Debunking 3 myths and misconceptions about plant-based nutrition
October 2, 2023 - By Alicia Vigeant
The popularity of plant-based products is growing. With this rise in popularity comes an abundance of information, not all of which is necessarily accurate. Here are three plant-based nutrition claims I hear regularly in my practice that are more myth than fact.
3 myths about plant-based nutrition
1. Soy can affect male reproductive hormones
Soy-based products can be found in many forms in vegan cooking. These include tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy beverages and TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). Soy contains isoflavones, a molecule like estradiol. Estradiol is a hormone in the estrogen family that acts on the female reproductive system. It is the presence of this molecule that has led to questions about the effect of soy on men.
Current data show that there is no change in estrogen and testosterone levels in men who consume soy daily. So, gentlemen, there’s no need to worry about incorporating soy products into your diet!
Ladies, the link between isoflavones and women’s health is more complex and would require a separate article. However, if you don’t have any health problems for which a qualified health professional would advise you to reduce your soy intake, you can eat soy every day without concern.
2. Plant proteins are “incomplete”
Proteins are long chains of amino acids, like beads that you would assemble to make a necklace. There are 20 amino acids that make up proteins in the human body, 9 of which are considered essential, meaning that the body cannot manufacture them. Protein foods of animal origin contain all the essential amino acids, which is not the case for all protein foods of plant origin. This is why these proteins are referred to as “incomplete”. This is also why it has long been thought that we should make the effort to combine plant protein sources in the same meal, to give the body all the essential amino acids at mealtime.
Amino acids absent from some plant-based foods are present in others. So, if the plant-based diet is minimally varied (i.e., you don’t eat the same protein source morning, noon, and night), essential amino acid requirements are met without having to dwell on them at every meal or snack.
3. All vegan products are good for your health
Incorporating more of plant-based protein foods into your diet is associated with health benefits. These products are richer in fiber and lower in saturated fat than animal products, which is beneficial for digestive and cardiovascular health, among other things. However, it is advisable to limit consumption of highly processed products.
These are products that contain many ingredients and have undergone several transformations. Examples include candy bars, ice cream, croquettes, and sausages.
So, what about highly processed vegan products (fake deli meats, fake cheeses, plant-based frozen desserts, etc.)?
They’re no exception! They remain highly processed products to be limited, regardless of whether they’re vegan or not. Instead, opt for products such as tofu, legumes, tempeh, nuts or TVP (textured vegetable protein), which are less processed and have a more interesting nutritional value.
Interested in this topic? Find out more:
- Boutas, I., Kontogeorgi, A., Dimitrakakis, C., & Kalantaridou, S. N. (2022). Soy isoflavones and breast cancer risk: A meta-analysis. in vivo, 36(2), 556-562.
- Limit your consumption of highly processed foods – Canadian Food Guide (2022). Gouvernement of Canada.
- Mariotti, F., & Gardner, C. D. (2019). Dietary protein and amino acids in vegetarian diets—A review. Nutrients, 11(11), 2661.
- Nogueira-de-Almeida, C. A., Ferraz, I. S., Ued, F. da V., Almeida, A. C. F., & Ciampo, L. A. D.. (2020). Impact of soy consumption on human health: integrative review. Brazilian Journal of Food Technology, 23, e2019129.
- Oestradiol – Glossaire. Biron. https://www.biron.com/fr/glossaire/oestradiol/
- Reed, K. E., Camargo, J., Hamilton-Reeves, J., Kurzer, M., & Messina, M. (2021). Neither soy nor isoflavone intake affects male reproductive hormones: An expanded and updated meta-analysis of clinical studies. Reproductive Toxicology, 100, 60-67.
Debunking 3 myths and misconceptions about plant-based nutrition is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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