This is a perfect example of the simple-minded news stories delivered by mainstream media. While veganism could be an interesting topic for a news story (due to its recent popularity, broad human interest, and surrounding controversy), this NBC story about vegan teens is poorly researched and disturbingly one sided.
This story is introduced as a “special report, taking a look at what’s best for our children.” It continues by saying, “When it comes to nutrition, parents often worry their kids aren’t eating enough of the right foods.” Based on this report, you never really learn what “the right foods” are, but you certainly learn what they aren’t. According to NBC, a vegan diet does not meet the necessary criteria.
As the newsreader announces, “Tonight we meet teenagers who shun all animal products and call themselves vegans,” a picture of troubled-looking youths appears. The most prominent girl in the photo looks either sad or sickly. Without the desciptive label on the top that says “Teen Vegans,” one would probably guess this is a story about depression or teenage angst.
The newsreader continues by saying “their way of life is raising eyebrows.”
Next we get to see what the Kramer family is fixing for dinner. What are these unhealthy vegans eating? Well, it looks like they are eating “Tofu patties, broccoli, rice, and corn muffins.”
Broccoli, as indicated by it’s dark green color, is extremely nutritious. It is cholesterol free, low in fat, and one of the richest vegetable sources of calcium. Broccoli is also rich in the vitamins A, C, and B and the minerals magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. It is also a good source of folic acid, which may prevent heart disease, strokes and some cancers.
Tofu is cholesterol free, low in sodium, and high in protein. It is also a good source of calcium, iron, and vitamin B.
According to NBC, this meal “looks healthy, but experts say vegans can lack necessary protein and vitamin B in their diet.”
And who is this expert that NBC chooses to interview? A psychiatrist!
And what does this psychiatrist/vegan expert say? She says that a vegan diet can lead to eating disorders or malnutrition. She also says that vegans can be “hypersensitive” and “more easily depressed.”
(If vegans are more easily depressed than other people, I would guess that it isn’t because of their diet. It is because of the way they are portrayed by stupid news like this!)
And aren’t people vegan for reasons aside from animal cruelty and finding a “spiritual connection with the earth”? Sure they are. But these other issues (such as nutritional benefits, lactose intolerance, environmental destruction), which are more tangible issues among the general public, aren’t presented at all in this news story. The message here is that vegans don’t have the same concerns as normal people. They are outsiders.
Another question that should be asked is why did NBC choose to interview teens? Aren’t many grownups adopting a vegan diet as well? Sure they are. And they also might be a little more articulate when explaining why they made this choice. But hearing the voices of the many doctors, athletes, teachers, chefs, and nutritionists who manage a healthy vegan diet every day may switch the focus from the true story here: Vegans are immature, irrational, inexperienced teenagers, who are “teased as freaks.”