THE BLOG
12/02/2014 10:22 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

Vegans Say Goodbye to Meat... and Misconceptions

I used to love bacon.

Fried crispy on the griddle, dripping with that salty, greasy fat, served with anything from a stack of pancakes to a baked potato. Delicious on sandwiches, cheeseburgers and in omelettes. Heck, bacon even tasted good with chocolate.

Yep, I loved bacon. We had a good relationship. That is, until I learned the truth behind my dear friend bacon, and our relationship went sour. But it wasn't the taste that ended our love affair; it was where the bacon was coming from.

Upon learning more about the surprisingly unquestioned yet unknown meat and dairy industry, I made the decision to exclude both products from my diet and become the even more unknown: a vegan. The word "vegan" is a bit of a mystery to most of the world. Being vegan has unfortunately become synonymous with being malnourished, weak or, as Urban Dictionary assumes, a "self-righteous group of people who think themselves superior to those who do what they are supposed to do: eat meat."

Yes, I can confidently declare vegans as misunderstood.

So, before you choose to support Urban Dictionary's ruling against veganism, allow me to clear up a few glaring misconceptions about the widely ambiguous and "crazily extreme" diet to which I live by.

Starting with one of the most commonly asked questions and the biggest myth around: Where do vegans get their protein? How do they build strong muscles? They must be so incredibly weak without meat to fuel those quads and those biceps!

No. Not weak.

Legumes such as beans, soy, lentils, and peanuts are packed with protein. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an average adult female needs at least 46 grams of protein each day, and males need at least 56. A single cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein. That's nearly half of the day's worth for women and roughly a third for men. Case in point? Plant protein packs a punch.

Myth number two: Vegans don't eat anything but vegetables. That one makes me laugh, especially as I'm eating this delicious white cheddar mac & cheese. Sure, it may be the veganized version of the boxed stuff we're used to, but it just goes to show that there are options out there. I also indulge quite often on vegan cupcakes, pizza (minus the cheese and pepperoni), pasta, burrito bowls or tacos from Chipotle and, the one that still shocks me: Oreos. Yes, Oreos are vegan. Believe me, the life of a plant-based eater is not one of deprivation.

And a misconception that could not be farther from the truth (at least not for me or any vegans I know): Choosing veganism is a sacrifice.

Well.

Meat production and factory farming are responsible for 19 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations, not to mention the overwhelming fact that methane from livestock is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. If cutting meat and dairy out of my diet improves not only my own physical health but also helps in relieving the Earth of some toxic nastiness in the air, I certainly would not call veganism a sacrifice. No, I would call it a reward. One point for me, one point for the planet.

Now, I'm a realistic person. I don't expect the whole world to make the same choice I made, because I know that there are a lot of dedicated meat eaters out there. My only condition is this: Know your facts about veganism before you jump to conclusions.

Don't be like Urban Dictionary.

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Also on The Huffington Post:

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