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This Veganuary, it's time to shatter those stories you've heard

If you're new to veganism (congrats and welcome!), then you will likely have a lot of questions, especially if you've listened to the myths about the plant-based way of life that seem to circle around the non-vegan sphere. If you've been vegan for a while, don't turn the page! It's always useful to know how best to dispel incorrect facts and stories to become better prepared at responding to queries about veganism. We put the most common myths about veganism to someone who hears them all the time - Toni Vernelli, international head of communications at Veganuary.

1. We have canines, so doesn't that mean we can and should eat meat?

Don't be fooled by the term 'canine teeth'. If you look into a dog's mouth, you'll see their canines look nothing like the teeth we call canines. Animals who eat meat need sharp teeth for tearing flesh from bone, but we have lovely flat molars for grinding down fibrous matter. We are also lacking the speed necessary to catch prey, the hunting instinct to do so, sharp claws for dispatching animals and the short guts that true meat-eaters have that allows meat to pass through their systems quickly before it putrefies inside them.

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2. You need to drink/eat dairy to get calcium.

We should never confuse the nutrient with the source. Dairy contains calcium but then so do leafy greens such as kale, bok choi and watercress, and foods that have been fortified, including non-dairy milks, yoghurts and breakfast cereals. Oranges, Brazil nuts and figs are good sources, too, as is tofu that has been set using calcium. In the UK, all white and brown wheat flour are fortified with calcium, so just two pieces of toast for breakfast means you are well on your way towards your recommended daily intake.

Sweet vegan treats

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OGGS®

Mini Bites

OGGS® cakey new Mini Bites are available in two delectable flavour varieties. Choose from moreish packs of bite-sized pieces of Brownie or, Millionaire's Shortbread.

£2.25 loveoggs.com

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Cadbury Bournville

Dark Chocolate Fingers

Cadbury's new Dark Chocolate Fingers are accidentally vegan, so now everyone can enjoy the classically delicious biscuit coated with chocolate. 

£1.50 cadbury.co.uk

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Wicked Kitchen

Chocolate & Salted Caramel Sundae

With layers of salted caramel, vegan chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache with chocolate chips - this is the stuff sweet dreams are made of.

£1.30, tesco.com

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4. Vegan diets are not suitable for children.

The British Dietetic Association assures us that vegan diets can be suitable for people of any age, including children, and hundreds of thousands of parents are bringing up happy, healthy vegan kids. There are bad vegan diets for children, of course, in the same way that there are bad meat-inclusive diets. It is important to get the nutrients right and understand that the foods that are good for adults may not be right for young children. Thankfully, there is plenty of expert advice available, and many vegan families who can offer support.

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6. Eating honey isn't cruel; it's a natural by-product.

Bees do make honey naturally, but they make it because they need it to feed the hive over winter. Bees work extraordinarily hard to produce that honey, finding and collecting nectar, regurgitating it, fanning it with their wings to dehydrate and preserve it, and then storing it as honey within the hive. When bees are farmed, that precious honey is taken from them and replaced with sugar water solution, which has neither the nutrients the bees need nor the power to protect their immune systems. With their immunity weakened, bees are more prone to pesticide exposure and destructive varroa mites.

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8. Don't tofu and soya contain oestrogen and lower testosterone?

Soya has no known effect on testosterone levels. This myth came about because soya contains natural phytoestrogens, known as isoflavones, which resemble oestrogen chemically. Before proper research was done, some people assumed they would affect testosterone in the same way that oestrogen does. But they don't because they are not oestrogen.

3. Veganism is expensive to maintain.

Veganuary recently commissioned a Kantar survey which compared costs of a vegan diet with a meat-based one. It found that a plant-based meal prepared at home costs 40 per cent less, that's £1.06 versus £1.77. They also found that the average vegan shopping basket costs £16.47 while the average non-vegan basket is £17.91.

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5. Vegans struggle to get their RDI of vitamins and minerals.

When we put plants, wholegrains and legumes front and centre of our meals, our vitamin and mineral levels shoot right up. But we are wise to consider iodine and B12 more closely. Non-vegans usually get iodine through milk being contaminated with the iodine-based disinfectant used to clean cows' teats and milking machinery. Iodine is also found in seaweed, but levels can vary widely. As for B12, some common fortified vegan foods contain it, but a supplement is recommended for anyone staying vegan beyond their Veganuary pledge.

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7. Cows have to be milked or they'll explode!

Cows don't have to be milked at all! They make milk only when pregnant in readiness for feeding their newborn calves, and on farms this is anything but a natural process. They are artificially inseminated over and over with the sole aim of making their bodies produce milk. Of course, this means producing calves as well, and those who cannot be used or sold are simply shot at birth. When exhausted, lame and spent, the mothers are sent to slaughter. Such is the ruthlessness of the dairy industry.

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Words by Toni Vernelli, international head of communications, Veganuary, veganuary.com

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.