The five most common myths about plant based lifestyles


Change is happening right under our feet. More and more people are embracing plant-based/vegan lifestyles, or at least making significant reductions in their consumption of animal protein. From TV stars like Simon Cowell to movie legends like Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Of course, with change comes resistance, and when behavioral shifts negate previously held beliefs while forcing entire industries to adapt, that resistance can be fierce.

So here are some of the most common myths the resisters have about plant-based diets, and why they’re wrong.

  1. Plants alone aren’t enough to keep us healthy. Humans need meat. 

This myth is the complete opposite of what the science shows. According to the World Health Organization, red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans, while processed meat is definitely so. To top it off, there is overwhelming evidence for a causal link between animal protein and chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and different forms of cancer.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the United States’ largest body of credentialed practitioners and nutrition professionals, clearly states that appropriately planned vegan diets are healthful and nutritionally adequate. They also state that “these diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, infancy, childhood adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes.”

For a plethora of information on how to increase your health, checkout the New York Times bestseller How Not To Die by Doctor Michael Greger, renowned physician, founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

2. Plant-based diets are unsustainable for the environment. 

This is almost like saying smokers are healthier than non-smokers.

Cattle ranching accounts for over 70% of Amazon rain forest destruction, that’s right, the part of the world experiencing record fires for this very reason. It’s also the key driver of deforestation around the entire globe. Part of the reason some people claim plant-based diets are unsustainable is because of soy, which also has a huge environmental impact. But the majority of the world’s soy is actually used to feed cows, chickens and pigs.

What’s more, the livestock industry takes up nearly half of all the land in the contiguous United States. That’s right, the next time you get a window seat in an airplane while travelling across the US, chances are most of those little squares you see far below are farmland used to feed and maintain livestock. To add insult to injury, animal agriculture releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than all cars, trucks, planes and boats combined.

One reason is because of cows farting and belching, which releases methane, a gas much more powerful than carbon. Another factor is all the deforestation required to create land for pasture and grains for the approximately 56 billion land animals bred into existence, raised and slaughtered each year around the globe. Every time a tree is felled, carbon is released into the atmosphere.

3. You need animal protein to build muscle.

Patrik Baboumian

Not even close. The healthiest sources of protein come from beans, lentils, chickpeas and tofu. Vegetables and fruits also contain protein. These are the only protein sources for some of today’s most prolific bodybuilders. One such figure is Patrik Baboumian, renowned vegan athlete who has shattered countless weightlifting records in his native Germany.

Kendrick Farris, vegan since 2014, was Team USA’s only male weightlifter to make it into the 2016 Rio Olympics, and there’s also fitness star Nimai Delgado,  American bodybuilder who was born and raised vegetarian and turned fully vegan in 2015.

World class tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams also fuel their bodies exclusively with plants, along with highly regarded (and feared) mixed martial artist Nate Diaz, among many others.

4. Plant-based diets are a slap in the face to the world’s undernourished.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there were approximately 821 million undernourished people in the world in 2017.

Now consider the fact that there are about 7.7 billion human beings on the planet today. In 2008, according to the most recent data from the United Nations, approximately 56 billion land animals  were being reared and slaughtered for human consumption on a yearly basis (as previously mentioned), and that number has only swelled since, considering growth in meat consumption in places like China, India and Nigeria.

All these animals, that wouldn’t exist if not for humans craving their meat, require enormous amounts of food and water. Food production requires land. Lots of it. And while nearly half of the Earth’s land  is dedicated to livestock, animal protein provides a paltry 17% of the world’s calories.

In the US, fracking consumes 70-140 billion gallons of water on a yearly basis, and has been subject of controversy for this very reason. Meanwhile, in the US alone, animal agriculture consumes between 36 to 74 trillion gallons of water annually.

At the same time, over 1.1 billion people lack access to water  and 2.7 billion  lack access to water for at least one month out of the year. A 1997 study from Cornell University  found that the US could feed an additional 800 million people if every American adopted a plant-based diet, virtually eliminating world hunger. A more recent study from the University of Minnesota shows that if all the food on earth were grown exclusively for human consumption, without livestock in the middle, an additional four billion individuals could be well-fed. This means we could feed four times the amount of malnourished people in existence today.

5. Plant-based diets are mainly for women. 

Nate Diaz Vegan Mixed Martial Artist

The concept of masculinity has shifted throughout human history. In 18th century France men who wore stockings, high-heels and wigs were considered masculine. As early as the 1960’s, regular exercise was something only women did. Overall, people who went jogging were considered weird. And it wasn’t until recently that smoking was considered the official hallmark of masculinity.

Today, meat consumption is still broadly regarded as the pedestal of virility, which makes little sense.  According to Harvard Medical School, men should avoid red and processed meats to prevent erectile dysfunction, because over time they can decrease blood flow to that special part of their bodies. 

Indeed,the truth about meat’s detrimental health effects are being uncovered, and times are changing.   The classic “macho man” no longer looks cool with a cigarette in his mouth, and meat-eating is probably headed in the same direction as tobacco, especially considering all the “macho” athletes adopting plant-based diets, because modern day society continues to evolve, whether we choose to accept it or not.

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Roberto Guerra

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