Misconceptions over the years have surrounded vegetarian diets and those who adopt them. Let’s view the myths and see the actual reality
- Myth: Vegetarians do not get enough protein.
Fact: Well, there was a time when nutritionists and dietitians even said this, but no longer. Now, we know that vegetarians get plenty of protein. What they don’t get is the excessive amount of protein found in the typical modern diet. If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, then getting enough protein is not an issue.
- Myth: Vegetarians do not get enough calcium.
Fact: This myth has been applied, in particular, to vegans who have eliminated milk products from their diets. Somehow, the notion got started that the only good source of calcium is milk and cheese. Granted, milk does have a good supply of calcium, but so do many vegetables — especially green, leafy veggies. The truth is, vegetarians suffer less from osteoporosis (a deficiency of calcium that leads to weak bones) because the body assimilates the calcium they eat more easily during digestion.
- Myth: Vegetarian diets aren’t balanced, so they are risking their health for their principles.
Fact: First of all, a vegetarian diet isn’t out of balance. It has a good proportion of all the complex carbohydrates, protein and fat — the three macro nutrients that are the cornerstone of any diet. Plus, vegetarian food sources (plants) tend to be higher sources of most of micro nutrients. Another way to look at it is this: The average meat eater consumes one or fewer servings of vegetables a day and no servings of fruit. If a meat eater does eat a vegetable, chances are it’s a fried potato. “Out of balance” depends on your perspective.
- Myth: A vegetarian diet is all right for an adult, but kids need meat to develop properly.
Fact: This statement makes the assumption that protein from plants isn’t as good as protein from meat. The truth is, protein is protein. It is all made from amino acids. Children need 10 essential amino acids to grow and develop properly. These amino acids are as readily available in plants as they are in meat.
- Myth: Humans were designed to eat meat.
Fact: Although humans are capable of digesting meat, human anatomy clearly favours a diet of plant foods. Our digestive systems are similar to those of the other plant-eaters and totally unlike those of carnivores. The argument that humans are carnivores because we possess “canine” teeth ignores the fact that other plant-eaters have “canine” teeth, and that ONLY plant eaters have molar teeth. Finally, if humans were designed to eat meat, we wouldn’t suffer from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis from doing so.