It’s no secret that many people are now switching to a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is believed to have many health benefits which are attracting so many people towards it. But is it just another social media trend or actually beneficial to health? Highlighted by the Forks Over Knife documentary, this diet has been gaining a lot of attention since then. With a lot of misinformation floating around the internet about the plant-based diet, you certainly need to know what’s the deal with this diet.
Here, we will talk about everything you need to know about the plant-based diet and why and how you should be adopting it. Trust us, this article will help you make up your mind!
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
The biggest question of debate which has risen over a period of time is regarding several forms of diets. Plant-based diet or vegan diet or vegetarian diet. Although they sound and might look the same in reality, they are not. The definitions of these diets change from person to person however here is the most accurate meaning of the plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet means eating more whole foods and plants-fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. The plant-based diet focuses on food which is primarily derived from plants. The focus is mainly on plant-based food however, the person following a plant-based diet is not restricted to only plants. They may also consume some animal products like dairy or eggs.
In a way, it is a diet that the person following is opting for food more from plant sources. It completely depends on the person to person how strict they want to be with the diet and how much animal products have to be included in the meal. People often start in moderation and once they start understanding the plant-based diet more, they get strict with their animal product consumption.
Pros Of Plant-Based Diet
1. Improves Heart Health
A well-managed plant-based diet has proven to be good for your heart health. Many studies have supported that a well-balanced plant-based diet improves your cardiovascular health.
A 2019 review, found that diets rich in whole plant foods were associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with diets that include animal products.
There could be multiple reasons behind this. It is well known that animal-based foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which raise blood cholesterol levels. This causes a build-up of fatty, wax-like plaque to build up in the arteries. The build-up narrows the space in the arteries through which the blood passes which causes a rise in blood pressure.
By eliminating these foods from your diet you can bring down your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease.
2. Help In Weight Management
If you want to shred some weight, a plant-based diet could help you significantly in that. It is proven that people who consume this diet tend to have a lower body fat percentage and a smaller waist circumference. A study proves that people who prefer a plant-based diet are slightly leaner than those not.
3. Prevents Diabetes
A plant-based diet reduces the risk of diabetes as it is been found in many studies. A study that was conducted on more than 200,000 people found that those who adhered to a healthy plant-based eating pattern had a 34% lower risk of developing diabetes than those who followed unhealthy, non-plant-based diets.
4. Reduces The Risk Of Cancer
Studies are in the favour of plant-based diets and show that people who prefer plant-based diets, vegetarian diets or vegan diets have a reduced risk of cancer.
In addition, consumption of certain meat products (such as processed meat) is linked to higher rates of cancer.
Needless to say, plant-based diets have found a way that makes them a great choice for the benefit of the environment. Along with all the health benefits a plant-based diet has in store for us, the diet also has many benefits for our planet too. People who follow this diet have significantly smaller environmental footprints.
Adopting sustainable eating habits can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land used for factory farming, which contribute massively to global warming and environmental degradation.
Cons of Plant-Based Diet
1. Unhealthy Plant-Based Diet Leads To Heart Problems
Yes, you read that right. Plant-based diets are usually very beneficial for your heart health however if not done right, they could lead to adverse effects.
Unhealthy plant-based diets that included sugary drinks, fruit juices and refined grains were associated with a slightly increased risk of heart disease. A study proves that unhealthy dietary habits when consuming only plant products could increase the risk of coronary heart diseases.
2. Slightly Inconvenient In The Start
Some people can find switching to a plant-based diet at the start a little bit inconvenient. Not everybody is a big fan of veggies especially if they have been a meat lover. Switching to veggies and fruits is not easy for people and they may find it difficult to accommodate the new lifestyle patterns.
3. Struggle With Proteins
People may find it hard to meet their daily protein requirements. Non-vegetarians majorly rely on meat for their daily protein needs however when the switch is made, it is slightly difficult to meet the body’s demands for proteins.
4. Nutrition Deficiency
Nutrition deficiency is one the most common thing for people who prefer a plant-based diet. Some people would find a need of including additional supplements in their diet. However, a consultation with a nutrionist is highly recommended to know if you need extra supplements or not.
What To Eat In Plant-Based Diet?
If you are willing to get onto a plant-based diet, here are some basic tips you can start with.
1. Eat Loads Of Veggies
Since it is a plant-based diet, veggies are your new besties. Try to fill and consume as many vegetables as possible. However, be mindful to include colourful vegetables because each has its own benefits.
You don’t have to make your vegetables boring. You can enjoy them with hummus, salsa or guacamole.
2. Include Legumes In Your Diet
The next up is including legumes in your diet. Legumes have high folate, potassium and magnesium in them. This is why they need to be included in your diet.
3. Protein Game
Since a plant-based diet primarily includes eating everything that is coming from plant sources, it is important that we make a slight gradual shift in our protein consumption as well. Although this diet is non-restrictive, you can have meant for your protein requirements, however lentils, soy or tofu should be considered as a replacement and should be bought into your plate too.
4. Go Little Slow On Meat
The biggest thing about this diet as we mentioned before is reducing the consumption of animal-derived food and therefore going slow on meat should be considered. You can have meat but in smaller portions each day.
5. Choose Good Fats
When opting for plant-based diets, you can go for healthier choices in fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butter, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
6. Opt For Greens
Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens each day. In order to avoid nutrition loss, try steaming, grilling, braising, or stir-fry.
7. Include Whole Grains
Whole grains are a very good and healthy option to be included in your diet. Oatmeals, quinoa, buckwheat and barley are some great options for you to try.
8. Include Seeds In Your Diet
Just like whole grains, seeds should be included in the diet too.
9. Replace Sugary Dessert With Fruity Dessert
Overly sugary desserts can be replaced by natural sugar desserts. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet after a meal as much as any unhealthy overly sweetened dessert would do.
6. Set Goals
Try to cook a complete vegetarian meal at least once a week. By setting goals you’ll be pushing yourself to this new change. Thus, it makes your transition easier.
Our Final Thoughts
Plant-based diets have been massively recognised not only in the health and medical community, but also among fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and environmentalists. A plant-based diet is definitely something to consider if you are looking for a healthier diet plan as well as trying to keep the environment healthy. There are some initial struggles that perhaps comes with any kind of diet you switch to but regardless we believe plant-based diets are certainly a better and healthier alternative.
However, always keep in mind it is the quality of the diet which you follow. If you go for an unhealthy plant-based diet, there aren’t many benefits to it. We recommend consulting a qualified nutritionist for this switch and following the meal plan as per their advice.