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Vegetarianism Facts Help Explain Common Misconceptions

With any eating pattern and diet, there are often misconceptions and misunderstandings. So, are the vegetarian claims actually nonsense or does the truth speak for itself? Here is what you should know!

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There is a global rise in plant-based eating, with Nestle predicting vegetarianism will continue to amplify followers and is here to stay.

But with any eating pattern and diet, there tends to be a pool of misinformation fluid in opinion and often difficult to contain. So, are the vegetarian claims actually nonsense or does the truth speak for itself? Here is what you should know!

The Myths of Vegetarianism

Myth #1: Going vegetarian is healthy and guarantees weight loss.

The Truth: You could lose weight, but the common question of “Is being a vegetarian healthy?” deserves careful critique. (And vegetarian-friendly chips, ice creams, and cookies are still warned with caution.)

It is not too uncommon for individuals to turn to a vegetarian or vegan diet in hopes to lose weight. However, plant-based products can still be calorically-dense and filled with refined sugars, flours, and oils that increase the risk of weight gain if over consumed.

Really like any sort of weight loss pattern, remain mindful of high-calorie foods that are essentially absent of valuable nutrients. But if incorporating fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins (and reducing “vegetarian-friendly” snacks and treats), weight loss may naturally follow.

Myth #2: After going vegetarian, you cannot ever eat meat again.

The Truth: Well, unless you are the other 40 percent…

Yep, 60 percent of vegetarians have eaten meat in the past 24 hours according to the Animal Charity Evaluators. But is one side of the percentage right or wrong?

Absolutely not.

Following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is a personal choice and not a life sentence. And if meat is desired and craved (or even accidentally eaten), that is certainly up to the consumer’s discretion.

Myth #3: Eating vegetarian is expensive.

The Truth: It certainly can be. But eating premium cuts of meat can be, too.

Really, the price of any sort of diet depends on the products you choose. Yes, purchasing organic products from a local health food store may come with a higher price tag, but going for a plant-based diet absolutely does not have to break the bank. And really, it shouldn’t! Beans, rice, produce, and other plant-based sources tend to be super cost-friendly.

Continue to seek out weekly ads, take advantage of in-store specials and coupons, and purchase frozen or canned fruits and veggies. (Just make sure there is no added sugars and drain and rinse canned products!)

Myth #4: It is impossible to get all nutrients from plants.

The Truth: According the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

From the calcium content in milk and dairy products to the iron supply in beef, giving up animal products may negotiate valuable nutrients. However, spinach is a supplier of both calcium and iron, which is just one mere example of the nutrient-density of plants.

And as the AND stands, which is the United States’ largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, careful planning of a vegetarian diet can be suitable for all life stages.

Myth #5: Your workouts and muscle gains will suffer following a vegetarian diet.

The Truth: While a vegetarian diet is not a ticket to the big leagues and pro statuses, a vegetarian diet can fuel workouts and grow muscle gains.

What’s more, there are numerous well-known and successful athletes that follow a vegetarian diet, including boxer Mike Tyson and tennis player Venus Williams. Because reiterating the statement from AND, “Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals” … “and for athletes.”

Gaining muscles and advancing fitness levels is more or less the combination of consistently working out hard in the gym and ensuring adequate protein. And really, there are a number of plant-based proteins to boost support muscle mass and growth, including tofu and tempeh, beans, nuts and seeds, quinoa, and lentils. While they certainly do not provide the equivalency of a steak, even vegetables supply some protein.

Myth #6: You will always feel hungry.

The Truth: If you feel hungry on a vegetarian diet, you might be neglecting an important nutrient…

A vegetarian diet is filled with plant-based foods. Plant-based foods are naturally filled with dietary fiber. Foods high in fiber are relatively low in calories and more filling compared to foods lesser in fiber. Furthermore, plant-based proteins have an exceptional balance of fiber and protein, in which the power duo is well-known to induce satiety and control appetite.

So if you feel hungry following a vegetarian diet, there may need some investigation of the quality and quantity of foods consumed. And if the majority is from chips, cookies, etc., up the intake of nutrient dense fruits, veggies, legumes, and other wholesome sources.

So, Is Vegetarianism Really Nonsense?

Ultimately, the best diet for someone is a diet they enjoy and can sustain long-term. What’s more, all can benefit from including more plant-based foods into a healthy eating pattern, as they are rich in fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients that tend to fall short in a Westernized diet.

But even beyond the personal health ramifications of a vegetarian diet, “If the world went vegan, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion” according to The Vegan Society.

So, truthfully, if you decide to adopt fully or implement parts of a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should know we support you!

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on December 13, 2018. Updated on October 22, 2019.

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