In today’s post, our in-house healthy eating expert Holly Roper tackles three common vegan misconceptions we hear from time to time and explain the science why these are oh so not true.
Vegan Myths BustedPosted · 15th December 2020
Holly is a Registered Associate Nutritionist and on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists which is governed by the Association for Nutrition. Its purpose is to protect the public and assure the credibility of nutrition as a responsible profession, making her perfectly placed to advise on the topic.
How do I get enough protein if I am no longer eating animal foods?
This is probably up there with one of the first questions someone will ask you when you tell them you’re giving vegan a go. And it’s not surprising! Often most of us have grown up with animal meat taking centre stage in many of our weekday dinners, weekend takeaways and festive traditions. Sometimes we’ve never even questioned including alternative protein sources! However, this is well and truly a myth so let us tell you why.
Protein is made up of amino acids (commonly referred to as the building blocks of life) and there are 9 amino acids that are considered ‘essential’ as we cannot make in the body alone – we must instead consume them in our diet. This is where you might hear the term ‘complete protein’ which refers to a food source that contains all 9 of these essential amino acids. You guessed it, animal meat is indeed a complete protein and so often people may worry that by removing this from their diet, it may start proving difficult to reach adequate amounts of EAAs.
Although fear no more, because there are some tasty vegan sources too that are also considered ‘complete proteins’. These include our Organic Tofu Block, mycoprotein (the key ingredient in all Quorn products), quinoa and seeds such as chia and hemp seeds.
As you embark on your Veganuary journey, you can also consider ‘protein matching’ and combining certain foods that may be lacking in one EAA with another food that is high in that EAA – which together makes a complete profile! A common example is that of rice and beans – rice is low in the EAA lysine but high in methionine. Consequently, beans are high in lysine but low in methionine… you get the jist. There are lots of great examples of protein matching combos online – check them out!
I’ve heard vegan foods are bland and won’t fill me up?
Not true! There are endless possibilities when it comes to vegan food and it’s a great excuse to get creative and try new herbs, spices, sauces, sides and textures. This misconception often stems from the idea that vegan diets are restrictive, as a lot of the time the focus is on what we have to remove. We say it’s time to flip that on its head and start experimenting with all the foods and flavours we can include.
Take our Cauldron Organic Tofu Block for example. Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s incredibly versatile as it has the unparalleled ability to absorb flavours from the ingredients around it. This allows us to create dishes bursting with flavour – from curries to soups, salads to even desserts (yep, desserts!), tofu really is a jack of all trades.
In terms of the misconception that vegan food will leave you reaching for the fridge after dinner or craving a midnight snack – forget it! One of the great things about plant-based foods is that they are often packed with fibre. This means that with these types of foods, you can have satisfying portions, with a relatively low-calorie content but which help us feel fuller for longer – win, win!
People say it’s hard to get iron and calcium on a vegan diet – how can I make sure I get enough in my diet?
Luckily for us, this is another myth! Both calcium and iron can be obtained in a vegan diet, however, the foods you get these nutrients from are likely to change though. So, at first, you may need to pay a little extra attention.
Let’s start with calcium. We have all heard that calcium keeps your bones and teeth strong, but did you know it also plays an important role in blood clotting and your nervous and muscular system?
The UK government recommends adults consume 700 milligrams per day.
For vegans, some of the best sources include calcium-set tofu and soya products, plus calcium-fortified dairy alternatives and linseed bread. Cauldron Organic Tofu Block is a great source of calcium as 100g contains 400 mg; that’s 57% of your daily calcium intake! Other great foods to boost your calcium intake include kale, watercress, tahini, dried figs, haricot beans and almonds.
In terms of iron – UK adult males need 8.7mg of iron each day, but women between the ages of 19 to 50 are advised to aim for 14.8mg each day. Our bodies use iron to help transport oxygen around the body and to maintain a healthy immune system.
Great vegan sources of iron include pulses and legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas and beans), tofu, nuts and seeds (cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds in particular, are packed with iron), kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins and quinoa. Some breakfast cereals and spreads are fortified with iron too, and it is mandatory in the UK for the flour in bread to be fortified with iron.
Interestingly, you can increase the absorption of non-heme iron by eating foods high in vitamin C alongside your plant-based dish e.g. a glass of orange juice with your fortified breakfast cereal, or some sliced pepper in your vegan bean chilli. On the other hand, foods that can inhibit iron absorption include tea, coffee and milk and so, therefore, it’s a good idea to avoid consuming these foods alongside an iron-rich plant-based meal.