Food & Diet
Top 6 Biggest Myths about Vegetarian Diets
There are many myths about vegetarian eating, and if you are inexperienced in this area, it can be easy for you to believe in everything you’re told. There are myths that go against vegetarianism, and those that support this way of life.
Here, we will present the biggest myths when it comes to vegetarian diets and uncover the real truth about them!
1. Health benefits of vegetarian diets come from avoiding foods of animal origin.
It’s true that vegetarian diets provide many health benefits, but it is not quite true that it’s because people on these diets avoid eating meat.
Several other factors are important here. For instance, vegetarians usually base their diet on whole foods and avoid harmful refined (refined sugars, grains, oils, etc) and processed foods. By avoiding them, vegetarians don’t take in as many harmful ingredients and chemicals as someone who eats processed foods does.
2. A vegetarian diet doesn’t provide you with enough energy to be physically active.
There are many athletes who are vegetarian and don’t eat meat but can successfully engage in physical activities.
Tara Gidus, RD, a dietician and nutritionist, says that you can definitely have enough energy while only eating plants, you just need to learn which foods provide the best energy and are good alternatives when it comes to taking in nutrients that are usually found in animal products, such as vitamin B12 and protein.
3. If you become a vegetarian, you will lose weight.
Not all vegetarians are skinny. In fact there are numerous vegetarians who are struggling with their weight due to eating too many carbohydrates. Of course, if you are a vegetarian and pick your food well, you will look good, but if you’re eating lots of starchy carbs, you probably won’t.
As Gidus explains, “Vegetarians who eliminate meat but continue to eat highly processed foods are not getting the benefits of a plant-based diet.”
So, if you want to improve your health with a vegetarian diet, avoid processed foods and base your nutrition on whole plant foods. When you do that, you will probably also lose weight. But vegetarianism is not directly linked with weight loss.
4. Soy products are good substitutes for meat and dairy products.
Many vegetarians use soy products to satisfy their needs for protein. And although soy really is rich in protein, it can’t be said to be a healthier choice than meat, mostly because almost all soy on the market is highly processed, which makes it fairly unhealthy for consumption.
Besides that, processed soy foods contain high levels of trypsin inhibitors which can disrupt the process of protein digestion. Moreover, soybeans don’t contain cysteine, methionine and tryptophan, which are among the most important amino acids commonly taken in through meat.
In moderate amounts and when consumption is not frequent, soy can be harmless, but if your nutrition is based on these products, you should reconsider your food choices. Modernly used and sold soy contains phytoestrogens, which have been shown to depress thyroid function and cause sterility in all animals tested through research.
Soy is certainly not healthy, and especially not healthier than meat. But if you’re a vegetarian, try to find other sources of amino acids and try to stay away from soy as much as possible.
5. Vegetarians live longer and are at a lower risk of developing deadly diseases.
Several studies claim that vegetarians live longer and are at a lower risk of developing deadly diseases, but this is more because vegetarians usually make healthier decisions when it comes to food than those who eat everything. Vegetarians are also less likely to take up smoking and drinking alcohol, and they take in more vitamins from plants.
However, meat eaters could also increase their fruit and vegetable intake and consume more vitamins without extracting meat from their diet. A study conducted in 1996 in the U.K. found that there is no difference in mortality rates between health conscious vegetarians and health conscious meat eaters.
So, it actually comes down to avoiding harmful foods and increasing the intake of healthy foods, and not avoiding meat altogether.
6. Being a vegetarian isn’t cheap.
This is not true at all. Junk food and meat are probably the most expensive foods on the market, while you can buy fruits and vegetables at much lower prices.
Fresh produce can sometimes be expensive – like when it’s not in season – but in that case you can also buy the frozen variants and get most of the nutrients the fresh produce would have, but at a lower cost.
For instance, frozen berries have all the same nutrients as the fresh ones, but are usually much less expensive. All it takes is research and you don’t have to be moneyless if you’re vegetarian.