November 1 marks National Vegan Day and with an estimated market growth from $30 billion in 2021 to $160 billion in 2030 according to Bloomberg, the global fascination with vegan cuisine is growing. South Africa is no exception, firmly securing its place among the top 30 countries in worldwide vegan popularity, as per Google Trends. Agnes Makosa, the Restaurant Manager at Bamboo Plant Power, a well-known Cape Town restaurant specialising in plant-based cuisine sheds light on the South African vegan scene and debunks some common myths surrounding plant-based living.
Myth 1: Veganism Is Too Expensive
A common misconception is that adopting a vegan diet breaks the bank. However, when you consider the expense of meat and compare it to staples like whole grains, rice, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, you’ll find that vegan options are often budget-friendly. Recent research by BusinessTech even revealed that shoppers at certain South African retailers could save money by switching from meat-based to plant-based proteins. Makosa points out, “The notion that veganism is expensive is a misconception. If you shop around, you could find that affordable and nutritious vegan choices are quite widely available, demonstrating that a plant-based lifestyle can be both accessible and economical.”
Myth 2: Vegans Can’t Build Muscle with Plant-Based Protein
This myth claims that vegans can’t get enough protein to build muscle. In South Africa, there’s a rich variety of plant-based protein sources, including seitan, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, various beans, spirulina, quinoa, oats, wild rice, seeds, and nuts. Even vegetables like spinach, asparagus, and broccoli contain protein. Makosa emphasises, “Vegans in South Africa have plenty of protein options to support muscle development.”
Myth 3: Dairy Is the Sole Source of Calcium for Strong Bones
The belief that dairy is the only way to maintain strong bones is widespread. But what’s crucial is calcium, not dairy itself. South African vegans can meet their daily calcium needs from various plant-based sources such as soy-based foods, beans, lentils, peas, spinach, figs, flax, chia, sesame seeds, seaweed, and specific nuts like almonds. Makosa highlighted the importance of diverse plant-based diets in South Africa for sufficient calcium intake without relying on dairy. She said, “Vegans in South Africa have access to a variety of calcium-rich foods that can support their bone health.”
Myth 4: Vegetarians Can Get B12 Without Supplements
The misconception that B12 is unavailable from a vegetarian diet is widespread. While vegans might require B12 supplements, vegetarians have other options. In South Africa, B12 can be derived from eggs and dairy products. Moreover, vegan-friendly B12-fortified foods like cereals, tofu, non-dairy milk, and spreads are commonly available in South African stores, said Makosa adding a fascinating twist to the B12 myth. “Research shows that cows also need B12 supplements because their diet lacks cobalt. So, even if you’re not vegan, you may still indirectly rely on supplements for your B12 intake, only it’s via a cow.”
Myth 5: Veganism and Vegetarianism Are the Same Thing
Finally, Makosa stressed how one of the most common misconceptions is that veganism is identical to vegetarianism. Vegetarianism primarily involves abstaining from meat consumption, while vegans take it a step further by completely avoiding all animal products, including not only food but also animal-derived products. “In the South African context, it’s vital to understand that while vegetarian diets may include dairy and eggs, vegans exclude these entirely. Recognising this distinction is crucial to appreciating the broader ethical and environmental concerns that underlie the vegan lifestyle,” said Makosa.
She concluded that as we celebrate National Vegan Day, the growth of the global vegan movement was nothing short of remarkable.
“National Vegan Day serves as a reminder not only of the delectable and nutritious plant-based options available but also as a call to challenge our preconceptions and explore the evolving landscape of conscious and sustainable living,” said Makosa. “South Africa is not just part of this global shift toward veganism; it is leading the way by embracing a diverse and thriving vegan culture, punctuating the idea that separating fact from fiction is the key to understanding and appreciating this transformative movement,” she said.