If you’re already vegan, then you’re already aware that you’re going to be faced with many questions about your eating choices. But if you’re not vegan yet and you’re planning on making the transition, knowing how to answer these following 3 questions will make your life a LOT easier!
I still remember the first time I went to a family gathering as a vegan.. my grandma was SO worried about me when I told her that I didn’t eat meat anymore! It was adorable.. HAHA! We just have to keep in mind that not everyone understands the things we understand. We’re all coming from a different place and that’s okay.
So, remember to do your best with answering these questions and try not to take anything personal. Especially when it comes to family member, they’re only asking these questions because they’re genuinely concerned about you, not because they’re trying to debunk your lifestyle choices.
Keep this in mind as you continue reading 🙂
#1 Where do you get your protein from?
EVERYONE gets their protein from plants.
“Protein is a vital component of our bodies, and there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds. They function as enzymes, hormones, structural tissue, and transport molecules, all of which make life possible.”
-Dr. T. Colin Campbell (Author of The China Study)
To start off, I’d like to make it a point that long-term vegans have, on average, higher levels of blood protein (albumin) than those who are omnivores, which has a lot to do with the inflammation response of most animal products, causing our liver to produce proteins to fight inflammation rather than albumin, which is blood protein.
The inflammation occurs through many pathways, with endotoxins being one of the biggest contributors. Endotoxins are toxins left over from the bacteria from meats and dairy that aren’t removed during cooking. A Cambridge study shows the overall endotoxin exposure, and a NIH study shows the endotoxin spikes after consuming water, cream, glucose, and OJ, with cream being the only large spike.
Now that you know how we react differently to plant protein and animal protein, we can move on to what protein is.
You see, ALL protein is created by plants, but most people don’t know that.
Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids, and they form together in different ratios to create the molecule we know as protein.
As humans, we manufacture 10 of the 20 different amino acids that make up the protein we need, these amino acids are considered non-essential. The other 10 are considered essential because we must get them through our food.
Animals and insects have the same set of 10 non-essential amino acids that they can make, so this means that the essential amino acids you’re getting from eating animal products originally came from plants, it’s just a repackaged and inefficiently processed and (usually) more concentrated form.
Knowing this, it makes you wonder why there’s so much confusion..
This question is BY FAR the most common question people tend to ask vegans. But, when you think about it, this question is the manifestation of manipulative marketing tactics from the meat, dairy and egg industries. While being confused with “quality animal protein” ads, society places such an importance on this macronutrient due to fear mongering about our “protein needs.”
Hearing the background story to the discovery of protein will help you understand a LOT more about why society is so confused when it comes to protein.
Ever since the chemical composition of protein was explained in 1839 by the Dutch chemist Gerhard Mulder, society has placed an incredible amount of importance on this molecule. When first discovered, it was thought that protein was only present in animal flesh and animal products, even though Mulder had also stated that animals get most of their protein from plants.
Therefore, throughout the 19th century, protein was synonymous with meat.
So, due to the original discovery of protein taking place in animal flesh, people began associating meat with protein and protein with meat. We can now understand why people might be worried about a vegan’s protein intake. It’s not their fault, it’s simply what they were taught through social conditioning.
Knowing this disconnect will be VERY important in future conversations to come!!
#2 Do you get enough calcium?
This is usually only brought up when someone asks why I don’t drink cow’s milk. Just like protein, calcium is also heavily associated with an animal product.
What is calcium and what does it do?
Calcium is a very important mineral that helps keep our bones strong and allows our muscles and blood vessels to contract and expand. It also produces/discharges hormones and enzymes, and it sends messages throughout our nervous systems.
The U.S. recommends 1,000 mg a day, the World Health Organization recommends 400-500 mg, while large Cambridge studies show that we need 540-800 mg.
You’ll have to choose who to listen to but remember that the U.S. has some of the highest rates of bone fractures, especially in women, and is also among the highest in terms of cow’s milk consumption. So, even though the U.S. recommendations are the highest, I really don’t think drinking this calcium-loaded animal-sourced drink will help you have strong bones by any means.
This shows that the perceived “strong bones” benefits from cow’s milk aren’t accurate. AT ALL.
Calcium deficiencies result in osteoporosis, which is when our bones lose their density and become more fragile.
Cow’s milk is most people’s main source of calcium, but, due to the acidic properties of the protein found in milk (casein), these products deplete the calcium from our bones. Since the calcium is packed together with acidic protein, we secrete more calcium through our urine than we’re able to utilize, causing us to LOSE calcium in the process.
Animal protein is very acidic, which means when it’s consumed, your body must “work” to get back into homeostasis. Your body does this by leaching the calcium from your bones to equal out the acidity of your food. This makes total sense when you realize that the U.S. consumes the most animal protein, but at the same time, has the highest rate of osteoporosis (a disease in which our bones become weak and brittle) with about 1 out of every 4 American men encountering it in their lives.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study also explained the conclusions of researchers on diet and osteoporosis. As animal protein increases metabolic response (from the acidic load in our bodies), the amount of calcium in the urine is increased. He even went on to explain that this study has been established for over eighty years and has been replicated many times.
This knowledge isn’t known by your common person, so be prepared for people to be confused about this information when you tell them.
And when they ask you where you get your calcium from, you can start to list out the endless number of plant foods that contain LOADS of it, such as beans, chia seeds, sesame seeds, collard greens, tofu, etc.
Even most plant milks are fortified with calcium. This means that vegans should be making sure they don’t get MORE than they need.
Should you ever take calcium supplements?
According to a study by the NIH, and many others, it’s becoming more widely accepting to not take them. They were reported to spike our calcium blood levels and even increase risk of cardiovascular events, kidney stones, and gastrointestinal symptoms/acute problems.
So, when you’re asked about your calcium, you’ll be able to clearly explain why calcium deficiencies are nothing more than a myth due to the correlation between cow’s milk and calcium.
This knowledge will be KEY in conversations revolving around plant milks.
#3 So, WHY are you vegan?
This question will be asked by just about everyone you tell.
You can’t blame them, veganism is abnormal in most places in the world (but hopefully you live in an accepting town/city that’s ahead of its times, for example, Los Angeles). So, you simply have to remember your “WHY” (your reasoning for being vegan) and explain why it isn’t abnormal after all..
When people ask you this question, they’re coming from a different mental space. That’s something you should always remember. Not everyone will have the same values and morals as you do, so you must do your best at showing empathy towards their ideologies. This will be soooo important when it comes to gaining influence with friends and family!
So, when you’re asked why you’re a vegan, view the world from the questioner’s point of view before you answer them.
If they’re asking from a place of curiosity, you should easily be able to explain your WHY.
If they’re asking from a place of judgement, you must remember that the world if FULL of false information about veganism, so don’t take offense to their question, that’ll only make for an argument of differing “opinions.” Always respond with facts and science to back your claims, because after all, populations that’d ate primarily whole plant foods have had the longest lifespans out of any other populations, such as the Okinawans during the 1900’s before they became “Westernized” with fast food restaurants and animal products.
So, when someone is genuinely trying to debate with you about your new diet, let them know that the Okinawan population hardly EVER ate animal products and they were one of the densest populations in terms of centenarians (people who are one hundred or more years old). And, they were well-known for remaining active in their 90’s. And of course, some people are lucky anomalies and can treat their body like crap and live to see their 90’s, but I wouldn’t ever bank on this one. The Okinawans did it regularly and with ease. So, if someone wants to argue that they can live an active life in their 90’s by eating animal products and smoking a pack a day (which happens in rare situations), just let them know that they’re shooting for the stars and the statistics are against them in SO many ways..
It’s hard to argue against the longevity of plant-based populations, so I’d start with this, then move onto answering their remaining concerns about veganism!
If they’re asking from a place of concern, (my grandparents were literally tripping out when I refused to eat their animal-based food dishes during our first holiday after I became a vegan) you should ALWAYS take their concerns as a sign that they care about you. Don’t ever take offense to concerned family or friends, they’re only looking out for your best interest. Just explain your reasoning for refusing meals that include animal products and they’ll soon realized that what you’re doing IS in your best interest.
In some cases, refusing someone’s food is a sign of disrespect to them.. But, little do they know, the expectation for you to eat animal products is also a sign of disrespect to YOU. When this happens, just explain your WHY in the best way possible using evidence to back your claims. If for some reason they’re still offended, do your best not to take offense to it. In time, everyone will understand, so don’t take it personal.
Not everyone will understand you at first, but if you’re coming from a place of love and not judgement, you should never have any problems with answering this question. People don’t have to agree with you, but they will surely respect your decisions if you give them a reason to!
All in all, always do your best.
When people ask you questions, they’re simultaneously giving you a chance to reprogram their ways of thinking, so take advantage of the opportunity. As you get better at answering these common questions (along with many others), your advocacy and influence will grow and grow! Eventually, it’ll be on autopilot and you’ll be influencing the people around you without even trying..
If you’re trying to learn more about answering common questions and concerns, go check out my latest e-book, Going Vegan! It talks about this and a LOT more, especially when it comes to building influence.
I hope this post helped you! If you have any questions that you don’t know how to answer, fell free to reach out to me and I’ll help you to the best of my ability!