Vegetarians: Myths vs. Facts

by in Healthy Tips, July 9, 2013

Vegetarians are often seriously misunderstood. It’s time to debunk some of the most common vegetarian myths!

Myth: Vegetarians don’t get enough protein
Fact: It’s actually pretty easy for vegetarians to meet their needs for protein, even if they choose not to eat eggs and dairy products. Thanks to plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, lentils and what’s found in whole-grains breads and cereals, getting enough protein can be deliciously simple.

Myth: All vegetarians eat the same foods
Fact: Many folks who follow a vegetarian diet still choose to incorporate dairy and eggs (or even fish or chicken) into their meal routine. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to these choices, and whichever foods they do choose to eat will expose them to important vitamins and minerals. For example, calcium can be found in dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese, but it’s also in tofu, leafy greens and calcium-fortified orange juice. (Learn more about the types of vegetarian diets.)

Myth: Vegetarian diets are always low in fat
Fact: A well-rounded vegetarian diet includes healthy fats from foods like olive oil, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. But less than healthy foods like french fries and doughnuts fall into the vegetarian category as well. So even vegetarians needs to watch which fats they take in.

Myth: Meat substitutes are better for you than the real thing
Fact: From bacon to ground meat to hot dogs, there’s a veggie imposter for just about every type of meat. While these options may lack animal protein and be low in cholesterol, they’re often made from highly processed ingredients and contain large amounts of sodium and fat (that doesn’t sound so healthy, now does it?).

Myth: Vegetarians are iron-deficient
Fact: It’s possible for both vegetarians and meat-eaters to become iron-deficient, but there are plenty of ways to get iron from plant-based foods like beans, tofu and spinach. Eating these plant foods along with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance iron absorption. (Learn more about getting enough iron in your daily diet.)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (25)

  1. […] View Original Article Filed Under: Articles · […]

  2. Sam says:

    Vegetarians do not eat fish or chicken :/

  3. My mum is a vegetarian and I just cant understand that, how cant she eat meat??? I mean no chicken???

    • Chick says:

      I had chickens. They were sweet birds and attached to our family. I could no more lop their heads off, drain their blood, cut out their intestins (gut them), rip out their feathers after dipping them in boiling water, cut off their feet and then cook them up for dinner… any more than I could the family cat or dog.

    • Bite Me says:

      Chicken, cancer that tastes like dog meat.

  4. sue says:

    One thing most people don't realize tofu and other soy products suppress the thyroid gland which causes ,WEIGHT GAIN! Excluded in the Soy products that do not suppress the thyroid are fermented soy items like soy sauce or tempeh. Most Americans eat non fermented soy as well as pigs to fatten them.

    • Annie says:

      You neglected to mention that "Foods belonging to the cruciferous family include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard, rutabagas, kohlrabi and turnips. These foods are also associated with decreased thyroid function. …Peanuts are a third food associated with diminished thyroid function."

      Next time don't pick and choose "facts" based on a personal agenda unless you want to risk someone checking out your facts and outing you.

      Read more:

    • Annie says:

      "Hypothyroidism is a common condition…. (that) affects over 1 percent of the population."

      As of 2006, 7% of the American population were vegetarian and since I sincerely doubt that that entire 1% of the population with hypothyroidism are non-meat eaters, I think this kinda blows your theory out of the water.

      Poor diet… fast food, boxed, frozen, and pre-made deli meals; sugary treats, high meat consumption with very little fruit and vegetables, along with very little exercise have more to do with weight gain than eating tofu. I personally know too many people who "hate" fruit and vegetables and subsist on meat and potatoes (fries), fast food, frozen meals, cookies, sugary muffins and pre-sweetened junk cereal, along with very little exercise; and their poor health, bad skin and weight show it.

  5. Laura says:

    These are some great points – the one thing I would mention is that non-meat eaters sometimes struggle to maintain weight becasue of the increased relance on carbs and fats… not to menation there is some REALLY tasty vegan junk food out there. ;)

    I wrote a blog post about vegan protein spurces, with a great chart that include some high protein veggies too!

  6. Jay says:

    Couple notes: My concern with Tofu and Soy is that they are made with soybeans and over 90% of soybeans grown in the US are Genetically Modified (GMO),

    If you are avoiding meats and fish as with a vegetarian or vegan diet it is of great importance to pay very close attention to your diet to be sure you are getting all 8 essential amino acids along with sufficient fats in each meal for proper nutrient absorption. Getting these are difficult with a vegetable diet only buy are found in greater combinations in meat, fish and chicken. Fats (containing omega 3 and omega 6) and amino acids in the diet are necessary for both the absorption of various vitamins and minerals, and are also required for the rebuilding of cells throughout the body.

    While you think you are eating healthy, the absence of essential amino acids in your diet will begin to exhibit as disease as you get older. It's a slow process, but you just cannot starve your body of these essential acids and fats without consequence.

    • jalp says:

      Much of the US soybean crop is GMOs, true — but there are non-GMO products on the market, too. (And we can encourage the market towards non-GMOs . . . at least, we can as long as we are able to tell which is which with proper labeling!)

  7. Janice Martinez says:

    Vegetarians eat fish and chicken!!!!! What kind of nonsense is this? A dietician wrote this? What school did she go to? Unbelievable.

    • JenM says:

      Actually yes vegetarians or technically semi-vegetarians do eat fish and sometimes chicken along with dairy and eggs which come from animals. Vegetarians that eat no animal products are vegan which many people confuse with the term vegetarian. Vegetarians that eat dairy are called lacto-vegetarians, ones that eat eggs are called ovo-vegetarians and ones that eat dairy and eggs are called lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Plus vegetarians that eat fish are pesco-vegetarians and ones that eat chicken are pollo-vegetarians and ones that eat both are pesco-pollo-vegetarians. Do a little research before you bash someone…especially a dietician that went to college to learn all this stuff! There's a great site for you…it's…here is an actual link so you can find it:… I bet you are one of those people that tell professionals how to do their job better like the type that stands behind a plumber and makes different suggestions on how to do their trade. Best of luck on your know-it-all but actually have no idea mentality!!

      • Boohoo says:

        A 'vegetarian' who eats fish or chicken…the only name for that is hypocrite. Or perhaps ignoramus, the same as the beef-witted moldwarp who wrote this painfully silly article.

        • jalp says:

          Perhaps there is room for a term for someone who is on the path towards pure/total/strict/etc (choose your own preferred adjective) vegetarianism. Personally, I would prefer that term to be what JenM describes as the "technical" term "semi-vegetarian", rather than the imprecise "vegetarian". But I would hope we can all get along on our own roads, and speak amicably when we find we're traveling together for a while.

  8. Tracie says:

    I expected more from this article. It seems like fluff.

    Despite the ability to self-identify what one calls one's diet, if you eat the flesh of another creature, you're not a vegetarian. Chickens and fish are creatures.

    Soy in any form is better than eating meat. The clinical trials from Loma LInda have shown that vegetarians live years longer than omnivores and vegan lifespan is even better.

    • jalp says:

      I think the article is trying to reach a broader audience than just those of us who are strictly vegetarian (or even more strictly vegan). Given that as context, I'm not impossibly bothered by the imprecise use of the term "vegetarian" here to cover a range of diet choices — as long as they're explained here, too . . . and they are.

  9. Ticatime says:

    (JenM) Definition, vegetarian: one who eats a diet Wholly of veg, fruit, nuts, grains, seeds (etc). There is no such thing as a semi-vegetarian! If you eat mostly veggie style and occasionally fish or chicken you are simply a person who eats more veggies than the average over-fed, under-nourished American. As a former vegetarian I can tell you that it annoys real vegetarians when people say they are a veggie but eat fish or chicken. Besides being incorrect, we know how difficult, restrictive, and life-changing a real veggie life-style (even though by choice) can be. So don't do it.

    • jalp says:

      Well . . . "semi-vegetarian" could be a legitiimate term for a point on the path from the undifferentiated diet to all-the-way by-the-book-definition vegetarian. Or for someone who is on that path. And, speaking as someone who is on the path towards joining my wife as a vegan, I would like to have good words to use to welcome others to these paths and encourage them on their journeys.

  10. chris geitz says:

    In 2007, Face Forward – a non-profitable firm is established.

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