Myths abound regarding the vegetarian diet. I’ve had people say to me, “So you care about the animals we use for meat, but you don’t care about the slave labor used to grow and pick your vegetables?” When I tell people I’m a vegetarian, but don’t explain why, it seems as though I often get a plethora of guilt-driven responses: “I would be vegetarian, but I just can’t give up blank.” “Good for you. I could never be that healthy.” “Well, please excuse my cheeseburger, chili, lasagna, etc. if it offends you.”
I try very hard not to judge people’s food choices because I don’t like the judgment I get (see comment #1) or the guilt-based responses. I’d much rather someone just say, “Cool.” Or ask me why I chose this way of eating than to jump to conclusions that I’m judging them or get on the defensive and begin judging me. (Side note: Why are we so busy judging other people’s food choices?!)
However, there are always people who like to bring up the “Vegetarian Myths.” When Sean and I told our families we were going meat-less, the first thing we heard was, “How will you get enough protein?!” Believe it or not, the majority of (much healthier) societies outside Western culture, don’t have meat as a staple of their diets. They seem to be doing just fine, and are, in fact, healthier than the majority of Americans.
In case you’re met with backlash regarding the “Myths” here is some ammunition to back up your choice:
1. Vegetarianism is an unhealthy and unbalanced diet.
We talked about this last week, but the American Dietetic Association says that a planned vegetarian diet is healthy and can actually prevent and treat diseases. The key word is plan. Make sure you’re eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet. I’ve said it before–pizza and doughnuts are vegetarian too. You can’t live on bread alone.
2. A vegetarian diet inherently lack vitamins a nutrients our bodies need.
Again, if you plan your diet in a balanced and healthy manner, you can actually get more nutrients than the Standard American Diet.
A well-planned vegetarian diet can have all the necessary nutrients. In fact, vegetarians can actually get more of what they need because they tend to eat a more varied diet than non-vegetarians. They are also more inclined to watch and keep track of what they eat. There is one very important rule to keep in mind—in order to meet the recommended daily allowances of vitamins and nutrients, vegetarians (like any person) can’t let junk food or snacks take over their diet. (source)
3. How are you ever going to get enough protein?!
I really like this explanation:
If you are not worrying about this, then someone else is. By far, this is the most prevalent myth regarding vegetarianism. It is understandable, since we were all taught in elementary school that the only protein sources are meat. Yet we rarely need to worry about getting enough protein. Only 2.5-10 percent of a person’s diet should be protein, which for a 120-pound person means 44 grams of protein. With a 10-oz steak having a whopping 70 grams of protein, the average American most likely consumes way too much. Vegetarians can get plenty of protein from other sources than meat. Contrary to what we learned, vegetables, grains, seeds and beans also contain protein. With a little planning, a vegetarian can get enough of what they need. (source)
4. You’re a vegetarian? You must be a liberal hippie!
While this is probably true in my case, it’s not true for everyone. Someone once said to me, “You drive a Subaru, you love animals, and you’re a vegetarian. You must smoke pot, too, right?” Obviously. (Note: I’ve never smoked anything in my life. Not even a cigarette. Why would I do that to my body?) Tons of people are vegetarians because that’s the code of the religion they prescribe to. Some famous philosophers were vegetarians. There are plenty of conservative vegetarians who choose the diet for health reasons. Get off our cases, people. Not all vegetarians are tree huggers. But I guess I am.
5. Our bodies require us to eat meat.
My favorite line, “Cavemen didn’t survive on vegetables alone.” Do you think cavemen had giant mega mart groceries stores where they just walked up to the deli and asked for a cut of saber tooth tiger? Hells to the no. They had to work damn hard for meat and ate mostly plants. They meals were NOT all meat all the time.
In the United States, meat is a tradition, while veggies, grains and beans are just side dishes. Incidentally, many wonder what’s left to eat without meat—after all, a meal isn’t a meal without the meat. To dispel this myth, we have to completely change society’s relationship with food, which isn’t very likely. Obviously, vegetarians have shown that people can survive without meat. Twelve million people live the vegetarian diet, without any health consequences. Many are even healthier than their meat-eating counterparts. But even better is scientific proof. The American Dietetic Association contradicted this myth when they said the vegetarian diet could be healthy and actually prevent diseases if well-planned. This doesn’t support the belief that meat is necessary to be healthy.
Now arms yourselves with knowledge! And go eat a veggie!