Tempeh, Tofu & Co. - Are the plant-based meat alternatives just unhealthy and expensive?

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Writed by - Andy Gocker
  Unhealthy and expensive? Fact check on five vegan myths
Vegan nutrition is expensive and leads to deficiency symptoms: is that really true? © takayuki/Shutterstock.com, SpotOn

More and more Germans are giving up animal products in their diet. According to the Allensbach market and advertising media analysis, 1.58 million people said they were eating vegan in 2022; in 2020 there were around 450,000 fewer. Vegans have to contend with many prejudices that keep turning people who are interested in nutrition off. The Biggest Myths About Veganism: What's Really True?

Vegans don't get enough protein - but tempeh, tofu & co. are plant-based sources of protein

A classic among the vegan prejudices: Anyone who eats vegan suffers from a protein deficiency. Many people believe that our bodies need animal products to meet protein needs. According to the recommendations of the German Society for Nutrition, the optimal daily amount for an adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you have a balanced plant-based diet and eat enough calories, you should have no problem reaching this value. Soy products such as tofu or tempeh, as well as legumes and nuts, are particularly good sources of vegetable protein. But vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts also contain a lot of protein.

Vegans suffer from deficiency symptoms

Can be - but doesn't have to be. In addition to vitamin B12, iodine, calcium and iron are considered potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet. A well-planned vegan diet should not lead to deficiency symptoms. The body can absorb iodine from fungi or algae, for example, and iron can be found in legumes, nuts or green leafy vegetables. Vegetable products high in calcium include poppy seeds, hazelnuts, almonds and broccoli.

Vitamin B12, which is formed by microorganisms, is not found in any conventional plant-based foods, or in too small amounts. Vegans must consume it through dietary supplements. So if you are well prepared, you should not get any deficiency symptoms. Incidentally, even omnivores are not safe from vitamin deficiencies.

Vegan diet is complicated

If you change your diet, you have to say goodbye to old eating habits. Especially the vegan shopping in the supermarket can be overwhelming at the beginning. Which products contain animal ingredients, which seals are trustworthy and why is there milk powder in so many foods? After a short time, however, you get to know numerous new products and soon you know which staple foods belong in the vegan repertoire. Clearly: The longer you eat vegan, the more knowledge you collect and the easier it is.

Vegan foods are expensive

If you look at the prices of various substitute products such as vegan cheese, burgers, veggie mince and Co., you will probably think at first: vegan nutrition is incredibly expensive. Such substitute products make it easier to start a vegan lifestyle, but they are not necessary for a balanced plant-based diet. On the contrary: basic plant foods such as cereals, legumes, fruit and vegetables are usually among the cheapest products in the store. In addition, with the growing popularity of veganism, more and more products are coming onto the market that could become significantly cheaper in the coming years.

Tempeh, Tofu & Co. - Soy consumption is destroying the rainforest

Tofu, Soy Milk and More: Are Vegans Destroying the Rainforest? It is true that massive areas of rainforest are being cleared to grow soy, thereby destroying biodiversity, especially in South America. A big problem - but not caused by vegans. Because most soy does not end up directly on our plates: around 80 percent of the global soy harvest is used as animal feed for cows, pigs or chickens. The soy from which tofu and co. are made is mostly grown in Europe.

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