Arguments against plant-based eating come from many different angles, but most can be fairly easily debunked. That’s not to say that being vegan is an easy choice for everyone, particularly amidst food apartheid and other situations where one lacks the privilege of choice or is missing a vegan community they can identify with. Whether you are already vegan or starting your journey to eat more consciously, it helps to know some basic facts—and myths—about plant-based eating.
Myth 1: Meat is the best source of protein.
Meat is a source of protein, but it is not the “best” or the only. Other protein-rich foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, and whole grains. While protein is an essential component of a healthy diet, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that protein deficiency is unlikely to occur in healthy adults. The “more is better” mentality when it comes to protein intake is misconstrued as the appropriate level of protein intake is actually 0.36 g per pound of body weight. However, cutting back on meat has many health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Furthermore, the World Health Organization has classified red and processed meat as carcinogens, providing yet another reason to cut out meat and instead opt for plant-based sources of protein.
Myth 2: I will develop nutrient deficiencies if I am not eating meat and dairy.
The possibility of developing deficiencies is present in any diet. Many people who do eat meat have Vitamin B, Vitamin D, or iron deficiencies. The importance of eating a robust diet is universal, and vitamin deficiencies are not exclusive to those who choose not to eat meat or dairy. However, any change in diet requires consideration of one's health to ensure that your body is receiving the fuel that it needs. Eating a variety of whole foods and learning about which foods are vitamin-rich can help in creating a fulfilling diet. Many vegans do take a B12 supplement or eat foods fortified with B12 to replace nutrients they would otherwise get from meat, which is also fortified with B12 through supplements given to farmed animals.
Myth 3: Eating Plant-based is too expensive.
In some cases, this can be true, particularly in the face of huge meat and dairy subsidies and comparatively insignificant fruit and vegetable subsidies. However, plant-based meals can cost as much as 40% less than meals with meat. Not all plant-based items are equally healthy or available, but they do exist almost everywhere. Buying whole grains, vegetables, and lentils can often cost significantly less and last longer than chicken, fish, or beef.
Eating plant-based is often misconstrued as restrictive, sparse, and lacking. In reality, a plant-based diet is plentiful and often pushes you to choose healthier food options. Beyond feeding your body with nutrient-rich foods, eating plant-based is an ethical choice that puts you in community with others who care about the well-being of humans, animals, and the Earth. Choosing to eat plant-based, even if it’s not all the time, is choosing to be intentional with what you put in your body and what systems you indirectly support.
Katie Yared is a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia. She is majoring in public policy and global sustainability with a minor in dance.