Thursday, June 21, 2018

Debunking common misconceptions about vegan diets


From allergies and protein to Vitamin B12 and miscellaneous health conditions, there a lot of health-related reasons people think they can’t adopt a vegan diet. Thankfully, help is at hand! We spoke to vegan dietician and nutritionist Amanda Benham about four of the top myths about vegan diets.

Allergies and intolerances – “I can’t go vegan, I’m allergic/intolerant to nuts/ soy/ wheat/ gluten.”

Amanda: Lots of people with food allergies go vegan. There is no one plant food that is essential to eat, so food allergies or intolerances should not normally prevent anyone from going vegan.  Vegans are all vigilant about what they eat, so avoiding certain foods becomes second nature to all vegans. Of course having multiple food allergies makes eating well more challenging for anyone, so seeking professional help is recommended.

Vitamin B12 – “I don’t want to become Vitamin B12 deficient as a vegan.”

Amanda: The discovery of vitamin B12 in 1948 is what has enabled the dream of the human race adopting a vegan diet to be a possible reality.  There are no plant foods that are reliable sources of vitamin B12, but some processed vegan foods (such as some soy milks, some “fake meats”) have added vitamin B12, and supplements are readily available. It was once thought that fermented foods and spirulina contained vitamin B12, but it has been found that they contain inactive analogues which are of no use to us.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient and a deficiency can have serious health impacts.  The infants of women who are pregnant or lactating  and not supplementing can rapidly become deficient, which can cause irreversible negative impacts (such as intellectual impairment), so it’s vitally important that women of child-bearing age pay attention to vitamin B12.  Vegans who do not regularly consume at least 3 serves of B12-fortified foods every day should take a  B12 supplement, preferably daily. Simply getting tested for deficiency regularly is not a recommended option, as by the time a deficiency is detected, damage has already been done.

It is also worth noting that serum B12 levels are not a reliable indicator of B12 status, and either ”active B12” or homocysteine levels should be checked at the same time, to help with the interpretation of the results.

Protein – “What about protein, and complete proteins? It’s all too complicated when you’re a vegan.” 

Amanda: Vegans who eat a whole food plant-based diet composed of legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit should have no trouble obtaining adequate good quality protein.  The need for protein is actually a need for essential amino acids, which our bodies use to make the different proteins we require.  Of the essential amino acids, it is lysine that is most likely to be in short supply in plant-based diets. Legumes (such as beans and lentils) are a good source of lysine and it is recommended that all vegans include these in their daily diet.


Amanda-Benham-5474-large (1)Miscellaneous health conditions – “I have diabetes/ coeliac disease / Crohn’s disease/ etc – it wouldn’t be healthy for me to go vegan.”

Amanda: I cannot think of any condition that would make it impossible for someone to be on a vegan diet. For some people it will be more challenging than others, and I recommend that anyone with health conditions that require dietary restrictions consult a dietitian for assistance with meal planning and ensuring that their diet is nutritionally adequate.

Amanda Benham is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist who has over 20 years’ experience in been helping people adopt healthy plant-based diets. She is available for consultations via Skype (worldwide), phone (Australia-wide) or face-to-face (in Brisbane, Australia). Find out more by visiting her website at:

 Image sources: 
Vegan Falafel Plate at Nuba in Vancouver” by sweetonveg is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Amanda Benham: Supplied


I have some problems with your post. 1. diabetes is essentially and very basically a carbohydrate intolerance. Their bodies do not process carbohydrates properly and too many carbs makes them MORE sick. Why on earth then would anyone recommend a diet based on carbohydrates to a diabetic? That is nonsense! 2. If you can't get B12 OUTSIDE animal sources, isn't there a fundamental problem with being vegan? Just because we have the OPPORTUNITY to supplement doesn't mean we should. Whole foods are always the absolute best way to get your nutrients. Supplements are always second best. I don't settle for second best in my nutrition. 3. If there are NO essential plant foods but there ARE essential fatty acids (Omegas, amino acids) and essential vitamins (B12, A,D,E,K etc are best from animal sources, most easily digestible and bio-available) that are BEST from animals, why would I settle for second best? Plant sources are NOT equal to animal sources in terms of digestibility and bio-availability. Again, I don't settle for second best in my nutrition. 4. Fortified foods are again, second best. They're added from sources who knows where from and again, NOT in the MOST bio-available and digestible form. Second best. I do first rate, not second best. I eat whole foods as unprocessed as possible, organic and non-gmo. As much as I am able, I buy from conscientious farmers who treat animals humanely, holistically and healthfully as possible. I personally don't want to support CAFO's, the conventional poultry market and companies that do not take my desire to know what is in my food seriously. We need a fundamental change in the way we treat and eat animals, but eliminate them all together? That's just second best nutrition.
Posted by vikki on 2015-07-21 at 04:01. (Reply)
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It should be highlighted that no animal OR plant foods contain vitamin B12 naturally. Vitamin b12 is a microbe that is found in soil. Cows then eat the grass and are able to obtain b12 from the soil - but the soil has become quite depleted of nutrients so cows are generally supplemented for b12 either via injection or in their feed.
Posted by Alexis on 2015-07-21 at 13:45. (Reply)
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