Veganism, once thought of as a scary cult, is now dipping its toe into mainstream waters. But the well-(olive)-oiled myths are still doing the rounds. Life-long vegan, Ami Tadaa sets about putting a plant-based bomb under them.
“So you’re a vegan? Whoa, what’s that like? I mean what do you eat? No seriously. What. Do. You. Eat?”
Welcome to a conversation I’ve been having since I could string a sentence together. Having been a veggie since she was in her mid-teens, my mum decided to go vegan when she was pregnant with me, so aside from a piece of Bourneville chocolate my aunty mistakenly gave me when I was a baby and a prawn-invaded veggie dumpling Wagamama once served up in error, I’ve been meat and dairy free my whole life.
Now 24, I’m pleased to say the strange looks, raised eyebrows and tilted heads of concern have lessened in recent years. Perhaps this is because more high-profile people, such as Bill Clinton, Natalie Portman and Ellen DeGeneres, are becoming vegan, (or maybe it’s because people are realising the health, environmental and ethical benefits – there are undoubtedly shitloads).
All that said though, there are still many myths around veganism, which continue to circulate like the blades in my favourite smoothie maker.
So, when the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to be a vegan myths buster (we’re like the Ghostbusters with less equipment but just as much green goop). Here goes.
All vegans are activists who are never happier than when they’re beating their (non-animal-skin) drum with a cucumber
The only think I like to shove down the throats of anyone who visits our house are yummy vegan treats. Of course there are the more militant among us, but speaking for myself and others I know, we pretty much just get on with life like everyone else. If anyone asks me why I’m a vegan, I’ll tell them. But you won’t see me protesting outside Nando’s anytime soon.
Vegans are so skinny they can hula hoop with a cheerio
If only! Being a life-long vegan, I can tell you right now that a vegan diet does not give you a watertight passport to slim city. Vegans can eat. A lot. Although, many who decide to become vegan may experience weight loss if they were carrying a few extra pounds, there’s bucketloads of vegan food that can pile on the beef (see: we’re funny too).
Eating out as a vegan means more whining than dining
It might have been that way a few decades ago, but times have changed. Almost every restaurant, (okay, maybe not your local steakhouse), will offer a good selection of vegetarian food and usually a really tasty vegan dish or two. Shame on any waiter/waitress who offers a puzzled face in response to the vegan question – and ditto to any chef who doesn’t have some vegan versions up their flameproof sleeve. If you get stuck when it comes to eating out just look at www.happycow.net for recommendations worldwide.
Vegans never die, the smug bastards
People assume being vegan automatically makes you healthy. Although a well-balanced vegan diet is certainly that, vegans can get junk food too – and boy when we get our hands on it, it can be a sight to behold.
Say protein one more time. I dare you, I double dare you mother****er
People being surprised we have survived at all has become a running joke between me and my two siblings. What a lot of people don’t seem to know is that all plant-based foods contain more than enough protein for anyone. Seitan (a meat substitute made from flour) has just as much protein per gram as meat.
Vegans have the bone density of ghosts and the teeth of a 100-year-old troll
Calcium deficiency is another assumption which is trotted out like Daisy the cow at milking time, but there are a ridiculous number of non-dairy foods which can hit the spot just as well as your standard doorstep pint. Kale, almonds, dried figs, bok choy, sesame seeds and white beans are just a handful.
Pregnancy and veganism is a contradiction in terms
My mum has been a pregnant vegan three times and had no problems at all. The main worry people seem to have is to do with not getting enough B12 when animal products are cut out.
I’ll take your concern and raise you soya milk, meat substitutes and Marmite. Not only that, but vegan women are less likely to gain excessive pregnancy pounds too.
Being vegan will break your proverbial porky bank
When my other half switched from a meat diet to a vegetarian one, he was really surprised at how much less we were spending on food. Newsflash! Meat and cheese are pricey buggers. Of course I’m not denying there are crazily expensive vegan treats out there (there are rich vegans who need to be exploited too, you know), but it’s really easy to find reasonable vegan products in all the major supermarkets, as well as specialist health food shops. Check out the value ranges for a kick off. Loads of that stuff is vegan these days.
Being vegan is the gastronomic equivalent of a librarian
People think it’s all carrot sticks and nuts, but pretty much all dishes have a vegan equivalent: pizzas, curries, burgers, fois gras…
Okay, maybe not fois gras; if there’s a vegan somewhere trying to replicate goose liver with soya they’re missing the point. But a vegan diet doesn’t have to be any more boring or bland than its meaty counterpart.
When we cook for our non-vegan friends and family, they usually end up asking for the recipes.
Put the fact that all the major supermarkets are selling great vegan substitutes together with the increase in vegan options, restaurants and street food, it’s fair to say vegan food has never been so creative and deliciously extravagant.
Runty vegans don’t make runners; you can’t be an athlete and be a vegan
Being a world-class athlete isn’t all about raw eggs and chicken for breakfast. There are some fantastically fit vegan athletes, including ultra-marathon man Rich Roll, Olympic legend Carl Lewis and tennis goddess Venus Williams – want to try telling her she’s iron deficient?
It’s all or nothing
Making a transition doesn’t have to be a black or white choice. I like to think of it more as 50 shades of green. I know loads of people who have trimmed their meat intake and instead use veggie mince for chilli and spag bol. Check out the McCartney family’s Meat Free Monday Campaign for starters (www.meatfreemondays.com). Meanwhile my other half is veggie for 364 days a year and has turkey at Christmas. He doesn’t get much Yuletide snogging, it’s true, but everyone finds their own balance. Once you start looking into it, the benefits of the vegan experience really do speak for themselves
Some people like to make big changes all in one go, others like to take things more gradually. If you’re thinking about moving towards a vegan diet, work out which route is best for you, safe in the knowledge that veganism isn’t a one way ticket to Hardship & Denialville.
It requires change of course, but it’s also an adventure with so much to explore and so many benefits that you’ll never look back.
Lifelong vegan Ami Deane was raised from birth around the world on pure plant. She has somehow reached 24 and landed in Newcastle, with an uncanny resemblance to a human being, but an obsession with cashew cheese. She recently launched @TyneChease and vegan Sara Pascoe thinks she's a 'genius goddess'.