A common stereotype about vegans and vegetarians is the “lack of protein.” This could not be farther from the truth! In all actuality, many meat eaters consume 4-6x the recommended amount of protein a day. Most people are recommended to consume around 40-50 grams of protein each day. A single cheeseburger has 15 grams of protein alone. Plant based foods tend to have healthier amounts of protein, and even greater amounts of other minerals and vitamins which animal products may frequently lack. Vitamins such as B12, which animal products tend to be known for, are actually an additive, and not naturally occurring. Iron is another common deficiency among vegans. However, iron can be found in many whole grains and raw foods. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort to get all the necessary nutrients.
A vegan diet has been found to have some positive effects on our digestive track. For example, vegan diets tend to consist of more fiber than an omnivorous diet. Fiber helps us feel full longer and helps with regular bowel movements. Vegetarians are about 31% less likely to develop problems with the colon, specifically diverticular disease. When switching to a meat free diet, some bloating may occur due to the increase of fiber. Some ways to combat this include staying hydrated, avoiding gassy foods, include healthy fats, and try new recipes.
A human’s digestive system is not designed to tolerate a diet high in meat. Compared to a pure carnivore such as a cat, the human digestive system is very short and produces little hydrochloric acid – an enzyme necessary for digesting meat. Humans also do not possess the sharp teeth necessary for shredding meat. The so-called “canines” many people point out when arguing against veganism are actually the same teeth commonly found in herbivores.
So how does this actually affect us? It has a bigger impact than one might think. Osteoperosis is highest in societies who consume high amounts of animal products, whereas it is nonexistent in many vegetarian cultures. Studies done by Michigan State found that overall in both male and females, vegetarians tend to have stronger bones than their meat eating counterparts. Why might there be such an emphasis on drinking milk for strong bones, if that is not quite the case? Should we always trust the recommended daily nutrition we commonly hear about?