As a Nutritionist I hear my fair share of outlandish questions…yes I’m sure an ice cream cleanse sounds delicious, but sadly no I wouldn’t recommend it. Also as a plant-based eater I have found lots of people become instant Nutritionists themselves, lending all sorts of diet advice. How (un)helpful! So let’s set the record straight about eating plant-based with the top five myths I frequently encounter.
Myth #1: I won’t get enough protein
Proteins are the building blocks in our body, we need them for many functions like providing energy, making hormones, keeping a strong immune system, and as part of enzymes to speed up reactions. One of the first things people ask when they find out I don’t eat meat is “where do you get your protein?” After an internal eye roll, I tell them from soooo many places. For example, hemp hearts have 10g of protein in 3 tbsp. And foods like peas, soy, and beans are loaded with protein and a healthy dose of fibre. Also protein deficiency is very rare in Western societies; most people end up with way too much of it. This puts strain on the kidneys to get rid of extra amino acids.
Myth #2: I’ll only eat salad
I mean who doesn’t love a good salad bowl packed full of green goodness?! But plant-based diets include so much more than just lettuce. Staples are legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and veggies. There’s a wide variety of whole foods available even without animal products. I found that I became more creative in the kitchen once I went vegan and started experimenting more with recipes. Pre-veg I would cook a protein, a vegetable, and a starch, and have them all neatly arranged on the plate…BORING! Now I make stir fry’s, soups, stews, tacos, casserole’s and yes the occasional big a$% salad!
Myth #3: I won’t have enough energy
Energy comes from lots of sources, our main one being carbs. A plant-based diet with whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat or millet, and lots of vegetables and fruit will have plenty of carbs. Also including some fat and protein at every meal will delay stomach emptying making you feel full for longer.
A lack of certain vitamins/minerals can result in feeling tired. But those following plant-based diets are no more likely to have an iron deficiency than the rest of the population. The one to watch out for is Vitamin B12 (our energy vitamin) which typically comes from animal sources. I suggest taking a B complex supplement, or including foods like nutritional yeast or chlorella.
Myth #4: A plant-based diet is not healthier than eating meat
Let’s do an exercise…I want you to think of the diseases that are responsible for the most deaths in Canada. What do you come up with? Chances are you thought of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, maybe a few others? These chronic diseases are largely preventable through lifestyle changes. Plant-based diets are consistently linked with lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and lower weight in general, better blood sugar control, and better mood. It doesn’t seem to be coincidence then that the diets of societies that live the longest are largely plant-based and include very little meat.
Myth #5: I won’t be able to eat out at restaurants again
Granted this one depends where you live, but here in Toronto the city is loaded with great veggie specific restaurants. I mean, to have a neighbourhood dubbed as “Vegandale” says a lot. Many restaurants are also becoming more diet conscious and usually have a vegetarian/gluten-free/nut-free option. I suggest if you’re not headed to a veggie specific place, check out the menu ahead of time and see what you can modify (ie. can you leave the chicken off of a stir fry and substitute tofu or chickpeas?). Also many restaurants are accommodating; if you call in advance the chef is usually happy to prepare something special for you!
Intrigued?! Want to see what a plant-based diet can do for you? I'm running a 10 day plant-based challenge at Lemon Water Wellness. This round starts May 23rd, for more details and to register click here!