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Vegan myths - demystifying the plant-based diet for Veganuary
Veganuary is here again! An increasingly popular albeit debated topic, so we want to demystify the plant-based diet by looking at some vegan myths and common misconceptions.
January 13, 2022
It’s that time of the year again - new year, new habits and a recurring event at the start of each year is Veganuary. January has long been a time for new beginnings and an opportunity to reflect on one's eating habits, and Veganuary means following a vegan diet (also referred to as a plant-based diet) for the month of January.
Essentially, a plant-based diet consists of replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives, and instead eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and food products made without any animal-derived ingredients. The reasons for adopting a plant-based diet are as diverse as the number of vegans out there, ranging from ethical response to animal exploitation and environmental convictions, to health reasons.
Regardless of the reason for participating, Veganuary challenges foodies to try the plant-based diet, explore new ingredients and flavours, and experiment with new ways of cooking. In recent years it has also become a time for food brands and restaurants to launch new vegan products and concepts, and no less than 2 million people had signed up to the Veganuary challenge 2022 in the beginning of January. Vegan food is hotter than ever and it seems like the plant-based diet is here to stay, also beyond January.
Time to debunk some vegan myths
Although being increasingly popular, Veganism is still a sensitive and highly debated topic and it seems like almost everybody has an opinion about it. Whether you belong to the for-camp or against (or maybe somewhere in-between), this Veganuary we want to clarify some common vegan myths and misconceptions about the plant-based diet.
Plant-based is not healthy
Some of the most common health concerns we hear about the plant-based diet are:
The vegan diet lacks sufficient protein sources and vegans can’t build muscles
Dairy is essential for strong bones
You cannot get vitamin B12 from a vegan diet, which can cause anaemia
Well… Whether you eat animal products or not, only looking at one single ingredient does not guarantee you follow a healthy diet and get all the nutrients you need.
Take protein for instance. Meat has long been considered to be the best (and at times, the only) source of protein. It is true that most animal products provide complete sources of protein with all the amino acids needed for the body to function properly, while most plant-based sources of protein are not complete. However, superfoods like quinoa and buckwheat provide complete proteins too, as well as being great sources of iron and antioxidants. Additionally, legumes are a good source of protein while also being low in cholesterol and rich in fiber, which is great for your gut health!
Now looking at calcium. We have all heard that familiar tune “drinking milk is essential for strong bones”. But calcium is key, not dairy. It is absolutely true that there is calcium in dairy, but you can also find calcium in leafy greens, seeds, almonds, beans and lentils, or fortified foods (to name a few).
Finally the big one - vitamin B12 is key for a healthy body as it is essential for red blood cell formation, keeping the nervous system healthy, and to release energy from food. It is true that it is more difficult to get sufficient vitamin B12 on a vegan diet. However, you can find B12 in nori, shiitake mushrooms and spirulina. And for easier access, nowadays you can find a myriad of B12 fortified plant-based milks, cereals or even Marmite (if you fancy having that on your toast).
Plant-based is better for the planet
There are no two ways about it; what we eat has an impact on the planet. It is now commonly known that ruminants and their by-products (meat and dairy) have a carbon footprint significantly higher than their plant-based counterparts. However, going plant-based to eat climate-friendly is not as straightforward as swapping beef burgers for veggie ones, or opting for an almond milk cappuccino.
Indeed, some plant-based foods also come with a heavy price for the planet. There are more factors than cows' fart to take into consideration when it comes to eating better for the planet. For instance, how your greens are grown (organic vs conventional agriculture), and transported to you (boat, air freight, trucks, or if you grew them in your garden). Not to forget the impact that producing food can have on the soil, water, and land-use change.
In general, a vegan diet is better for the planet, but it's important to be aware of WHAT you replace animal products with. An easy way to take the climate into consideration is to look into what we at Klimato call the Klimatorian diet.
Eating plant-based means boring and less varied food
Nope, vegans do NOT only eat salad like rabbits. Actually, being vegan can take your tastebuds on a journey as many dishes from Nepal, India, and North Africa are traditionally vegan. Also, there are loads of plant-based alternatives to meat, fish and dairy which gives the option to keep making vegan versions of the dishes you know and love. Yes, even that greasy burger that leaves your hands all shiny can be made completely vegan!
There are many influencer chefs that you can turn to for vegan cooking inspiration! Ottolenghi is one of our personal favourites who brings new and exciting flavours and inspiration, and many of his recipes happen to be vegan.
Try something new this Veganuary!
Whether you are a convinced vegan, try to include plant-based days to your lifestyle, or are just curious about it, Veganuary is a time to challenge yourself to try something new for a month. This Veganuary we encourage everyone to experiment and seek new knowledge and inspiration - maybe you'll find a new favourite dish that you otherwise wouldn't have tried? For your health, the planet or just because it is delicious, Veganuary means an opportunity to make small positive changes, one meal at a time!