For all the people who think they could never adapt to a meatless diet, that “vegetarian athlete” is an oxymoron, that veggie burgers exist solely for those with ageusia (a disorder where you can’t taste anything) and that vegetarians are far from healthy: this is for you.
Here’s a little background history: I became a vegetarian when I was a naïve, yet curious, fifth grader. The topic of animal slaughtering came up, and let’s just say I left the conversation traumatized.
Since then, I vowed to become a vegetarian because I simply couldn’t justify condoning inhumane animal slaughter by appeasing my taste buds with a juicy steak. But throughout this decade long journey, I’ve been undeservingly lectured by too many people who believe I’m doing it all wrong.
Let the myth debunking begin.
Vegetarians don’t consume enough protein.
While I disagree with this statement, it actually does have an ounce of truth to it. If someone becomes a vegetarian and doesn’t eat nuts, beans, tofu, lentils (or fish, eggs and dairy for my pescetarians out there), it’ll be nearly impossible to get the proper amount of protein.
Otherwise, vegetarians can easily get the daily amount. According to an MSNBC study, between 10 to 15 percent of a person’s total calories should come from protein. So, if a person was to consume 2,000 calories per day, at least 200 should come from protein, or about 50 grams. Go to a grocery store and check the nutrition facts for non-meat foods. One avocado has 10 grams of protein, and one cup of soybeans has a whopping 28 grams. This diet excludes meat, not protein.
Humans were designed to eat meat.
Just because humans were former hunters and gatherers, or because we have supposed canines doesn’t mean we were born to consume a meat-based diet. It’s true that humans from hundreds of years ago primarily ate meat, but that doesn’t mean they were designed to. They had to create weapons to hunt animals for food since, anatomically, humans weren’t built to tear into a wild animal.
Simply possessing canines doesn’t prove anything either. Gorillas and horses have canines that are much bigger in proportion a human’s, yet both of these animals are plant eaters. Most human teeth are short, blunt and require us to chew extensively. Digestive systems weren’t specifically made for meat by any means.
Vegetarian diets are too restricting.
I hear this reason all too often from people who are contemplating “converting,” and I completely understand. When I first turned vegetarian, I abhorred the thought of dinner. I knew my siblings would be enjoying my dad’s (an incognito gourmet chef) infamously delicious ribs, while I’d be having a baked potato. No offense Idaho, but a measly potato isn’t going to cut it for dinner.
That was then, but this is 2012. Google is waiting for you to type in “vegetarian recipes” to show you the 66.5 million results that show up. My favorite ingredients to include in dishes are “tofu-dogs,” especially the Italian sausage kind. I cut it up and throw it in my eggs for breakfast, in a hot dog bun for lunch, and my pasta for dinner. My meat-eating boyfriend couldn’t even believe my substitution was vegetarian when he tasted it.
Vegetarians consume a lot of carbs, which make you fat.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I love my carbohydrates, but I don’t consume them in surplus compared to the ideal human diet. As previously mentioned, vegetarians can easily meet the recommended daily grams of protein, so carbs don’t overload the diet.
There are two main types of carbs: complex and simple. The latter is digested very quickly and contains refined sugars with little nutritional value. On the other hand, complex carbs are essential for a well-balanced diet. They’re packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Examples are whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, vegetables, and whole grain breads.
Overall, vegetarianism is unhealthy.
This myth is the most unfair and false out of the bunch. According to Alter Net (as well as plenty of other studies), a vegetarian diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung and esophageal cancer.
Need more convincing for vegetarian longevity? Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese people and likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, according to a 30-year study of more than 600 Okinawan centenarians.
Their secret lies in their meatless diet filled with fiber rich vegetables, fruits and soy. But you don’t need to travel to Japan to become a successful vegetarian. Minneapolis in particular is the perfect place to make the switch, seeing as it’s No. 7 in the nation for most vegetarian-friendly cities.
Vegetarianism is extremely healthful and doable, which is why 7.3 million Americans call themselves vegetarian in the U.S., a number that continues to grow.
Geena Maharaj can be reached at email@example.com.