The plant-based food movement is real, tangible and growing with each passing day.
In fact, if you’ve spent any time at all on social media, you’d probably think a good portion of the world was vegan.
And why not? There's a long list of spiritual, ethical, economic, and environmental benefits that come with eating plant-based - as well as a host of health benefits.
It is becoming
increasingly recognized that plant-based diets can help control weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and
certain types of cancer.
A whole food plant-based diet can even reverse some conditions.
How unfortunate it is then that men - who are frequently prescribed medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol - are far less likely to pursue plant-based diets than woman.
Ipsos Mori polling in 2016 pegged the ratio of female to male vegans in Great Britain at 2:1. Estimates from the US put it closer to 3:1.
I have to ask myself then, as a male dietitian, what
is it about veganism that makes it less appealing to men?
A slew of plausible explanations rush to mind,
but I wanted to have a look at a few pieces of scholarly work on the subject, before I went on with my own opinions.
In doing so, I came across a very interesting study
conducted by an American Psychology Professor Margaret Thomas,
which found men who ate a vegan diet were perceived to be less masculine
than those consuming an omnivorous diet.
The study also found the act of
choosing to be vegan was associated with a perception of lower levels of masculinity.
I believe there are more reasons plant-based diets don't resonate with men;
1. Lack of concern for - or ignorance of - health benefits
There are reasons why men die younger - and this is one of them.
Although the health benefits of veganism may be a tough sell for young man, middle aged men at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes and quite likely on blood pressure/cholesterol medication, should know that a plant-based diet can offer them a healthier and longer life.
2. Meat love/ limited cooking skills
This is an obvious one. We have to face the reality that many men love to eat meat.
I live in Canada, and our last major national survey of men’s eating habits showed they consume meat beyond national guideline recommendations.
I think what many men do not realize, however, is just how amazing plant-based dishes can taste and how immaculately foods like tofu (when properly prepared) can replace meat.
The issue here, I believe, is that more advanced food preparation skills are required to prepare plant-based foods in a way that would appeal to the 'average man'.
3. Cultural influences
Beer, meat, and sports are examples of perennial and deep-seated icons of male masculinity in modern culture.
I believe this point is hard to refute, and it is one that is hammered home by media and industry from a young age.
If this is something that has affected you, a simple Google search of 'famous male vegans' will help you to start seeing things a little bit differently.
I referenced a study earlier that showed
vegan men were perceived as 'less masculine'.
But what about physiological
masculinity? For example, there are misconceptions about soy negatively
impacting men’s hormone levels.
There is no evidence to support this claim.
There are also suggestions that plant-eaters have lower levels of testosterone
and other androgenic hormones than meat-eaters, this claim has been disproven.
5. The protein problem
Protein is the most overhyped and
over-marketed macronutrient known to man.
Yes we need protein, but most of us get enough.
Many men believe vegetarian protein sources are inadequate to maintain a
You can counter this argument by looking at what is known as the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score. This is a scientific protein-source rated system that is considered the best method to determine protein quality.
The higher the score the better. On this test beef scores .92, where soy scores .91. Practically identical.
Vegan men flying the fitness flag
Finally - there are lots of athletic vegan men out there, and it's useful to share their insights into their decision to go into vegan, the
benefits it has conferred to them and the reasons why more men don’t do it.
Marko De La Rose is a vegan fitness enthusiast (@MarkoDeLaRose) who turned to veganism after watching documentary Earthlings, which opened his eyes to the mistreatment of
He says he has experienced improved digestive health - and has taken less sick days since
Marko believes men may avoid veganism due to teasing and
complaints they may incur about the lifestyle.
Teenaged vegan gymnast Marco Serafini (@PlantBasedFitness98) turned to veganism after the YouTube channel
Infinite Waters sparked his interest in the spiritual aspects of the lifestyle.
From there, he took the time to understand the health benefits of plant-based
eating from other YouTube channels (such as VeganGains) and learned more the exploitation of animals.
almost fully vegan by the time he watched Cowspiracy, which hit
it home for him.
Since becoming vegan, Marco has noticed cardiovascular and digestive benefits.
He believes that the modern notion of 'masculinity' holds men back from
He also is adamant there are unfair misconceptions about vegans being
self-centred and always wanting to spotlight their dietary choices.