Despite the fact that veganism is increasingly mainstream, there are a number of pervasive and lingering myths and misconceptions that surround it.
Whether you want to fact-check a crazy rumour, to clarify your own thoughts on a particular issue, to have the perfect rebuttal to a vegan myth in your armoury to silence the most annoying of your friends, or you simply want a bit of a giggle, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common vegan myths and misunderstandings.
Myth: Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein
Perhaps the most common concern exhibited by friends, relatives and partners of vegans or would-be vegans revolves around a perceived lack of protein. We have various articles about this issue, including information about the best sources of vegan protein and about vegan supplements, as well as about the many available vegan protein powders and bars.
The fact is that in the developed world the vast majority of people, vegans and non-vegans alike, do not have any issue eating enough protein. There are many dietary issues that most people would be far better focussing on, not least eating more fibre and as wide a range of micronutrients as possible. Now, these are both areas where vegans generally do very well. Far be it from us to suggest that the meat industry might have had some involvement in getting protein to be the one nutrient upon which most people fixate!
There are loads and loads of excellent sources of protein available to those eating a plant-based diet. Nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and pulses are all great options, as are the many meat substitutes, such as seitan, Quorn and tofu.
The idea that a vegan diet will automatically be lacking in protein, or even that lots of vegans struggle to eat enough protein, is just wrong and we call myth!
Myth: If You Play Sport, You Can’t be Vegan
Related to the idea above is the concept that if you play sport you simply have to consume animal protein and therefore vegans can’t be successful at any form of athletic endeavour. This myth is very easily and simply dispelled by the many brilliant vegan athletes and even vegan bodybuilders that exist.
Some of these “vegans” may only follow a plant-based diet rather than be “full” vegans but if the likes of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic can win Grand Slams on a vegan diet, we think your friend will be more than safe running the local half-marathon without eating turkey breasts!
Myth: The Vegan Diet Is Unhealthy
We discuss this issue at length in our feature on the many health reasons for going vegan but if anyone tells you that a vegan diet is unhealthy then, quite simply, they are wrong.
Firstly, much depends on how we consider the issue because there is clearly no such thing as a single “vegan diet”, nor is there such a thing as a singular non-vegan one. Some vegans have great diets and some don’t and the same applies to those who eat meat and animal products.
Whilst we accept that it could be true to state that the healthiest diet imaginable might be omnivorous, the reality is that by eschewing foods derived from animals, most people are automatically going to remove many unhealthy foods from their diet.
Most sources of saturated fat are gone, including high fat foods, such as butter and cream, and the many pastries, cakes and biscuits they go into. Whilst vegan substitutes often exist, these are frequently healthier and, as they are harder to find or make, they tend to be eaten less frequently.
Moreover, a vegan diet is often less likely to contain as many processed foods because it is easier to know exactly what you are eating if you make it yourself. On top of that, vegans are far more likely to consume a wider range of fruit, veg, nuts and seeds that almost all experts agree are the cornerstones of a healthy diet.
Lots and lots of studies show some of the health benefits of being vegan. One large study indicated that vegans had lower rates of obesity and others indicate lower levels of various cancers among vegans.
As said, diet is an individual matter and within a “vegan diet” there are an infinite number of possibilities but it is categorically untrue to state that vegans are unhealthy. Once again, we’d say Novak Djokovic was a pretty good argument against that concept!
Myth: Vegan’s Can’t Get Enough…
A lack of protein may be the number one issue that many have against veganism but you can basically insert any nutrient and some meat-lover or other has probably tried to argue that vegans are deficient in it. We cover loads of these in the vegan health & fitness area of the site but calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and zinc are some of the more common concerns.
A carefully planned vegan diet can, however, just about meet any and all of our nutritional needs. Those with particular requirements, for example bodybuilders, women who are breast-feeding, people with a particular illness or disease, or perhaps people with little exposure to sunlight, may benefit from certain supplements but that is true of the general population too rather than being specific to vegans.
Getting some nutrients is harder than others and if you don’t like a particular food or don’t have access to it then vegan supplements are, of course, a good option. However, most people, most of the time, should be able to get everything they need from their diet, without needing to eat meat or other animal products.
Myth: Children Cannot be Vegan
Parents, understandably, want the best for their children and so the decision about what to feed them is clearly one most parents take very seriously. Children have specific needs at the various developmental stages they go through but there is no reason why these can’t be met through a well-planned plant-based diet.
You might need to do a little more research and meal planning than some people but for vegans this is a tiny sacrifice to make in order to raise children who fully understand compassion and love for other living beings.
As we have detailed above, vegan diets can be and often are very healthy and can provide all the nutrients we need. It is no different for babies and children and, indeed this is a view that the NHS largely agrees with.
Myth: Vegans are Preachy
Some vegans are preachy, we’ll admit it. But then so are some butchers. And some dairy farmers. And some marketing boards for multi-billion pound meat-related industries. Is it better to preach from the point of view of caring for sentient beings and genuinely believing the message you are sharing, or better to spread lies and half-truths in order to serve vested interests?
Ultimately, we think of ourselves as providing impartial information here at VeganFriendly.org.uk. We don’t think we preach or try to “convert” people, but simply offer them the facts as we find them and let them make their own decisions. If you want to preach the gospel of the vegan way, good for you. But equally, we feel you should respect that some people may not want, or may not be ready, to hear it.
Myth: Vegans Are Hippies
We’re not sure what is wrong with being a hippy but aside from that, we go back to a recurring point: some vegans may be hippies but many are not. Some people carry with them a very outdated concept of what veganism is and what vegans are like that perhaps, just perhaps, was once true for a couple of years in the 1960s!
Much has changed since then and especially so over the past few years. Vegans are now as likely to be hipsters as they are hippies (and even more likely to be hippos given hippopotami are herbivores but that’s possibly veering slightly off topic!). A plant-based diet is just as likely to include a vegan doner kebab or a dirty vegan burger as it is to include lentils.
But in truth the vegan as tattooed hipster (although please note, many tattoos are not vegan) is just replacing one stereotype with another. The modern reality is that you find vegans competing in the Olympic Games, playing in the Premier League, sitting in the Houses of Parliament, getting high at music festivals and making key business decisions in boardrooms. Newsflash: vegans are just people.
Myth: Vegans Are Boring
Did you not read the above? These guys are taking drugs at Glasto! Acting in Hollywood films. Having number one records and possibly throwing televisions out of hotel windows. Vegans exist in all walks of life.
Of course, some vegans can be very boring. Yes, some vegans will tell you how they tried 13 different ways of preparing a jackfruit to recreate pulled pork whilst also telling you about the latest ethically sustainable palm oil they use to make the world’s greatest vegan brownies. But then some vegans are the best, kindest, most interesting people alive.
“Vegan” is a label in a world that loves to label everything but it is a label with many meanings and rather than stereotype, we should at least attempt to embrace them all.
Myth: Vegan Food Isn’t Filling
Many vegan staples are high in fibre and fibre helps you feel fuller for longer because it is digested more slowly. High fibre, high protein foods, such as beans and legumes, are the perfect food to keep you feeling full and they are 100% vegan.
What’s more, because most fruits and veg have a high water content and are naturally low in energy, you can often fill your plate without racking up the calories.
Myth: Vegan Food is Boring
Sorry to sound like a stuck record but, yes, some vegan food is boring and some isn’t. Plain quinoa is rather boring. A plate of iceberg lettuce could be conceived as boring (though personally we love the texture and find it very refreshing!).
But lots and lots of vegan food is actually incredibly exciting. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and that is partly why so many plant-based dishes are so good. If you can’t use the “easy” wins offered by animal fats, textures and flavours, you have to get more creative and that process alone is incredibly exciting and innovative.
What’s more, as a generalisation that isn’t always true, vegan dishes pack in more flavour. Meat-eaters may love steak and chips but objectively, are both of those food types not rather bland? In contrast many brilliant vegan recipes are packed full of herbs and spices and colours and textures.
Myth: Going Vegan Is Hard
Some people will find going vegan hard but if you are committed to a healthier diet that is better for the environment and certainly a whole lot better for the world’s animals, in truth, it is easy.
As with anything, if you focus on what you haven’t got, or what you can’t eat, going vegan may be tricky. However, focus on the great thing you are doing for the planet, yourself and animals everywhere, plus all the amazing, delicious and healthy foods you can eat, and becoming a vegan will be easy. You can check out our own how to go vegan guide and there is loads more info on the subject elsewhere too.
Myth: Vegan Food Is Expensive & Time Consuming to Make
Once again, this is a massive generalisation that can be applied to some vegan food and some non-vegan food. Vegan food is not expensive or time consuming per se and there are lots and lots of quick, cheap, easy dishes that are super-tasty and highly nutritious.
What could be easier, quicker or more nutritious than a simple vegetable soup using whatever is cheap, seasonal or reduced for a quick sale? Or how about a simple dhal with a few basic spices? Few foods are better value than lentils and as well as various minerals and vitamins you also get an excellent whack of protein and fibre.
Myth: Going Vegan Won’t Save the World
One person alone going vegan won’t save the world, of course, but we can only be truly responsible for our own actions. The environmental argument for going vegan is clear and with the planet facing a climate crisis and a fast-growing population, using land, water and resources as efficiently as possible is key to us having a future on this planet.
By deciding to adopt a vegan lifestyle, you will personally spare the lives of literally thousands of animals over the course of your life. You will also massively reduce your carbon footprint and, perhaps more importantly, you will show others that change is possible and you will serve as a role model for them.
Myth: Honey & Wool Are Vegan
Myth: Eating Out Is Impossible as a Vegan
Where have you been and where are you eating? In the UK, there are now masses of dedicated vegan restaurants, covering fine dining, fast food and everything in between. There are loads of vegan food trucks and stalls at festivals and markets and just about every mainstream restaurant you visit will usually have at least one vegan option.
Greggs famously even does a vegan sausage roll and whilst we’re not claiming a trip to Greggs is “eating out”, this is indicative of the increasing trend for better vegan options in restaurants, cafes, pubs and takeaways.
Myth: Being Vegan Is Impossible in France
Some people think that if they go on holiday to France (or Spain, Italy or almost anywhere else in the world) following their vegan diet will be impossible. In France, everything comes with butter, cheese and cream, doesn’t it? Spain is all jamon and seafood paella and the USA is just burgers and ribs!
Once again, where have you been over the past five or so years? OK, some countries might not be as vegan friendly as places like the UK, the USA and New Zealand, but a vegan can get a very good meal in a restaurant in virtually every city in the world we fancy.