Veganism and nutrition: The truth behind the myths

vegan food

By Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder, Stem + Glory

Plant-based eating, or veganism, is on the rise. There is plenty of advice out there surrounding nutrition and veganism. But what is a myth and what is the truth?

Humans are ‘meant to eat meat’. False.
Humans are described as ‘omnivores’ meaning we can eat everything. But the truth is that our bodies, in particular our teeth and jaws, suggest we actually evolved eating fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables.

Carnivorous animals are built as killing machines, designed for extremely short bursts of energy (for hunting) with strong jaws, sharp teeth and claws. Their jaws are designed for tearing off chunks of flesh. They don’t chew and their stomachs are much more acidic than humans’, so they can digest bone and flesh. Their short intestines allow fast expulsion of the bacteria from rotting flesh.

Herbivores, including humans, on the other hand, start the digestion process in the mouth. They chew the food from side to side and have a much longer digestive system that gives time for full absorption of nutrients. So, whilst humans ‘can’ eat meat, we are not designed for the job like carnivores are.“

Vegans don’t get enough protein. False.
As long as your plant-based diet is varied, and combines vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, it will contain all the protein you need, including the full spectrum of amino acids. We generally eat too much protein.

Protein deficiency is rarely seen in affluent populations and generally only seen in populations where ALL food is scarce. Where food is abundant, all people, regardless of their dietary choices, will be getting more than enough protein, and all the amino acids they need.

You need to eat red meat to get iron. False.
Vegans are no more likely to suffer from iron-deficiency than meat-eaters. Iron from plant-based sources is actually healthier than from meat sources. Pulses, soy products, green vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits and dark chocolate are all high in iron and a plant-based diet using a wide range of foods will be getting plenty of iron.

The brain needs oily fish. False.
This is a marketing ploy not based in actual fact! We don’t see vegetarians failing in school any more than fish eaters. Fish get their omegas from – guess where? Eating plants! In their case algae. Humans can get their omega 3s from healthy oils, green vegetables, nuts, seeds and even pulses and beans.

Vegans need supplements. True and false.
As long as you are eating a wide range of plant-based foods, including vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds you’ll be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. However, the Vegan Society recommends eating either fortified foods, or taking a B12 supplement for optimum health.

B12 is actually produced by bacteria that live in the soil and animals get B12 in their flesh and milk by eating food that has these bacteria on it. B12 is made in vats full of bacteria and then used to fortify foods such as cereals and plant milks. Plant milks are nearly all fortified with B12, so it is generally only those vegans on a raw or macrobiotic diet that need to take B12 as a supplement.

Dairy milk is the best source of calcium. False.
Broccoli, kale and many other vegetables have a high calcium component. As do dried fruits, nuts, seeds and pulses. Tofu and soy products have an extremely high calcium content. Kale has more calcium per 100g than milk and tofu has nearly 3 times as much. Remember, cows get their calcium from plant-based sources!

Soy products are bad for you. False.
There is an anti-soy movement going on, based around phytoestrogens contained in soy being bad for you. There is no evidence to support this, and there is plenty of evidence to support better health from consuming soy products. Have a look HERE.

Humans have been eating soy products for thousands of years and there is no evidence of actual harm caused by eating these products. By contrast, there is plenty of evidence that consuming dairy products is harmful to human health, and over 70% of the population is said to be lactose intolerant.

Men need to eat meat to be more virile. False!
The opposite is actually true. Blocked arteries are a major source of impotence in men, and this comes from poor dietary habits. Foods high in fat from meat and dairy clog up the arteries and affect blood flow to the other organs. Changing your diet and eating healthier will actually make you more sexually potent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Palmer-Masterton is a founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredient 100% made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks. 

Social Media:
Twitter: @stemandglory
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stemandglory/
Instagram: @stemandglory
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton

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