9 Vegan Myths, Debunked
Chances are, you’ve heard a lot about veganism — and developed your own opinion. Whether you’re interested in learning more or are already vegan, test your knowledge of animal-free living.
According to a 2009 survey by the Vegetarian Resource Group, more than 1 million vegans currently live in the United States — up from about half a million in 1994. The same survey found that another 5 to 7 million Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians. As vegetarian and vegan diets become more mainstream, so have misconceptions about vegan diets, including both their pros (vegan diets make you skinny, vegans never get sick) and their cons (vegans are always tired, vegans are all vitamin deficient).
We talked to nutritionists Jack Norris, RD, and Ginny Messina, RD, vegans themselves and authors of the new book Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet to get the bottom of the most popular myths about following an animal-free diet. Whether you’re a longtime vegan diet devotee or a meat-eating skeptic, see how much you really know about living the vegan life.
Myth: Vegans Are Always Weak or Tired
Fact: Because meat is packed with iron and vitamin B12, essential nutrients for preventing anemia and sustaining energy levels, people assume vegans are more prone to fatigue and other health problems. But shunning animal products doesn’t automatically make you iron or B12 deficient as long as you nourish your body with healthy, nutrient-rich alternatives.
“Whether you feel weak with a vegan diet depends a lot of what you eat,” Norris says. “If you’re not eating a lot of calories or protein and you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 or iron, you will develop fatigue at some point.”
But because plant-based sources of iron are harder to absorb than those that come from meat, vegans need more iron than meat eaters — 33 milligrams of iron daily for premenopausal women and 14 grams of iron a day for men and postmenopausal women. For daily B12 intake, both men and women need more than 2.4 micrograms a day — less than what’s found in a serving of B12-fortified cereal, but more than the amount in one egg or a serving of yogurt.
Make sure to eat plenty of plant-based sources of iron, such as beans and dark leafy veggies like spinach. It’s hard to get vitamin B12 from non-animal sources, but you can look for fortified cereals or soy milk, and take vitamin B12 supplements.