14 Vegan Myths Debunked

19 min read
What You're About To Get Into
13 vegan myths busted
Tackling all the angles of vegan ideology
Nutrition, ethics, and global warming

The vegan ideology

Carnivore might be a cult, and it lays claim to being the original one, but it doesn’t yet possess the raw energy of veganism. Once you get past the initiation of a raw leafy smoothie, you’re firmly ensconced within a strict belief system. Meat is the driver of modern ills, plants are the panacea to fix them. It’s black and white, a level of simplicity that appeals to dieters that have been bombarded for decades with conflicting nutritional information. 

Unfortunately, this Manichean take bulldozes its way past a ton of nuance. The garden of Eden doesn’t exist. Plants have ulterior motives. Meat hasn’t magically stopped being relevant in the last few thousand years. Wild animals don’t die happily of old age. A divine mandate isn’t a great basis for setting up a diet. 

Veganism is a diet built on myths, and we don’t have room for the exhaustive list. So we’ll simply settle for a run-through of the dinner party classics. Whether you want answers or ammunition, this list has you covered. Next time Karen pipes up with the latest scoop from Vegan Daily, you’ll be ready.

1. Plants Are Inherently Beneficial

Many people struggle to grasp an essential truth to life. Every living thing is out there battling for the survival of its own species. Besides Jay, he’s a washout. For the rest, there’s a simple code imprinted into their being. Eat, live, procreate. Humans abide by those laws, as do animals, as do plants. In uncompromising Darwinism, the species that don’t match up to the code get snuffed out. 

So as you can imagine, the survivors of modern-day have their own particular ways of avoiding being killed and eaten. Humans have the technology. Animals can fight or run. 

Plants can’t exactly pull their roots out of the ground and make a quick getaway. They tend to just sit there. But they don’t accept their fate. That wouldn’t be very Darwinian. Plants come packaged with an armada of defensive toxins, perfectly capable of ruining your afternoon in a range of destabilising mechanisms. 

This flies in the face of the idea that vegetables are paragons of virtue that want nothing but the best for humanity. Try oxalate poisoning. Loading up your smoothies with mounds of spinach puts you on the fast track for a very painful date with kidney stones.

2. Get Your Full Protein Requirements By Combining Rice And Beans

Plant foods lack the complete range of amino acids, making them a suspect source of protein. But that’s not an issue, because you can make up the losses by simply combining two different types of plant proteins. Like a jigsaw. It works on a basic level, like how fat clogs your kitchen drain, so must do the same thing with your arteries.

Unfortunately, the protein combining practice misses the fact that all plant proteins also rate terribly in bioavailability and digestibility. Meaning you just won’t be getting the same potency with a plate of rice and beans, as you would with a smattering of eggs. Combine junk, with more junk, and what do you get?

3. Fiber Is An Essential Nutrient

‘High fiber’ and ‘whole-grain’ are two of the biggest health scams going, occupying prime slots on store shelves, whispering sweet nothings to draw in unsuspecting and well-meaning laypeople. The thing is, fiber gets lifted up by dieticians and armchair nutritionists alike, as the key ingredient in a healthy gut. The mechanism is there. Fiber supplies butyrate to the microbiota, through fermentation. That, in turn, lets those gut bugs proliferate, providing carryover benefits to the immune system, brain, sleep, and such.

Here’s the catch. Fiber isn’t the only source of butyrate. Ketones, a prime source of fuel in a low carbohydrate diet like carnivore, have Beta HydroxyButyrate (BHB). Butter and cheese also contain butyrate. You certainly need to keep your gut bugs fed, you just don’t need a bunch of salad and whole-grain pasta to do it. 

If anything, you’re likely to be better off without fiber, and here’s why. A healthy microbiome also needs to be able to keep the bad bugs in check, fend off inflammation, while protecting and repairing the intestinal lining. Fiber acts as a fertiliser for good and bad bugs alike. It doesn’t provide much in the way of the nutrients needed for fixing a wonky gut lining. That’s where collagen comes in.

You don’t need fiber. You certainly don’t need it to poop. In fact, you’re saving valuable time that would otherwise be spent unclogging your bowels. And at the same time, people like you more now that you’re no longer stinking up the office block.

4. Saturated Fat Clogs Your Arteries

This is a classic that isn’t ready to die just yet, propped up in part by due to its status as nutritional fact within the medical circles. Well, here’s the thing, even doctors can be wrong. Especially when they’re basing their opinions on junk science. Otherwise known as epidemiological data. 

Correlation doesn’t mean causation, and cherry-picking stats to get there, makes it look even worse. As of now, we still lack actual evidence to prove that saturated fat does indeed cause atherosclerosis by increasing bad cholesterol.

Here’s what we do know. It does increase LDL.

But LDL itself isn’t the issue, it’s the glycation and oxidation of LDL particles that hasten plaque buildup in the arteries. Glycation, as in sugar, and oxidation, as in inflammatory seed oils. This is where context rears its necessary head. Red meat by itself? Harmless. Put it between a few buns and alongside a plate of fries dipped in vegetable oil, and you potentially have a heart-attack cocktail. 

Personally, in this situation I’d be looking at sugar and seed oils as the prime suspects. I’d also be referring to the Total Cholesterol / HDL ratio, which is unaltered by red meat, since it improves HDL (good cholesterol) numbers. Unfortunately, I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t medical advice.

5. Red Meat Shortens Your Lifespan

Ruminant meat gets plenty of stick, and that’s not all down to the saturated fat conundrum. There are plenty of other allegations regularly making the rounds. Carcinogenic nitrates, colon troubles, death by excess protein, there’s just so much to get through. The average sum of it all, red meat to fast track your progress to the grave.

In fact, we have the studies to prove it. Or at least, suggest the possibility of it. One such paper from Harvard, found that people who increased their red meat intake by just a half serving a day, boosted their chances of dying over the next 8 years by 10%. And here’s the asterisk to go with it. Population surveys are an easy way to form a hypothesis, but a terrible one if you’re looking to arrive at a conclusion. Hong Kong, with the longest life expectancy in the world, also happens to lay claim to the highest meat consumption in the world. How do you marry the two? 

The healthy user bias is an issue that continuously appears in population surveys, describing the situation where health-conscious individuals avoid behaviours advertised by the media as unhealthy. And it goes both ways. 

Health apathetic individuals, the rebellious type, are more likely to choose unhealthy behaviours. So if you’re eating red meat, you’re probably having it wedged between two buns, alongside a plate of fries dipped in vegetable oil, topped off with a milkshake. You’re also more likely to be chugging wine on weeknights, doing lines before quarterly meetings, and swapping your gym membership for a domino’s express card.

And what of Hong Kong? As it happens, it’s a little different from the west. In Asia, you get to eat meat as long as you can afford it. People with affluence tend to fall prey to the healthy user bias. Therefore the ones that eat meat tend to live longer. Whether that’s because of the meat or not, a population survey isn’t going to tell you.

6. Veganism Saves Animals From Death And Exploitation

The quest of veganism, as outlined by Vegan Daily, is to seek to exclude all forms of cruelty and exploitation to animals. There’s some truth to it, as long as we’re happy to sidestep the colossal death count being administered to rodents, amphibians, insects, and fish. Harvesting crops, pesticide runoff, transporting food, all these come at great cost to animal lifes. Even to the point of extinction.

That’s without even touching deforestation, which funnily enough, doesn’t usually take place because farmers want more grazing land. There’s more than enough grass as it is. Soy, on the other hand, has been a major driver for chopping down ecosystems.

The fact is, no matter what you choose to eat, animals have to die to put food on your plate. There’s no getting around it. The only recourse is to minimise the damage, which a vegan diet thoroughly fails to do. Compare that with a carnivore diet exclusively sourced from locally bred grass-fed ruminants. Two pounds of steak a day, repeated over a year, comes at the cost of two cows, and whatever creatures they stomp on. That’s a pretty ethical return.

The ethical pillar of veganism is a fantasy without merit. Not that we want to declare that too early, because there’s still one more side to cover.

7. Going Plant Based Will Save The Planet

Who doesn’t want to improve our planet’s long-term prospects by creating a sustainable form of agriculture? Vegans are firmly in the pro-earth camp, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The idea that going plant-based presents the solution, however, is a little misguided. Especially since the world’s topsoil is projected to run out within 60 years. Without the topsoil, the plants, the animals, humans, they all die. The ecosystem reaches a standstill.

There isn’t a viable form of crop agriculture that can solve the topsoil conundrum on a mass scale. Monocropping certainly doesn’t help, it just accelerates the process. Organic farming makes for great marketing, but in place of pesticides, the soil gets over-tilled.

But it just so happens that there is a solution: regenerative agriculture. Put ruminants on grass, let them do their thing, rotate them through a few fields, fertilising the topsoil in the process. More grass, more food for the cows, and more meat for your plate. In the meantime, carbon is getting locked away in the soil, and the healthy grass prevents erosion. This all bodes well for the chances of future generations.

The fact is, ruminants have been a dominant contributor to the preservation of planet earth for millions of years. America actually used to have more ruminants back in the pre-colony days, and it didn’t break the system. Nowadays, with the soil-stealing effects of factory farming and monocropping, the planet isn’t doing so well.

8. Meat Is Loaded With Toxins

Vegan initiates often report feeling cleaner after having wiped meat off the menu. Whether that’s placebo, or the removal of trigger foods that usually accompany a big mac, is anyone’s guess. It’s highly unlikely to be the meat itself. 

Not that meat is blameless. Chicken and pork can contain inflammatory PUFAs as a consequence of their usual grain-based diet. For that reason, they’re best moderated. Large fish can have various heavy metals. 

However, many of the allegations that get weighed against meat are unsubstantiated. Nitrates have the potential to be carcinogenic, but you’d have to eat more than a pound of sausages a day to get there. The burning of meat produces heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, but it’s difficult to imagine that wasn’t a problem when our ancestors were cooking mammoth steaks over an open fire.

Grass-fed red meat is currently blameless, pending further investigation. The foremost of the ruminant stomachs, the rumen, possesses the unique ability to take in toxins and convert them into bioavailable nutrition.

This contrasts heavily with plants, which come loaded with organic and inorganic pesticides. Fruit and vegetables are prime suspects for food poisoning. Lectins, oxalates, goitrogens, and the like, can have deleterious effects on the human system. Excess sugar results in the formation of Advanced Glycation End Products, inherently toxic to the body. Seed oils cause oxidation and metabolic dysfunction.

Compared to that, the toxins in meat look mild at best.

9. Meat Rots In The Gut

There’s a classic saying that still makes the odd appearance. When you die, you have five pounds of undigested meat nestled away in your colon. Funnily enough, this seems to originate from an episode of Bel Air Cop. 

As it happens, the idea of meat rotting to pieces in the colon makes no biological sense whatsoever, since meat rarely gets a chance to get as far as the large intestine. Proteins and fats are mostly broken down in the small intestine. Meanwhile, fibrous foods produce their nutrition through bacterial fermentation in the gut, which is literally the process of rotting. Hence the bloating, the gas, and the constipation.

10. You Can Get All Your Nutrient Requirements On A Vegan Diet

The garden of Eden diet might pull at the heartstrings, but it falls woefully short when it comes to providing the body with complete nutrition. The problems are numerous. For one, plant foods are low in bioavailability, meaning you need to be upgrading the portion sizes to make up for the nutrients lost in transit.

As a second, the fiber and plant toxins that inevitably come along for the journey, will play havoc on digestion, hampering your chances of dining at those portion sizes. At least, not without severe discomfort. Thirdly, and finally, there are several key nutrients that are only found in animal foods.

  • Vitamin B12
  • DHA (Bioavailable Omega 3)
  • Heme-Iron (Ditto)
  • Creatine
  • Carnitine
  • Choline
  • Taurine

So on top of having to deal in foods that are low in nutrient density, there are compounds that you flat-out won’t be able to find through the vegan cuisine. Without animal-based supplements, a plant-only diet puts you on the fast-track to malnutrition. And even if you were to paper the cracks with supplements, you’re wasting a ton of money and effort to follow a diet that’s never going to match up to the potential of a meat-based one.

11. Vitamin B12 Can Be Obtained From The Soil

Vitamin B12 presents the classic riposte to the vegan philosophy that all nutrients can be gleaned from a plant-only philosophy. The issue here is that plants don’t need B12, and therefore they lack the means to make or store the compound. That’s led people to eat unwashed vegetables, in order to top up on B12 from the soil.

Unfortunately, there’s going to be little to no B12 in whatever soil you’re munching. To hit your requirements, you’re looking at about 5kg of dirt a day. Vitamin B12 is produced through anaerobic fermentation, a process that gets shut off once the soil is exposed to air. Not only would eating muddy veggies be a dance with food poisoning, it’s irredeemably inefficient.

12. Our Ancestors Were Plant Based

This is technically true, if you’re willing to roll the timeline back 7 million years. Not that our ancestors could be classified as humans at that point. They had yet to find the value of carcasses left over by predators. Neither had they left the safety of the dwindling forests. Those were the fellows known to us as the Last Common Ancestor (LCA), the precursor to the Australopithecines, who predated the Homo genus. 

So what of the Homo lineage? That’s a solid 3-4 million year record of eating meat. We scavenged, then we hunted, then we became apex predators. The proof isn’t just found in the remains of hunting knives, it’s reflected in evolutionary biology. 

The shift from fibrous fruit to nutrient-dense meat enabled us to develop brains that dwarfed our primate cousins. At the same time, gut shrunk due to reduced demands. We lost the ability to digest cellulose, the dominant plant compound. The Homo genus didn’t just give up on being plant-based, they specialised in hyper carnivory.

13. We Need To Become More Alkaline

Alkaline is all the rage these days, as people fight to quell the acidic flames by dousing it with cucumber-flavoured water. This is backed by the indisputable fact that raising your PH by a few fractions results in death. But here’s the thing, the body is perfectly capable of keeping your PH within that tight corridor. It has to.

In the meantime, the stomach is designed to be highly acidic. We have a stomach PH of 1.5, which is higher on the acidity scale than many carnivores. In fact, it puts us on the level of scavengers, which is exactly what we were when we first dived into the meat cuisine.

That acidity enables the stomach to break down tough, collagenous steak, as well as eliminating most bacteria accompanying it. Bringing alkaline water into the situation is not just ineffective, it’s the opposite of what you need.

As for the idea of increasing alkalinity through vegetables and decreasing acidity by dropping meat off the menu, there’s no evidence to suggest that the PH-altering effects are getting past the stomach. If anything, increasing the PH of the stomach puts you at risk of infections from unpurged pathogens. The alkaline promise is very much snake oil.

14. You Failed Because You Didn’t Do It Properly

It’s not the diet’s fault that you slogged through six weeks of lousy progress before throwing in the towel. You just didn’t go hard enough. 

Putting the blame at the feet of the dieter isn’t a vegan special, all fad diets do it to different extents. But none of them quite match the defenses being mounted up by vegan advocates.

1. You didn’t eat enough food
2. You didn’t the right foods
3. Didn’t plan
4. Didn’t commit
5. Didn’t supplement

There’s always an argument that can be spun up, willfully ignoring the fact that a vegan diet has to be finely curated and complicated to have any chance of succeeding. That isn’t the mark of a healthy diet. A diet that’s optimised to pick up the Ws, has to be simple to follow, and hard to mess up. Otherwise, you’re relying on willpower to heave you over the line.

This doesn’t mean you have to hunt out chicken feet in bustling Asian markets. Just pick any meat that’s cut from an active muscle. Brisket, braising steak, chuck roast, diced casserole beef, are a few classic options that are readily available. 

Wrapping Up

Whether it be in ethics, climate change, or nutrition, the vegan diet attempts to wage war from the high ground. But despite taking an admirably strong stance, the footing is fragile. The claims made against meat are unsubstantiated, as I’ve outlined in a previous article, the mythical dangers of red meat

Meanwhile, the benefits of plants are criminally exaggerated. They are nutritionally sparse, contain a boatload of inflammatory toxins, and amount to a net negative on the environment through the drain on precious topsoil. 

But all this ammunition won’t help you in a debate against a steadfast vegan, because when confronted with facts and common sense, they’ll just move the goalposts. If you point out the insignificant contribution of cow farts to global warming, it’ll be swiftly turned into a conversation about killing animals. 

Deal with that, and it progresses to the lack of vitamin C in meat. Then back to the crazy amounts of water being siphoned off to grow cows. You just end up being taken for a journey of twists and turns, with no resolution in sight.

This is known as whataboutism, and it’s more than happy to steal weeks off your life. So tread with caution.

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Julie
1 year ago

Well said! I’m going to go ahead and share on social and take the heat. If they can’t handle the truth, than that’s on them. Thanks for this well written article!

Sama
1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

By all means, spread the word! And while I don’t think vegans themselves could see the light by reading an article, it could certainly ward off those who are interested in the diet.