Keep hearing about vegan celebrities and wellness gurus giving up on a plant-based diet and wondering what gives? While a plant-based diet can certainly fulfill all your nutritional needs, there are some common reasons why people (famous or not) give plant-based eating the boot...and often times those reasons are rooted in vegan myths. We're here to dispel some of those myths and give you the motivation (and confidence!) you need to live your best plant-based life.
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A well-rounded plant-based diet can help you lose weight, feel better, live longer, even prevent and/or reverse certain diseases from heart disease to type 2 diabetes. And experts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to the XYZ agree that a healthy vegan diet is indeed appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and older adulthood.
And yet it seems like every few months someone new is giving up on their plant-based diet in favor of more Standard American fare. And with plant-based trending everywhere from the wellness space to professional sports, some of the folks giving up on plant-based eating are celebrities with an enormous audience.
When people decide to quit plant-based foods they usually have similar reasons — and a lot of the time their reasons are actually rooted nutritional myths.
(Note: this article isn't a knock to anyone who's decided plant-based just isn't for them, but rather a launching point to discuss some of the vegan myths to help folks better understand the nutritional reality of a plant-based diet!)
OK...so let's talk about five of the most popular reasons people give up on their plant-based diets (and why these reasons don't have to stop you from living your best plant-based life!)
Reason #1: "I was vegan, but I was always tired and my energy was so low. I must have had a protein deficiency."
Plant-based diets get thrown under the protein bus all the time but the truth is, unless you are restricting your calories and depending on unhealthy, vegan junk food, you can and should be meeting all your nutritional and protein requirements, no problem! (Numbers person? Use this handy vegan protein calculator to determine just how much protein you really need!)
So why do some folks experience more energy when they give plant-based foods the boot? Usually, they weren't eating enough healthy, nutrient-rich plant foods. No worries – this certainly doesn't have to happen to you. Just load up on these high protein plant-based foods.
Reason #2: "I was vegan but my iron and Vitamin B12 were very low, so my doctor told me to start eating iron-rich animal products."
Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin you cannot obtain from a vegan diet. B12 is made by bacteria found in the soil. It is also found in the guts of animals. (Humans no longer produce B12 in the gut.) Because you are no longer eating meat on a plant-based diet and we all wash the soil from our vegetables, it's usually recommended that you take a B12 supplement. (And contrary to popular belief, animal feed is often supplemented with B12 and other vitamins, so the B12 you get from eating meat is really "recycled" B12.)
Regarding iron, the good news is there is plenty of iron found in plants, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa.
Reason #3: "It was so hard going out to eat with friends as a vegan!"
We get it. Navigating life as a plant-based eater can feel like a whole new frontier and if your friends and family aren't on the vegan train with you, it can feel a little isolating at first. But the good news is, plant-based is the fastest-growing lifestyle movement, and new vegan restaurants are opening every day, not to mention more traditional restaurants are adding more and more plant-based options for this growing market. So yeah, there is now delicious vegan food everywhere, which means struggling to eat when out with your friends is not the reality it was ten years ago. Woohoo!
Still not sure how to dine out on a plant-based diet? No worries —follow these tips for ordering plant-based foods at nearly any type of restaurant.
Reason #4:"I couldn't afford eating vegan — everything is so expensive!"
A little tough love: health bills are way more expensive than any plant-based food will ever be. It's true that if you mostly buy processed vegan foods they could gradually break the bank, but the healthiest plant-based foods are affordable and actually more so than animal products. Research shows the average plant-based eater spends $750 less per year than the average meat eater!
Trying to stay in budget on a plant-based diet? Buy beans, lentils, and grains in bulk, go grocery shopping in local markets, and stock up on spices to make delicious, healthy, budget-friendly meals.
Reason #5. "My brain was not functioning properly, I had to introduce fish to my diet to restore my cognitive health."
Yes, fish is high in Omega-3s, a long-chain fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation in the body and is also crucial for the development of the brain during pregnancy and early child childhood. But fish isn't actually the health food we've been sold it to be. With our oceans' current pollution state, fish are filled with harmful mercury and microplastics, both of which can be detrimental for your health. Also, all those brain boosting Omega-3s in fish? They get the EPA and DHA from algae, believe it or not! So why not go straight to the source and snack on some delicious kelp.
Other plant-based foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are flax seed, chia seeds, and walnuts. From Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian, Addie Dulaney Majnaric:
It’s recommended for adults to consume, per day, about 2-3 Tablespoons of ground flax seed, about 2 Tbsp of chia seeds, or ¼ cup walnuts to get appropriate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re glucose-intolerant, flax seed may be the best choice for you. It is less fatty and less calorically dense than the other sources.
- While plant-based continues to trend, it is not a fad! You can indeed get all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet!
- 5 common vegan myths can keep people from sticking with their plant-based diet
- You CAN get enough protein on a plant-based diet!
- There are plenty of iron-rich plant-based foods (though a B12 supplement is often recommended!)
- It's not hard to go out to eat on a plant-based diet...even if you're not going to a vegan restaurant!
- While processed foods may add up, whole plant-based foods can absolutely be budget-friendly and healthy plant-based eaters tend to spend less on groceries than their meat eating counterparts.
- Brain fog is NOT normal on a whole food plant-based diet rich in Omega-3 plant foods, like kelp, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.