It seems each day you hear about a new vegan restaurant opening up, a fast-food chain sinking its teeth into plant-based options, or more companies selecting meat alternatives to add to their menus — vegan and vegetarian diets are growing across the country.
With any new diet, it’s not uncommon to hear positive and negative opinions or assumptions — conversations that vegan Vancouver-based food blogger and To Die For Fine Foods bakery owner Erin Ireland is no stranger to.
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With a background in broadcasting, Ireland was a food reporter before starting her plant-based business and becoming vegan, she said in a phone interview with Daily Hive.
After reporting on restaurant and dish recommendations, Ireland said she did some more research about food and where it comes from and decided to switch to veganism.
“At first I was scared, I didn’t know if I could continue being a food reporter and writing about food,” Ireland said, but found out it was still possible because “there are so many vegan options out there that my food reporting wasn’t compromised.”
“I also realized that there’s no flavour compromise — I am somebody who’s obsessed with finding that ultimate food experience,” Ireland said, “it’s really not compromised when you’re avoiding the animals.”
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While Ireland runs her bakery, she’s still able to continue to create food guides and recipe posts, “but my mission has become much more meaningful now, it’s not just about finding yummy food, it’s about finding amazing food that is also good for our planet, is good for our health, and is good for the animals,” she said.
BC’s government website, HealthLinkBC, reads “if properly planned, a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need.”
Ireland said since going vegan about six years ago, she’s never been healthier, “I have more energy, my acne cleared up, I rarely get sick, the list goes on” and has heard these myths about veganism before.
Ireland said that while she’s not a nutritionist, dietician, or medical expert, she can speak to her own experience, adding “you gotta go to the doctors and read the information because more and more doctors are reading the science and there are new studies.”
Myth 1: If you eat vegan, you won’t get enough protein, iron, and calcium
“Humans need protein, not meat, we need iron, not meat, we need calcium, not dairy, and all of these nutrients are found in abundance in a plant-based diet,” Ireland said.
Myth 2: The vegan diet is too high in carbs
Ireland said this is one myth she often hears from new vegans because they feel “all they have left to eat is carbs once they reduce all the animal products,” when really they haven’t explored all the things they can eat.
“First of all, carbs are not the enemy,” Ireland said, “as long as you’re eating whole foods, not processed white carbs, those might lead to the weight gain.”
“There’s not just one vegan diet,” Ireland said, “that’s like saying that the non-vegan diet is too high in carbs,” explaining that everyone’s diet is different, for example, “you can be a whole-food plant-based vegan, you can do vegan keto.”
Myth 3: Too much soy isn’t good for you
Ireland describes soy as a nutrient-packed little bean that is high in protein, iron, and calcium, “we eat it every day in our home.”
“It is so nutritious, it is one of the least expensive, most nutrient-dense foods out there.”
“Some people worry about the phyto-estrogen in soy, but what we need to realize is that phyto-estrogen isn’t the same as estrogen… it doesn’t behave the same way as mammalian estrogen does in the body and actually has health benefits.”
Ireland said a great doctor to follow online for more information about the benefits of soy is Dr. Michelle McMacken, and you’ll find saved soy information under “Soy” highlights on IG.
Myth 4: Eating vegan is too expensive
Ireland said the least expensive items on her grocery list are staple vegan foods: rice, beans, oats, vegetables, lentils, grains, and fruit, to name a few.
“I think some of the fancy vegan cheeses or fancy vegan products give the vegan diet a bad name,” Ireland said, “that is not what most vegans are eating on a daily basis, I mean that’s special occasion stuff, and even so I think that the prices do compare to the fancy dairy cheeses.”
Myth 5: Vegans need to rely on supplements too much
Ireland said that she’s read reports that state omnivores are more deficient in nutrients, such as iron and B12, than vegans, “the nutrients are in the plants.”
“There’s no harm in supplementing, and everybody should supplement certain vitamins,” Ireland said.
“My favourite book How Not To Die by Michael Gregor goes into this in detail. Plants are so powerful — they have been proven to not only just prevent many chronic diseases, but reverse them,” Ireland said.
To switch to a plant-based diet, Ireland said you don’t need to reinvent your cooking repertoire, “everything I used to eat, I can now eat vegan.”
Ireland said you can still eat all of your favourite meals and use vegan alternatives, using a meat-based pasta dish as an example, cook egg-free noodles (which many noodles are), and buy beefless ground round (can be found at most grocery stores), adding her favourites are Beyond Meat and Gardein.
Another great source to learn vegan dishes, is at the tip of your fingers.
Ireland said she turns to vegan recipe bloggers and chefs, “fill your Instagram feed with inspiration and come dinnertime, you’ll be bursting with ideas of what to cook. You could also stock up on some cookbooks.”
Ireland said a couple favourite cookbooks are Hot For Food, Vegan For Everybody, and The Buddhist Chef.
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If you’re interested to learn more about veganism, Ireland has a list of resources on her website, which includes her recommendations: Cowspiracy, What The Health, Forks Over Knives, Eating You Alive, Dominion, and Earthlings.