5 vegan myths busted

Although plant-based diets are seeing a surge in popularity, they’re still outside of the mainstream; it’s no wonder that there is so much misinformation about what happens when you drop meat, eggs, and dairy from your meals. Unfortunately, many of the myths about this form of diet could deter people from giving veganism a try, especially if they fear that plant-based diets fall short on nutrition or are unappealing and restrictive. Here are five myths we wish to debunk to help people who plan to go vegan.

1. It’s a protein-deficient diet

Contrary to this popular opinion about vegetarian and vegan diets, if you are eating a wholesome meal including beans and greens, in all probability you’re meeting your required protein intake.

The average person requires 56 gm of protein per day which can be met easily by eating a cup of kidney beans or rajma along with a scoop of peanut butter or a bowl of dal along with almonds, tofu, soy milk and green vegetables. Going by the average Indian diet, that is rich in pulses and greens, one should by default get enough protein.

2. If you don’t drink milk, you will end up having weaker bones!

One of the most common myths about milk is that it is good for our bones. Myth? Yes. It is easy to understand the confusion around milk since it does in fact, contain calcium — around 130 mg per 100 ml. But like all animal protein, milk is likely to acidify the body’s pH level, which in turn triggers a biological correction. Since calcium is an excellent acid neutraliser and is majorly stored in our bones, the very same calcium that our bones need to stay strong is used to neutralise the acidifying effect of milk. Thus, the net result of drinking milk is actually, calcium deficit.

Interestingly, India is one of the largest consumers of milk in the world and also has more than 10 million cases of osteoporosis each year, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Since calcium is an essential nutrient for survival, it is present by default in many plants and nuts. One’s calcium requirement can easily be met by consuming a plant-based diet, which consists of sesame, sunflower seeds, almonds, beans, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, soya milk and tofu.

3. Vegan diets are not healthy!

On the contrary, a plant-based diet is far healthier. Eating a vegan diet is like any other way of eating: we need to take care of what we’re putting in our body and our body will take care of us. However, vegan diets also have numerous advantages over others. A report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) quotes “Households should select predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses or legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods. The evidence that such diets will prevent or delay a significant proportion of non-communicable chronic diseases is consistent. A predominantly plant-based diet has a low energy density, which may protect against obesity.” Out of the top 10 lifestyle diseases in India, eight can be avoided by shifting to a plant-based diet. Vegans are also far less likely to suffer from obesity, cancer, heart disease, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other lifestyle diseases.

4. A vegan lifestyle is expensive

It’s a common myth that a vegan diet is costlier because you have to substitute animal products with fancy plant-based ones. Not really! Eating a healthy plant-based diet is actually cheaper compared to eating a diet which consists of meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Even when vegans buy and consume packaged soy milk and tofu, the average grocery bill will be lesser than that of a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian. The basic ingredients remain the same in most dishes, the only change is that instead of using ghee, one uses sunflower oil or instead of meat, one uses jackfruit or tofu.

Simple changes like these can result in lowering your grocery bill. One doesn’t even have to buy packaged soy or almond milk, because unlike cow milk, plant-based milk can be made at home!

5. Vegans only eat salads

This is the most common misunderstanding of plant-based eating. Yes, vegans eat only plants, but what does this entail? Plant-based foods include fruits, vegetables and starchy foods like potatoes, beans, fruits and whole grains, from which one can make filling comfort foods like lasagne, pizza, Mexican rice, beloved old rajma chawal even, not to forget the lovely chole bathure. Everyday Indian dishes are the easiest to veganise. 

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(The writer leads the #DontGetMilked campaign, by FIAPO)

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