While only two percent of Americans are vegan, this lifestyle and diet has been gaining popularity in the media and the world of nutrition, with recent focus on plant-based eating, movements like Meatless Monday and various celebrities jumping on the “vegan challenge” bandwagon, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z and, most recently, Jennifer Lopez. There are varying opinions, myths and misunderstandings about veganism, and a number of experts have stepped up to set the record straight and provide accurate information
Vegans Diet doesn’t meet nutritional needs
False. “Research shows most vegans have a diet richer in vitamins and minerals than do non-vegetarians,” says Sharon Palmer, registered dietitian and author of “The Plant-Powered Diet.” “That’s because a well-planned vegan diet is rich in plant foods, which are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) agrees, stating: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” To make sure they’re meeting their needs, vegans must include adequate amounts of foods that contain vitamins B12 and D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iodine and zinc.
Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein
Our bodies rely on 20 different amino acids to help build proteins. The body can make some of these amino acids, or building blocks, but nine of them must come from food, making them an “essential amino acid.” While most animal proteins provide all of the essential amino acids, making them a “complete protein,” the majority of plant proteins do not — making it important to consume a variety of different protein sources. “Even if a particular food choice is low in certain amino acids, if they are careful to incorporate a variety of plant-based foods into their diet, vegans can easily get all the protein they need,” says Joanne L. Mumola Williams, holistic nutritionist and author of “Health Begins in the Kitchen
You’ll Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet
While research shows that overall, vegans tend to be thinner; this is not always the case. “I’ve worked with dozens of clients who gained weight after transitioning to a plant-based diet,” says Georgie Fear, registered dietitian and author. “When someone adopts a vegan diet, they often decrease their intake of protein and increase their intake of carbohydrates,” Fear explains. Since carbs tend to be less satiating than proteins and fats, excesses in calorie intake can occur, which can lead to weight gain. To avoid gaining weight, Fear recommends, “focus your meals around fresh vegetables, which are low in calories, and make ample use of plant-based proteins, which are highly satiating,” such as hemp seeds, tofu, edamame, beans, nuts and seeds.
Read all 11 myths here: LIVESTRONG