Misconceptions about veganism are more widespread than the truths. No matter where we visit, we always hear someone say how they could never be vegan but they know a few vegans, that vegan food doesn’t taste good, or (the worst one) that they’ll be malnourished. (You can be malnourished on any diet if it’s not balanced or if you aren’t getting proper guidance from a doctor or nutritionist.)
Whether you’re trying to quell any doubts about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle or you’re looking for more information to defend yourself at family dinners, we’ve debunked 16 of the most common misconceptions about veganism so you can feel confident in any conversation.
16 Misconceptions About Veganism Debunked
Veganism is Expensive
Misconception: My grocery bill will be twice as high and is not affordable for a family of four, or a struggling single person with high rent.
The Truth: With any grocery list, this can be true if you only purchase industrialized, processed, or prepared items. If your grocery cart consists of only pre-cut veggies, Miyoko’s cheeses, and Gardein frozen chick’n, you’re bound to see your bill start to climb.
To make sure your bill of vegan groceries doesn’t become a cliché, look to buy dry goods in bulk and whole food plant-based items like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Veganism is Only Accessible in Large Cities
Misconception: A vegan diet and lifestyle is a luxury that can only be had in large and wealthy cities. Anywhere else, it’s a burden and unsustainable.
The Truth: When Middle America utilizes most of its farmland to produce beef and grow grains to feed livestock, why would these towns make dairy-free cheese and meatless substitutes accessible? While you may not be able to find some of the more popular vegan brands or even a large selection of produce, it’s still possible to have a plant-based diet even in the middle of nowhere.
Even in the driest food deserts, one can often find access to pasta, legumes, and a few frozen or fermented vegetables. If necessary, citizens can consider driving outside their zip code for monthly pick-up of groceries, visit farmer’s markets, or order food deliveries like Imperfect Foods in the U.S. or Spuds in Canada.
Vegan Cuisine is Flavorless
Misconception: Real flavor comes from animal protein and its fats. Vegetables, and especially meat replacements, have no flavor and horrible texture.
The Truth: It’s true that meat products have a flavor. It doesn’t mean that they’re all tasty. Would anyone consider Burger King to be crème de la crème? Just because it’s vegan food doesn’t mean it’s inedible.
While we might have lived through a time where vegan replacements were not as great as they are now, we now live in a world with Miyoko’s, Violife, Impossible Foods, and Lightlife. These companies are changing the game.
In regards to a whole foods plant-based diet, there’s no diet more flavorful than this one! Choose from an array of spices, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits, and you’re bound to explore a world of pumpkin curries, cashew cheese and beet pizza, and passion fruit cheesecake.
Vegans Can’t Travel
Misconception: Because vegan products are only available in affluent urban areas, any vegan person cannot travel to anywhere else.
The Truth: Vegan restaurants, shopping, and events aren’t stuck to the coasts and their major cities. Many cities in Middle America, like Salt Lake City and Louisville, have strong, tight-knit communities that are full of vegan shops and restaurants. Best of all, they draw upon the ingredients and fashion trends of their cultural environments to create meals and looks that are distinctly their own.
You Can’t Eat Comfort Food or Your Childhood Favorites
Misconception: Many of my favorite comfort foods — like hamburgers, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and brownies — have animal products in them. I can’t enjoy these ever again if I were vegan!
The Truth: Many of these comfort foods can be made at home with vegan replacements or with plant-based replacements that have the same textures and flavor profiles as their animal-based counterparts. You can easily find these flavors in nuts, nutritional yeast, beets, mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, and other accessible ingredients. If anything, the vegan fast food market is only expected to grow in variety and availability and you can easily find these traditional comfort foods at both local and chain restaurants and coffee shops.
Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein
Misconception: Plant-based foods don’t contain enough protein to keep a person alive, let alone strong and energetic throughout the day.
The Truth: It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein. For example, tofu has 20 grams, black beans have 15 grams, and lentils have 18 grams per serving.
Most American adults eat about 100 grams of protein per day, or roughly twice the recommended amount (46 grams of protein a day for women and 56 grams for men). Those on a vegan plant-based diet can easily get 60 to 80 grams of protein throughout the day from foods like beans, legumes, nuts, broccoli, and whole grains.
Even better, legumes also contain many other essential nutrients that we need to stay healthy, like fiber and amino acids — B-Vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium and probiotics — that encourage the growth of good gut bacteria all without the cholesterol, high saturated fat, and growth hormones that come with animal products.
You Can’t Be an Athlete
Misconception: I’m a weightlifter and a hardcore athlete. There’s no way I can maintain my stamina and my muscle tone on a vegan diet.
The Truth: The award-winning documentary The Game Changers has shown us that many of the world’s most advanced athletes are adopting vegan diets to maintain their performance and break records. Among these athletes are World Record-Holding Strongman Patrick Baboumian, eight-time U.S. national cycling champion Dottie Bausch, former firefighter and current triathlete Rip Esselstyn, American Record-Holding Weightlifter Kendrick Farris, Linebacker Derrick Morgan of the Tennessee Titans, Two-Time Australian 400M Champion Morgan Mitchell, as well as many other household names, like Venus Williams and Colin Kaepernick.
You’ll Be the Outcast at Family Meals
Misconception: My family is very close and regularly meets for large meals where meat is the centerpiece. They will never understand a meal without meat and will make fun of me.
The Truth: Not all cultural groups, or families, understand a vegan lifestyle. It can be difficult to introduce a vast change in diet, especially if they feel it challenges their morals, values, and long-standing traditions. Regardless, you have the right to eat the way you wish, as do they. As long as you are not opposing their meals, they shouldn’t oppose yours either. If you need tips as to how to interact with omnivores over special occasions, check out our article here.
Vegans Hate All Non-Vegans
Misconception: All vegans are extremists. They hate everyone that eats meat, never fail to tell someone that they’re vegan, and always shove their ideals down our throats. Just let us live! Stop acting so high-and-mighty.
The Truth: There are, no doubt, vegan extremists who post every video they can find of slaughterhouses, dairy farms, and impose their vegan diet on others in an unkind manner. But there is a difference between someone talking about their diet and their passion for veganism and someone shoving it down your throat. Remember, accountability feels like an attack when someone isn’t ready to acknowledge how their behavior harms others. If you’re upset someone’s talking about veganism, you may want to ask yourself why.
Veganism is Just a Fad
Misconception: Veganism is just a fad. It’s another celebrity diet just like Atkins, keto, low-carb, or whatever the rich people are pushing on us this year. It’s not a sustainable way of life, as all diets are not sustainable.
The Truth: All of the world’s largest industries — travel, fashion, medical, agriculture, and entertainment — all are seeing increasing demands from consumers for eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sustainable, and non-toxic products and services. Veganism is also becoming a subject of public policy, as is seen in Canada, whose federal government encourages all Canadians to adopt a plant-based diet in its current food guide. The times are changing and veganism is certainly not a fad, no matter how many celebrities seem to advocate for it and then go back to eating meat saying that they were “malnourished.”
Veganism is Taking Jobs Away from Hard-Working People and Reputable Industries
Misconception: My whole town’s economy is based off of the meat and dairy industry. If we all went vegan, then my entire community is out of a job. Why should our small towns bend over to the whims of large cities?
The Truth: The vegan business community doesn’t want to see mass unemployment or human suffering, which is why its leaders are leading programs to help farmers transition from the raising and harvesting of animal products to plant-based ones. Agricultural groups are also lobbying to enact legislation to create jobs and funding for animal farmers who want to transition to sustainable endeavors such as supplying the plant-based foods market. This will help farmers retain their employees, hire more, and grow their business as the demand for plant-based products continues to grow. Both have proven to be working, as the plant-based food industry is projected to create more than 60,000 jobs in the U.S. that pay a total of $3.6 billion in income each year.
We’ve Been Eating Meat and Dairy for Millennia so Why Should We Change?
Misconception: All of our ancestors ate animal products. Why should I have to give them up? This is proof that we’re able to live a healthy life eating meat and dairy.
The Truth: Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did look to animal products for some excess protein, fat, and salt, but it’s important to keep in mind that plants still made up the majority of their diet. Animal flesh wasn’t the core of a meal, and the earliest known agriculture predominantly focused on the growing of wheat, lentils, and other highly nutritious grains instead of livestock.
Before agriculture, humans didn’t have as much of a destructive influence on nature as it does now. Having a few small livestock didn’t produce a great deal of carbon dioxide or suffering; populations of animal life and landscapes could have a chance to replenish. Today, industrialized farming produces more waste, suffering, disease, and destruction than what our ancestors could have ever done 12 millennia ago.
The Plant-Based Vegan Diet Is New
Misconception: The plant-based diet is brand new. Every culture around the world eats meat and dairy, so a vegan diet is surely radical and unnecessary.
The Truth: Many indigenous societies of North America — such as the Choctaw, Aztec, Mayan, and Zapotec — all practiced vegetarian diets between 1,800 and 3,000 years ago. The domestication of animals was virtually absent from the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, so those societies did not consume dairy products (Guns, Germs, and Steel. Diamond, Jared. 1997).
Veganism is Only a Diet and Not a Lifestyle
Misconception: As long as you’re not eating meat or dairy, why do you care if there are animal products used to make your car, couch, or jacket?
The Truth: Our overall consumption of animals goes way beyond our dinner plates. Animal products can be found in our cars, couches, glues, clothing, and accessories. There are surely some vegans who do not want to go through the trouble of transitioning away from all animal products as it can be difficult. However, there are millions of others who want to dispose of their use of animal products as much as possible. For them, they will happily consume ethical vegan alternatives and they are not extreme for not wanting animal products in their home.
A Vegan Diet Deprives Children of Nutrition
Misconception: Babies NEED dairy and will be malnourished without it.
The Truth: Both “the American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that vegan diets can promote normal infant growth.” As long as essential nutrients like vitamins B and D, iron, and zinc are included in their milk and meals before and after weaning, then they will grow and develop healthfully. Non-dairy milks and formulas, tofu, and legumes are just some of the many sources of these nutrients that are readily available. The majority of pediatricians don’t have extensive education on nutrition, so if yours tells you that plant-based diets are wrong for babies, then be sure to consult a plant-based nutritionist for a second opinion.
Veganism is Not a Sustainable Industry
Misconception: Meat and dairy will always be necessary. Veganism is not a safe investment and is only for those in liberal Hollywood and San Francisco.
The Truth: The vegan food industry has been growing exponentially over the past few years. The retail food market grew by only 2.2% in 2019, but plant-based foods swelled by 11.4% in comparison. In March and April of 2020, the plant-based meat industry saw a sales surge of 264%…and that’s not counting the growth in non-dairy milk. Investment in the plant-based market grew by more than $1.1 billion in 2020, and that’s expected to grow to $74.2 billion by 2027 while demand and investment in animal-based food is expected to fall over the coming decade.
Bonus: Vegan Packaging Misleads or Confuses Consumers
Misconception: If the package says a word like “meat,” “vegan,” or “butter” on the package, then consumers will assume it’s real meat or dairy and end up buying the vegan fake substitute by accident!
The Truth: The meat and dairy industries have been lodging a plethora of lawsuits at plant-based food companies in recent years. The most recent — and among the most consequential — has been the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) against the Animal Legal Defense Fund on the behalf of Miyoko’s Creamery. In that case and many others, the CDFA and other big-ag prosecutors argued that consumers are confused by the descriptors “vegan” and “plant-based” before “meat” and “milk” — that despite these clear modifiers on packaging, consumers may still believe that they are animal-based and, therefore, feel that they are being deceived.
Despite their insistence, the argument of the CDFA and big-ag hasn’t been proven. In Miyoko’s case, the judge noted that “the state’s showing of broad marketplace confusion around plant-based dairy alternatives is empirically underwhelming…Ultimately, the court disagreed that “butter,” “lactose-free,” and “cruelty-free” claims were confusing or misleading.” Furthermore, surveys conducted by the International Food Information Council, or IFFC, affirm that “fewer than 10 percent of U.S. consumers believe that plant-based milks contain any dairy products…and that “a further 75 percent know the vegan products do not contain cow’s milk.” In short, the majority of American consumers know what they’re buying when they pick up a vegan or plant-based product at a market. The only ones who are experiencing confusion are the meat and dairy industries as they fail time and time again at sowing fear and doubt in their customers.
Still Have Questions About the Misconceptions About Veganism?
All of these misconceptions make up only a fraction of all the questions and objections that we have heard from others about our vegan lifestyle, and we don’t expect them to become fewer or less frequent anytime soon.
The heart of veganism is about being kind and open-minded. Misconceptions about veganism are still very common, but it’s easy to do your own research.
If you still have questions about veganism, consider watching a few vegan documentaries, speaking to a plant-based nutritionist like our friend Sachi Georgieva, or asking your doctor. You might be surprised how you feel about a vegan lifestyle once you actually hear the facts, and not just the misconceptions.
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