Vegetarianism, a diet that stops consuming any type of meat, and within it veganism, abstention from the use of products of animal origin in food, continue to grow. According to mvorganizing.org, in 2020 8% of the population was vegetarian. In 2021, as explained in Clima Terra, there is also a 5% strictly vegan population (some 375 million people).
Whether it's because younger generations and digital natives are more aware of the environmental impact or tend to empathize with animals, or because there are those who associate vegan eating with healthy living, the point is that more and more are choosing thus. And so, it is not surprising that there are a series of doubts surrounding veganism, which are worth reviewing with experts. These are the five most widespread myths about this diet and lifestyle.
“BEING VEGAN IS MORE EXPENSIVE”
This is one of the most widespread misconceptions, that following a vegan diet requires more purchasing power because it is more expensive, or that you have to spend too much time preparing the recipes.
However, those who practice this lifestyle and follow a vegetarian diet affirm the opposite: “My friends are surprised when I show them my purchase receipt: I eat for less money than they do,” says Loira, a young vegetarian.
"What's more," she says, "I save more money than when I wasn't vegan." And she explains that "it's a matter of understanding what food you need and organizing yourself a bit." In addition, regarding the fact that it requires more time, he ensures that he does not invest too much: “It only takes more time if I want to prepare a special dish. If not, I don't take too long to have my day-to-day meals”.
“THE VEGAN DIET IS HEALTHIER”
Not all myths about veganism have negative connotations. There are also those who automatically associate “vegan” with “healthy”. And this is not necessarily so.
According to Loira, “everything depends on what you eat, just like not all non-vegan people eat equally healthy or unhealthy”, he says, and exemplifies that “if you change chicken nuggets for vegetable nuggets, it is likely that both are unhealthy.
In fact, it is often thought that, in addition to being healthy, a vegan diet always implies losing weight, "but it doesn't have to," says Loira, and repeats that "if you are a vegan based on processed foods and very caloric, with a high glycemic index or saturated fats… You don't have to lose weight, and you could even gain weight”.
As explained by nutritionist and dietician Beatriz Fernández, “weight loss is not due to veganism, but rather to a change for the better in diet, since they increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes; and to stop consuming so many processed foods, which can also be achieved in an omnivorous diet.”
In the same vein, Gemma del Caño, a pharmacist specializing in food health, says that "people associate vegan with taking care of themselves, and this does not have to be like that: what it is about is consuming healthy foods and not so much ultra-processed, whether you are vegan or not”.
“VEGAN PEOPLE GET SICKER”
On the other side of the spectrum, there is the opposite myth: that those who eat a vegetarian diet get sicker and that a vegan diet is unhealthy or incomplete.
For Beatriz Fernández "there are studies that show that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet leads to a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc.", as explained in the Asturian media.
This is so thanks to the fact that "plant-based products are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol," says Fernández.
Of course, Loira recalls "the importance of low-processed and balanced products." And he emphasizes that "it is important to supplement with vitamin B12 if you do not eat meat, even if you are not a vegan or strict vegetarian, but rather consume eggs or milk."
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And it is that, according to the American Dietetic Association, "properly planned vegetarian diets, including totally vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy, nutritionally adequate, and can provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of Certain diseases".
This belief about the supposed risks of a vegan diet extends to thinking that it is not a valid diet for pregnant women, but Fernández defends that it is viable.
“But it is necessary to take a stricter control of food to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and supplement during this stage and during lactation with vegetable B12, folic acid and iron, so as not to put the health of the mother at risk. mother or fetus," he says. And the same happens with children who, with the same supplementation, could, according to Fernández, eat a vegetarian diet.
It is not true that it is a less suitable diet for athletes, but it is important to go to a specialized dietitian-nutritionist to adjust an eating pattern to the energy and nutritional requirements of each person.
“VEGANISM IS JUST A FAD”
Specialists in dietetics and health indicate that vegetarianism and veganism go beyond a fashion and have become in recent years an authentic way of life, which is intimately linked to greater care for the environment and that entails Greater awareness when consuming.
A conviction that Loira shares, and that she believes that "it is something that is here to stay: once you become aware of it, it is forever... At least in my case", she affirms.
In addition, as published by the specialized portal innuvegan.es, "there is evidence of people who decided not to consume any type of animal product more than 2,000 years ago", and they point to some examples such as Pythagoras, "who advocated compassion towards the rest of the species and followed a certain vegetarian diet”.
They also point out that other great geniuses of Humanity, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein also practiced vegetarianism.
But what is also true is that diets based on plant ingredients have been joined by other attitudes in our society, such as stopping wearing clothes or beauty accessories whose manufacture includes components of animal origin.
Loira doesn't think it's something new either: “Vegetarians have been around for a long time. But it's like everything else: now it's easier to disseminate and get information thanks to social networks and the internet, whereas before it wasn't something so visible”.
“VEGAN FOOD IS BORING AND LIMITED”
Another of the most recurring beliefs: that a vegan diet is not very varied or, as Loira says: “That we can only eat salads”.
“My friends always want me to cook when we have meetings.” And she exemplifies this: “From a vegan cachopo to a cheesecake without cheese, I can prepare whatever I propose with only products of plant origin.”
So now you know: whether you want to go vegan permanently (either for animal or environmental convictions, for health, or for taste), or if you are simply curious and want to add more vegetarian options to your diet They can do it with the truth.