Should You Go Vegetarian? 5 Myths About Meatless Eating, Debunked
Got myths about going meatless? According to health experts, plenty of research shows eating an all-plant diet can help reduce risk for heart disease, diabetes, and more. If you can't adopt a vegetarian eating style all the time, try doing it a few times a week. To help you get started, we look at some of the top myths about eating vegetarian style and show you how reaping the health benefits of a vegetarian diet (even part-time) can be easier (and more delicious) than you think.
Myth 1: Vegetarians have to do crazy food matching to get enough protein in their diet.
<strong>Truth: </strong>Experts used to think certain foods, like rice and beans, had to be eaten together to replace the protein of meat. Now we know the mix-and-match at the same meal isn't necessary. Plant foods contain protein building blocks called amino acids. And as long as a variety of plant foods with amino acid profiles that complement each other are eaten throughout the day, meatless munchers can get enough protein from plant sources alone.
Myth 2: Maybe some people can go meatless, but I work out a lot and need my meat.
<strong>Truth:</strong> "I hear this a lot from male athletes," says Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RD, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, and author of Vegetarian Sports Nutrition (Human Kinetics, 2006). "But even athletes can get enough protein through plant foods alone. You just have to eat enough calories from a diet that includes a variety of plant protein foods, including legumes, soy foods, nuts, seeds and grains."
Myth 3: A vegetarian diet seems boring. I need more variety.
<strong>Truth:</strong> "There's more to select from within a plant-based diet than you might think," says Larson-Meyer. "Sometimes it's just a matter of seeking out new foods and new options." Investigate your grocery store with a keen eye. How many never-before-tried fruits and vegetables do you see? How many grains? "There are so many different kinds of legumes, and they all taste slightly different when put in combinations with leafy greens, pasta, grains, and nuts," she says. Another tip: Head for the ethnic aisle for enticing new spices and flavors.
Myth 4: It will be too hard to give up my favorite foods.
<strong>Truth:</strong> "Many of your favorite foods may actually be vegetarian," says Larson-Meyer, "like pasta, tomato sauce, bean burritos, pizza, and salad." And who says you have to give up all your favorite meat dishes. Try to transform some meat meals into vegetarian versions. "Trade ground beef for chunked-up portobello mushroom or textured vegetable protein," she says. "And marinated tofu is a great replacement in chicken dishes. Beans also work well as meat substitutes."
Myth 5: Tofu tastes like squishy cardboard.
Truth: "Many people who say they don't like tofu have only tried it plain right out of the package, which is a shame because it's so tasty when prepared by people who cook with it all the time," says Larson-Meyer. "Try tofu prepared at a Thai or Japanese restaurant." Later, experiment at home by pan frying tofu in a spicy Thai peanut sauce or marinating chunks of it in teriyaki sauce and grilling it kebab style with vegetables.