Five vegan myths busted: The plant-based foods that may surprise you

Melissa Buttigieg
News Reporter

As the war wages between Australia’s meat-eating population and their vegan opponents, a misconception has unfolded about the heath inequalities of a plant-based diet.

When we think about foods rich in protein and calcium, what generally comes to mind is a thick steak, and a glass of milk. But on the contrary, some animal-based foods are just as nutrient rich as their vegan alternatives.

We take a look at five common vegan diet myths and see how they stack up.

Myth 1: There’s no calcium in almond milk

A glass of So Good Almond Milk actually offers slightly more calcium than a glass of Paul’s Full Cream Milk. Source: Pauls, So Good

Ensuring a calcium-rich diet is essential for strong bones, however some people might be surprised to learn vegan foods can really hold their own.

Osteoporosis Australia lists firm tofu as the food with the highest calcium content per serve - that’s even above dairy products like cheese and milk. Green leafy vegetables, cereals and legumes also contain calcium, which might also come as a surprise to some.

Adults can get about a third of their recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium by drinking a glass of either almond or cow’s milk.

Non-dairy milk alternatives can actually be higher in calcium. One 250ml glass of So Good Unsweetened Almond Milk offers 300mg of calcium, compared with just 287.5mg from a glass of Paul’s Full Cream Milk.

Myth 2: Meat is the best source of protein

The best protein sources are not exclusively derived from animal source foods. Source: CSIRO

While animal protein is better at promoting muscle protein synthesis (the process of building muscle mass) than plant proteins, according to a CSIRO report, the best protein sources are not exclusively derived from animal source foods.

While beef and chicken topped the list of protein-rich foods, the protein value of tofu, legumes and nuts still rate high up on the list.

Myth 3: You need meat for iron

Iron sources: animal v plant-based foods. Source: Nutrition Australia

People following a vegan diet can get enough iron through plant foods like legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, and dark green leafy vegetables, to assist the production of red blood cells.

A cup of broccoli has double the amount of iron than a 100g serve of chicken, according to Nutrition Australia. Also high in protein is the vegan staple of tofu, where a half-cup provides 3.6 mg of iron - which is about 20 per cent of the RDI.

Myth 4: Going vegan will help me lose weight

Well, that depends. Ordering a bowl of chips at the pub, or tucking into a huge stack of nachos topped with vegan cheese isn’t going to do your scales any favours.

But a diet rich in vegetables and proteins (either meat or plant-based), balanced with a smaller helping of complex carbohydrates, might help your waistline.

A plant-based, vegan diet doesn't have to be boring. Source: Getty

Myth 5: An animal-friendly diet is ‘boring’

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been asked: “So, do you just eat vegetables?”

Consuming a plant-based diet doesn’t need to be boring, in fact ditching meat has actually opened up my options to delicious foods like mushrooms, eggplant, and edamame beans which I never previously entertained as the potential basis of a solid dinner.

Many meat food items can be adequately substituted with vegan alternatives, and there are an array of sweet-tasting animal-free options available.

Sweet-toothed vegans can share in the delight of enjoying plant-based Oreo biscuits, as well as the ice cream brands that have recently launched vegan varieties, like Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s.

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