9 Vegan Food Myths Busted (And Plant-Based Truths Told)

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We’re constantly bombarded with information these days but, unfortunately, not all of it is good. Take the food that we eat as an example. It’s a topic that the media love, but they don’t always get things right, and that’s a big reason why so many food myths take root.

But, why do newspapers and 24-hour news channels love topics like food so much?

Because they are emotive. They makes us sit up and take notice. After all, we all want to know about the latest miracle food, right?

However, this is how so many food myths begin. A lot of the information is simply put out there to sell newspapers or to keep you on that particular TV news channel until the ad breaks roll around.

The problem is that some of these falsehoods actually stick, and many of them become so believable we’re actually shocked, and rather disbelieving, when someone points out that they’re really not true at all.

The majority of us are trusting souls, so we like to believe what we are told. However, people are getting wise to what is being fed (pardon the pun) to them by the mainstream media, and they’re starting to do more and more research themselves about things that are important to them, like food.

We believe that it is this awakening that has led to the explosion in people taking up the vegan lifestyle of late. We now know that the vegan diet is one of the healthiest ways to live, despite being told otherwise by the meat and dairy industry for so long.

However, with the rise in popularity comes a problem – vegans are now starting to get plenty of misinformation, too!

That’s why we decided to put together a list of vegan food myths, and give you – our beautiful readers – the truth about them once and for all.

So, if you’re ready to get busting, we shall begin!

Eating nuts will make you fat

Ahh, nuts. No, that wasn’t an exclamation of exasperation, it was a show of our love for these protein packed little bundles of taste and goodness.

For years now, many people have regarded nuts to be almost as bad for you as eating junk food – how ridiculous is that? Well, it’s not such a crazy food myth when you look at how high in calories and fat (the good kind, though) they are.

However, research has shown that eating nuts does not significantly affect weight gain! To find out why, watch the amazing video from Dr Michael Greger above.

FACT: Eating nuts regularly does not appear to lead to the weight gain that one would expect. Studies show that when compared to an equivalent calorie intake from another food source, nuts simply don’t seem to pile on the pounds like a pretzel will.

Add to that the fact that eating plenty of nuts can lead to us having a lower risk of heart disease and generally help us live longer and healthier lives, and you’ll see why this is one of those vegan food myths that we’re only too happy to bust.


Fresh fruit and vegetables are always better for you than frozen or canned

assorted canned vegetables

This is another one of those vegan food myths that seem obvious at first glance but, when you actually think about it, it becomes apparent that it is just that – a myth!

Sure, if you were to go and pluck some beautiful carrots from your back yard and eat them straight away they would be more nutritious than what comes out of a tin, but how many of us do that? Especially those of us who live in big cities such as New York, Sydney or London!

The truth is, the majority of us consume ‘fresh’ fruit and veg that is actually days – if not weeks or months – old. While they may not sit on the grocery store’s shelves for long, they are frequently picked earlier than they ordinarily would be, ripened unnaturally and shipped or flown from all four corners of the world.

Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, is often picked and frozen rapidly or canned on the very same day, locking in many of the nutrients, antioxidants and general goodness that would otherwise have been lost while it travels and is held in storage.

“But, doesn’t freezing food kill off nutrients anyway?”, we hear you say. The answer is, no, at least not to any significant degree.

While the taste may differ slightly from consuming fresh produce, the nutritional values within the fruit and veg in your freezer remains pretty much unchanged providing they have been flash frozen when picked and kept frozen during transportation.

FACT: The truth behind this vegan food myth is that frozen and canned fruit and vegetables can often contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts.

Buying your fresh produce locally and in season will give you the best of both worlds, taste and nutrition, but when your favorite fruit and veggies are not available, opting for those found in the canned section or grocery store’s freezers is a great alternative.

One thing to remember, though. Always, always, always check the labels on your canned and frozen produce. Many of the big suppliers add all manner of nastiness, such as sugar, salt and other preservatives, to extend the shelf life even further. Don’t get caught out!

Brown bread always beats white

brown bread and white bread myths

Firstly, remember that a lot of store bought bread will contain non-vegan ingredients, so watch out! (Check out this post for more on that: What Types of Bread Can Vegans Eat?)

As for the brown bread vs. white bread debate, a lot will depend on the type of bread that you are buying. Unscrupulous food companies have cottoned on to the fact that we all now think of brown bread as being the healthy option, and some will simply add a caramel coloring (check out my “Is Caramel Vegan?” post to find out more about this) to white bread in order to deceive shoppers.

The packaging, if there is any, should always say something along the lines of “100% whole wheat” or “whole grain” on the good stuff, meaning that your loaf is made of unrefined wheat rather than the bleached stuff in white bread that has been stripped of all of its nutrients.

When you are looking at the ingredients, check to see whether or not the first on the list is either wholewheat or wholegrain, too.

Some will be advertised as being wholegrain when, in fact, they only have a tiny amount of wholegrain added! Ingredient lists are listed in descending order, so the one that appears first will be the ingredient that is used more than any other in the recipe.

Another good idea is to opt for the bread with the fewest ingredients overall. Bear in mind that truly traditional bread is really only made up of three ingredients: flour, water and a little salt, whereas some store bought loaves will contain well over 30!

FACT: Wholegrain loaves are undoubtedly better for you than white bread, but not all brown loaves are created equal.

Just because the packaging has a picture of a country scene and bit of clever copywriting on it doesn’t mean to say that it is going to be good for you.

Make sure that your loaf is made from 100% whole wheat in order to get the most fiber, potassium, magnesium and selenium from your daily bread.


Protein in legumes is useless without eating grains at the same time

legumes and rice combined protein myth

Despite being debunked quite some time ago, the protein combining vegan food myth seems to still be alive and well. The fact is, however, that it’s really complete hooey.

There are complete plant-based proteins available and the truth is that near enough everyone in the western world is consuming way too much protein, including vegans and vegetarians!

Think about of those huge animals that live solely on plants. Where do they get their protein from? (The answer is plants, in case you were struggling).

Harvard’s nutrition department’s chair, Dr Walter Willet, recommends that we get our protein from plants rather than animal sources as foods are essentially a packaged deal.

Our metabolic systems don’t care whether the amino acids needed for protein production come from a plant or an animal, but protein is not taken in isolation – the whole package counts. So, the quality of the other nutrients in the protein package can influence our health over the long term.

The Harvard Nurses Health Study showed that increasing the protein intake from sources such as beans, nuts and seeds, whilst reducing the amount of easily digested carbs, can lower the risk of contracting heart disease.

So, eating a plant-based diet will not only give you enough protein whether you combine them or not, it is also the healthiest way to get all of the protein that you need to survive and thrive.

FACT: Plant foods DO contain all of the amino acids that we need in order to live healthy lives.

The vegan food myth concerning insufficient protein began over a century ago with the release of a report by Thomas B. Osborne and Lafayette B. Mendel entitled Amino Acids in Nutrition and Growth, which was then followed by the combining protein myth some 40 years ago. Both have been completely debunked on regular occasions since. (1, 2)

Plant proteins can most definitely provide humans with both the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as we eat enough food to meet our energy needs.

So, the old vegan food myth of needing to consciously combine certain foods, such as rice and beans (complementary proteins), in order to get enough protein is one that you can safely ignore.


Raw fruit and veg is always more nutritious than cooked

stir fry - raw vegetables better than cooked myth

This may be a contentious one for some within our community, but the truth is that this another vegan food myth that needs straightening out.

Raw food advocates will be quick to tell you that heat destroys nutrients and digestive enzymes, therefore eating raw is always the best way to go. But, that’s all a little black and white, isn’t it?

Of course, cooking food DOES remove some very important nutrients, but it can also make others more absorbable, too. So, if you were to ask people the question, “Is it better to eat fruit and vegetables raw or cooked?”, the person who answers, “Raw”, would be right. But then so would the person who said, “Cooked”!

FACT: Raw food can be beneficial in some instances, but then cooked fruit and vegetables can be better for us in others.

Take carrots, for example. Cooked carrots contain as much as three times the antioxidants than raw. Tomatoes have higher rates of lycopene when cooked and broccoli, too, outperforms raw with more cancer-busting indoles found after being heated.

Plus, the widespread myth that we only have a certain amount of enzymes in our bodies that need to be replaced by eating live plant enzymes is false. The human body can produce adequate amounts of enzymes from the protein that we ingest, and the cooking process actually makes these proteins more digestible, not less.

As one might expect, balance is key. Getting a healthy mixture of raw and cooked foods is a better way to live, and probably a little less boring, too!

Vegans have more food cravings because they lack nutrients found in animal products

two dogs with food - vegan nutrition misconception

We love this one!

There is absolutely no evidence to back up the claims that nutritional deficiency – in either vegans, vegetarians or, for that matter, meat eaters – will trigger food cravings in order to get us to replace what we are lacking in.

The origin of this food myth is likely to come from pregnancy, but it really is just an old wives tale.

Food cravings are more likely to be emotional rather than nutritional, so the term comfort food is actually quite apt.

But, if it were true, vegans who stick to a whole food plant-based diet are far more likely to get all of the nutrients that they need when compared to someone who eats processed junk food containing animal products.

So, this is a vegan food myth that is wrong twice!

FACT: Nutritional deficiency does not cause food cravings.

Think about the sort of things that you crave and you’ll likely answer your own question on this one. As much as we love our kale and spinach leaves here at Happy Happy Vegan, they’re not high on our list of food cravings!

Vegan-friendly chocolate, yes. Green leafies, err, not so much.

However, there is one nutrient that will cause you to crave – iron. But before you jump on the comments section and call us all hypocrites, the craving are usually non-food based and take the form of things such coal, cement and clay!

The strange condition is called pica, and it has been observed in both sexes of all ages across all ethnic groups. (3)


Celery is a negative calorie food

celery negative food fallacy

Sorry to disappoint folks, but this is just another one of the many vegan food myths that have gained traction over the years.

Because celery is so low in calories (around 16 in an average single cup serving), people often erroneously believe that they will burn more calories than they consume when eating these sticks of goodness.

Unfortunately, that has been proven to be false, but that shouldn’t stop you eating it. Celery is extremely rich in vitamin K and contains numerous other nutritional goodies, too, and it’s still going to help you lose weight as it bulks out meals, but it won’t cause you to burn more calories.

FACT: Celery is a great vegetable to eat for a number of reason, but it isn’t a negative calorie food.

However, when a two-stalk serving was tested in a 2012 study conducted by M. E. Clegg C. Cooper, the original 16 calories that were consumed was cut down to a mere 2 calories after being eaten.

So, if you are looking for a low-calorie food to munch on during your weight loss programme, celery is hard to beat!


Natural sweeteners are a healthy alternative to standard sugar

sugar on a board natural sweeteners misbelief

If only this were true! Sorry to be bearers of bad news, but all of those miracle sweeteners that have been pushed as healthy alternatives really need to be treated with caution.

While it may be true that some of these natural and unrefined alternatives are definitely better for you than highly processed white sugar (see ‘Is Sugar Vegan?‘ for more info), they certainly cannot be labelled as healthy, no matter what the marketers say!

Sure, some have a degree of nutritional value (actually it’s only two: date sugar and molasses), but even these should only be taken in moderation.

FACT: Sugar, regardless of its origin, should be minimised wherever possible. Too much of the sweet stuff can lead to a resistance of insulin, making diabetes far more likely.

Couple that with the fact that excess sugar intake can also bring on obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, cancer and even infertility, and you’ll have all the reasons you need to keep a watchful eye on just how much sugar you are consuming.

Drinking lots of juice is a good way to get your daily fruit requirements

Fruit juice is adored by many but, as we have seen with other things on our list, all juice is not the same.

Store-bought juices can be as deadly as the fizzy drinks that we all know are bad for our health. The amount of sugar that these drinks contain is truly terrifying, and they should in no way be considered a healthy option.

Even juice that we make at home can be harmful if consumed in large quantities over a long period of time. Opting to have solely fruit in your juices is a bad idea, you should really be putting way more vegetables in than things such as apples, oranges and the like.

A better way of making your morning drink would be to blend all of your ingredients rather than juice them. That way, you will be getting all of the nutrients found in your fresh juice, but also have all of the fiber, too.

Better still, eat the whole fruit just as nature intended!

FACT: Fruit juice, despite coming from what we commonly think of as extremely healthful foods, can be detrimental to our health.

Juicing removes a lot of the goodness from the whole food. In fact, a study using grape juice showed that as much as 90% of all nutrients were lost when we opt for the juice alone. That’s a lot of goodness being thrown away!

So, while we are certainly not implying that everyone should ditch their juicers, we would recommend that you only have pure fruit juice on occasion, and never, ever, buy fruit juice from the store.


Here endeth the vegan food myths!

We hope you liked our list of vegan food myths. Lots of them have been around for a long time, but now that you know more about them, you can begin to put that right.

Please help out by sharing this amongst your friends, both vegan and non-vegan. Oh, and if you have another vegan food myth that you think we’d like to hear, by all means let us know in the comments section below.

9 Vegan Food Myths
About The Author:
Lisa Williams
Happy Happy Vegan editor

Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.

Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!

  1. T B Osborne, L B Mendel | Amino-acids in nutrition and growth. 1914 | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8263262/
  2. Chana Davis, PhD | Busting the Myth of Incomplete Plant-Based Proteins | https://tenderly.medium.com/busting-the-myth-of-incomplete-plant-based-proteins-960428e7e91e
  3. The Free Dictionary | Pica | https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/pica

4 thoughts on “9 Vegan Food Myths Busted (And Plant-Based Truths Told)”

  1. Thanks for the post. It’s very well written. I started eating vegan only about 3 months ago and am discovering a lot every day.

    I think the sweetener being a healthy alternative to sugar is always misleading. Robert Lustig has a very popular YouTube lecture explaining why this isn’t true. To summarize he says that the brain can’t tell the difference between sweetener and sugar and therefore has the same chemical reaction.

      • No I haven’t, but I’ve just downloaded it on my Kindle. I started looking at sugar a couple of years ago in my spare time. The rabbit hole is deep when it comes to the sugar industry.

        Although it seems like the advice is everywhere now about sugar, when I do bring up the subject it seems like people are aware of it, but haven’t made any dramatic lifestyle changes yet.

        • I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You’re so right about people’s lack of effort to change bad old habits. However, as the book shows, sugar addiction is not only very real, it’s also very powerful. Happy reading!

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