with others. These calves will spend around 8 to 16 weeks in these crates before being sent for slaughter. The separation of calves from their mothers immediately after birth also leads to many awful psychological stresses on both the mother and calf.
- As for the mothers
Due to the fact that cows can only produce milk when pregnant, these cows are subjected to constant impregnation via artificial insemination. During the milking stage, many of the cows are overmilked and forced to suffer a relentless pursuit to generate the most product. The president of the activist organization Animal Outlook claims that people “have this image of Old MacDonald’s farm, with happy cows living on green pastures, but that’s just so far from reality.”
- Calf grafting
After a cow has given birth to a calf, the mother will begin to produce milk and continue to do so for quite some time. Though, as already mentioned, many calves are deliberately taken away or killed on the spot. To ensure the mother continues to produce large quantities of milk for human consumption, the dairy industry uses a common practice called ‘calf grafting’, whereby dead calves are stripped of their skin and then placed on another newborn to fool the mother into believing that it is her baby. Subsequently, increasing milk supply, supporting the murderous acts on calves, and placing continuous strain on cows. Such practices are legal in almost every country.
Oh, are you another one of them?
Even more concerning is the fact that people have a stereotypical negative depiction of vegans. Now and again, you may hear of a vegan blocking a city street, slapping a strip of bacon out of someone’s hand in a restaurant, or overexaggerating a health or environmental claim. Within hours, media outlets will use this event as fuel to reinstate the idea that all vegans are nuts.
Nevertheless, from my own personal experience, placing all vegans in the same basket is completely unfair. Many vegans are genuinely accepting of everyone’s decisions, just they themselves don’t choose to support and consume meat or dairy. In the end, those who make the news for some absurd streetside action are typically more interested in engaging in violence and making the news, than actually supporting a positive lifestyle movement; it just so happens that a few of them are vegan. According to The Guardian, as of 2021 there were 79 million vegans globally: not all of them are causing traffic chaos.
What do you even eat?
Another common question is “what do you even eat? Grass?” Anyone who is or was vegan will typically respond by saying exactly what you would eat without the animal. Thanks in large part to the rise of plant-based meats and dairy, this is not only possible but delicious: indistinguishable vegan spaghetti bolognese but with meatless mince, mushrooms, lentils, beans, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) or even jackfruit.
Many cultural favourites like burgers or chicken tenders obviously require plant-based alternatives, however, after being vegan for enough time – it becomes increasingly apparent that many meals don’t even require meat alternatives, and can instead taste just as good with wholefood sources. Sources like shiitake mushrooms (careful with the pronunciation!) can provide pasta dishes or Asian cuisines with a texture reminiscent of animal products. Take a look at some of the following vegan recipe websites for breakfast, snacks, dinner or desserts.
Many omnivores refuse to even try plant-based burgers or oat milk which seems rather ironic given that parents teach their kids only to judge food after trying it. To ease ourselves of hypocrisy, either try the alternatives or don’t teach what you can’t preach.
Doesn’t soy increase the risk of breast cancer?
Less common (but very concerning) is the ill-founded belief that soy products lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Such belief has no large scientific foundation to lay on. As MedicalNewsToday claims, “[t]his misunderstanding might stem from earlier studies in rodents.” Nevertheless, many scientific groups and reliable media networks all agree that this is far from true.
|Cleveland Clinic||“Clinical trials consistently show that the intake of isoflavone does not adversely affect the risk of breast cancer.”|
|National Library of Medicine||“Observational studies show that among Asian women higher soy consumption is associated with an approximate 30% reduction in risk of developing breast cancer.”|
|Cancer.net||“no studies in people have shown a link between eating soy and having breast cancer.”|
|Healthline||“There is no known link between breast cancer and eating tofu, miso, edamame, soy milk, soy sauce, or any other soy food. In fact, researchers have found that consuming soy foods can actually lower your breast cancer risk.”|
Making comments that suggest soy could lead to cancer is not only factually flawed but potentially prevents people from consuming a product that has numerous health benefits like protein, fibre, healthy fats, minerals & vitamins. Whilst also possibly lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Healthline states that “one recent review suggests that a median intake of 25 grams of soy protein per day may help reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by around 3%.”
Do you eat almonds and avocados?
For those ever-more-slightly informed omnivores, a common criticism will be to do with almonds and avocados. Why? Because during the process of growing almonds, for example, beekeepers effectively loan out their bee colonies to farms for annual pollination, however, during this process large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are applied to the almond crops, ultimately killing huge populations of bees. This isn’t incorrect and is a slightly concerning truth behind drinks like almond milk. Although, what these omnivores fail to recognise is the fact that such colonies loaned out by the farmers consist almost entirely of honeybees which – prior to almond or avocado pollination – are used to produce honey, not a vegan product.
Furthermore, one of the most common food sources provided to the meat & dairy industry – alfalfa – requires the use of bees to pollinate acres worth of potential feed. According to the USDA, between 40,000 and 60,000 leafcutting bees are required to pollinate a single acre, with alfalfa farming using herbicides like Diuron or Velpar and herbicides such as chlorpyrifos. Moreover, the USDA claims that the abundance of pollen balls in alfalfa leafcutting bee populations “account for up to 60% of immature bee mortality.”
Criticising vegans for killing bees is exceptionally hypocritical when an identical fate lies in front of millions of other bees across the globe, only this time for the service of an unnecessary middleman.
Besides, for vegans there is a simple fix: purchase organic almonds or avocadoes, purchase non-Californian nuts, or even grow a given crop in your front or backyard.
Laziness, fatigue, and low energy levels
Whilst perhaps an omnivore may not have directly said this to your face, another common belief is that vegans lack energy. This, however, goes against much of the scientific literature. Based on studies analysed by Insider, vegans typically have not just as much but more energy than their omnivorous counterparts “because your body doesn’t have to use as much energy for digesting food and the absence of added sugars, saturated fats, and carbohydrates” vegans can expect to reserve higher energy levels. Furthermore, a study revealed in Healthline found those “on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who didn’t change their diet.”
As for those between ages 30 – 50, another important finding in a study by ScienceDirect found the rich antioxidant, fibre and lactobacilli in a vegan diet can significantly ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), subsequently reducing fatigue and drowsiness symptoms that arise from RA. Healthline stated that switching “to a vegan diet can help decrease the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis by 53 percent.”
All vegans are healthy
It isn’t the worst comment to hear from your supportive peers, though it must be stressed that being vegan doesn’t necessarily equate to the peak human condition. Psychological science does suggest that those who go out of their way to be vegan for the health benefits will be more inclined to eat better food, hence why there aren’t very many unhealthy vegans. Although, if you do become vegan for animals or social equality, please don’t assume that such a diet is also a free ticket to optimal health. Just like omnivores, eating vegan ice cream and sugar-riddled peanut butter all the time will only leave you deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals.
However, if you are going vegan and take the time to ensure all health bases are covered, then of course you will reap the benefits.
Veganism seeks to shine a light on animal exploitation, stand up for the voiceless animals and helpless low socio-economic people subjected to factory farming, and support another agricultural revolution that would reduce global emissions by over 10 billion. Hopefully, this blog cleared the haze regarding some of the most common (or at least concerning) fallacies of veganism and has perhaps inspired you to begin incorporating more plant-based meals into your daily life. Even setting a weekly plant-based day can have a genuinely large impact on animals, the planet and yourself.
The science speaks for itself.