Vegetarianism is not for everyone. One can choose to eat healthily and naturally while still eating meat, and vegetarians do not necessarily have an edge when it comes to eating well. In fact, it is possible to be a vegetarian and eat nothing but junkfood. But there is no doubt that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be great for the health and the environment. Unfortunately, too many people have misconceptions about the vegetarian diet, and this leads many to reject this natural option without carefully considering it.
Most of the misconceptions about vegetarianism are easily disproved, yet many remain widespread. Let us debunk a few of the biggest ones.
Myth #1: Humans evolved to eat meat.
Humans are omnivorous, meaning that we are meant to eat practically anything that is available. In this respect, we are among the most versatile species on Earth, capable of sustaining ourselves on a wide variety of plant foods and, yes, animal flesh, if that is what is available. Meanwhile, when you compare the human teeth and digestive system to that of any primarily meat-eating animal, there are huge differences. In the end, while our bodies have evolved to eat practically anything, we are also meant to thrive on what we have. This means that we are free to make the ethical choice not to exploit and kill animals.
Myth #2: All vegetarians are on a moral high horse.
Many meat-eaters think of vegetarians as over moralizing and obnoxious, but that is just because the more self-righteous vegetarians happen to be the loudest ones. In fact, the vast majority of vegetarians do not judge how other people eat, and they mostly keep their opinions to themselves. If you do not hear from these people, that is because they are not actively trying to convert anyone.
Myth #3: Vegetarians do not get enough protein.
People opposed to vegetarianism commonly trot out this “fact” as if it is indisputable, but in reality it is plainly wrong. Granted, there are some vegetarians who do not get enough protein, but that is simply because they eat poorly. Conscientious vegetarians, on the other hand, get protein from a variety of plant sources. Protein, a building block of all life, takes many different forms, and there are complete and incomplete proteins to be found in both plant and animal food. In fact, a vegetarian who eats a variety of vegetables will get more complete proteins than someone who eats lots of meat but few veggies.
Myth #4: Vegetarians do not get enough calcium.
The argument has been made that vegetarians, especially vegans, do not get enough calcium because animal products are the primary source of calcium in our diet. In reality, while dairy foods are great sources of this mineral, there is plenty of calcium in many types of plant foods, especially dark leafy greens.
Myth #5: Vegetarianism restricts your options.
Technically, there are more options available to meat-eaters. But in reality, few take advantage of the full breadth of their food choices. Vegetarianism implies that one cares deeply about what one eats, and in many cases this means that vegetarians are more adventurous and varied in their food choices. This is not always true, but when you consider just how many foods can be made without meat, the field of possibilities is vast and quite diverse.
By Lisa Pecos