Seven myths that need busting

There is plenty of misinformation and myths that cause needless confusion about vegetarian diets, as people try to justify their meat-eating habits. For some people it’s only myths that keep them from the health benefits, environmental advantages and the compassion of  a vegetarian diet. So, let’s do some myth busting!

Myth 1 – It’s unnatural to follow a plant-based diet.

We evolved as plant-eating beings. Meat eating is comparatively recent in human history. Our bodies have inherited 35 million years of plant-eating primate evolution. We only started eating meat out of desperation when living in colder climates, where there was insufficient plant-based food to get through the winter.

While the way we get our food has changed in recent years, our bodies remain the same. These days, the grocery stores are full of plenty of options and we no longer need to choose between eating meat and starvation. While we can get away with eating small quantities of meat, when we eat large quantities of meat over many years, our health suffers.

Here’s what the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology has to say:

Although we think we are one and we act as if we are one, human beings are not natural meat eaters…flesh was never intended for human beings who are natural herbivores” 

Dr. William Roberts, Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, Vol 66, p896

The famous anthropologist, Jane Goodall agrees and became a vegetarian herself because she knew it was true. Even Charles Darwin became a vegetarian in recognition of this fact. 

Myth 2 – If I don’t eat meat, I’ll be missing something vital from my diet.

Other than vitamin B12 (a vitamin produced by soil bacteria which accumulates in animal tissues but which plant-eaters don’t get enough of now that we wash our veggies), those who follow a plant-based diet can easily get all the nutrients they need by consuming a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. If we weren’t getting enough of something, how come those who follow a vegetarian diet live longer and have dramatically lower rates of disease such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer and prostate cancer than those consuming meat?

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

Myth 3 – I need to eat meat to have physical strength.

Some people worry that a lack of meat will make them physically weak, but in fact the opposite is true. Athletes are turning to a vegan diet in droves these days as they discover that they can achieve their best performance on a plant-based diet. Vegan and vegetarians have a disproportionately large representation among Olympic Medal Winners. You’ll also find plenty of NFL MVPs, basketball stars and even baseball home-run record holders are following a vegetarian or vegan diet because of the advantage it gives them.

Myth 4 – My brain needs meat.

Children who are raised on a vegetarian diet on average gain an inch in height and 5 more points on their IQ compared with their meat-eating peers. It’s clear that veg-eaters aren’t missing any brain power, when you consider the list of vegetarians with major intellectual accomplishments. The list of vegetarians includes names such as Leonardo DaVinci, Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. It also includes names from music such as Paul McCartney of the Beatles, and Gustav Mahler in classical music. From public life, it includes famous people such as Susan B Anthony and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, authors such as HG Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more.

Myth 5 – Eating meat is good for my overall health.

The only time eating meat is good for your health is when you are starving for lack of food. If meat is the only food available to you, and you’ll starve without it, by all means eat meat. But for most people, with an abundance of food choices available to them, the opposite is definitely true. Vegetarians have significantly reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes and several forms of cancer such as prostate cancer and colon cancer, not to mention chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and many other chronic diseases.

Myth 6 – Our food choices don’t affect the environment

Some people claim that food is food, and that it doesn’t matter what we eat as far as the environment is concerned. But with 7.8 billion people in the world, and over 70 billion farm animals being raised every year, the impact on the Earth is massive. Raising meat is a major culprit behind water pollution, soil erosion, global warming and ecological destruction such as the burning down of the Amazon rainforest.

“Livestock and their byproducts actually account for 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.”  -2009 World Watch Institute Report

Myth 7 – Animals don’t matter since they can’t feel pain

Anyone who has had a pet dog or cat has likely seen their pet in pain at some point. Animals feel pain just like we do. Just ask yourself this question, if animals can’t feel pain then why do they test pain medications on animals? Even fish have been shown to have pain receptors.

The Veterinary Merck Manual, perhaps the most standard reference in animal science and veterinary practice, states, “Based on what is known to date, all vertebrates, and some invertebrates, experience pain in response to actual or potential tissue damage.”

We hope you can see that these myths have no basis in reality. When you hear someone say something questionable, be sure to check out the facts. They may just be sharing another myth.