Myth – Being Vegan is Healthier

Because I’m in the health and fitness industry, I get asked all sorts of questions. So here’s another question that drives me crazy – “Is being vegan is healthier.” Generally, when you see propaganda such as this, it’s a direct attack on the protein/meat farming industry. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll state this, “The commercial meat farming industry isn’t great,” this is why I try to eat mostly free-range locally sourced if possible.

Why then do people state that they feel better when they go vegan? Well, it’s simple, most of the time people who take on vegan diets or nutrition challenges do so because they ate horribly prior to the challenge. But do you honestly think someone who ate 8-10 servings of veggies a day and stayed away from processed foods would feel any different? The answer is, “Probably not.”

Our post is inspired by our friends at Barbend, who published an article titled “Op-Ed: The Case for Gaining Muscle on a Vegan Diet”

Let’s dispel some vegan myths:

  • MYTH – Being Vegan is Automatically Healthier: I always start here because it’s definitely not true. All diets can be ample or insufficient, and just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it has this super power to give you amazing health. In fact, it can be void of certain micronutrients for sound health. The truth is, it still comes down to food choices you make for a balanced nutrition plan. Vegans have been found to be deficient in vitamins B12 and D, omega-3’s, zinc, and calcium, and this is mostly because of dietary selection of foods they consume. Furthermore, with diets that are highly restrictive, vegans need to be sure they’re consuming enough calories for energy, especially vegan athletes.
  • MYTH – Humans evolved to be Vegan: This is the one I laugh at the most because anyone that can make the claim that they know how humans evolved should immediately be ignored.
    1. Truth is, being an herbivore is easy, you don’t have to hunt fruits and vegetables, and plants don’t fight back. However, fruits and vegetables aren’t really calorically dense either. The typical counter argument made by vegans is, “That’s why we eat root foods like, potatoes, yams, beets, etc.”
    2. Truth is, those root foods do pack more calories. However, they don’t taste great uncooked and are hard to chew in their naturally raw state. Do remember, we’re talking about evolutionary times, where cooking wasn’t something we humans did 2.6 million years ago.
    3. Truth is, this is where hunting meat came in, about 2.6 million years ago. To get a substantial calorically dense meal in, our very, very, early ancestors hunted. Because of this, “we” consumed enough calories and nutrients to develop complex brains and evolved into humans. Then vegans usually say, “If humans evolved to eat meat, why do we have to cook it?”
    4. Truth is, by studying evolution through fossils, primarily teeth, there isn’t evidence that much cooking occurred until roughly 500,000 years ago and it’s through this process that humans developed more intricate digestive systems. However, there are plenty of proteins that humans can still consume raw, such as fish and in some countries poultry. In Japan, they consume chicken sashimi, something we’d never do in the states because of our farming practices. Usually after this vegans bring in the fear of mortality, by saying, “Vegans live longer.”
    5. Truth is, vegans don’t live longer. In fact, over the long run there is essentially no difference in the mortality rates of people who consume various diets. However, differences were found in their specific cause of death.
    6. Citations:
      • Nature 500-503 (24 March 2016) doi: 10.1038/nature16990
      • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (01 January 2016)
  • MYTH – You’ll Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet: While studies do show vegans overall tend to be skinnier this isn’t always the case. Truth is, those who transition to vegan diets because of previously poor nutritional diets tends to eliminate proteins and replace it with more carbohydrates. Carbohydrates generally are less satiating than proteins and fats, which can lead to an excess caloric intake, which can lead to weight gain.
  • MYTH – You Get Stronger By Being Vegan: In the strength and conditioning world, this is the one that I hear the most when athletes are promoting vegan diets. Now I’m being anecdotal, so I won’t say “Truth is,” but I believe it’s because said athlete simply cleaned up his or her nutrition. It seems to be a humanistic trait that we want to make associations, “I did this, so that happened,” however it probably is a deeper explanation than that. As aforementioned, most who transition to a vegan diet do it because their previous diet consisted of processed and crap foods that were nutritionally deficient. Which makes it easy to say, “Because I went vegan and eliminated meat, I’ve seen improvements in health and performance,” where as I would say, “You used to eat fast food everyday and now you replaced that with fruits and vegetables. Simply you stopped eating like an idiot.”

Vegans Aren't Healthier

The morale of the story is, everyone needs balance. Simply eating a vegan diet won’t magically make you any better or worse. Just like eating animal proteins won’t make magically make you any better or worse either.