Over the last decade, plant-based eating habits have become far more popular, especially in the media and the food industry. I mean… did you ever imagine Burger King offering a VEGAN BURGER?!
Given the pick up in popularity and the fact that October is Vegetarian Month, now’s the perfect time to discuss plant-based eating.
What is Plant-Based Eating?
“Plant-based” can mean quite a few different things. A plant-based diet is rich in vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Vegans don’t eat animal products, including dairy and eggs.
- Vegetarians don’t eat meat but do eat dairy and eggs.
- Pescatarians eat fish and dairy but no other meat.
Mega celebrities, such as Ellen Degeneres, Beyonce, and Mike Tyson, are making the general public more familiar with the health and environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Supermodel, vegetarian, and mom Gisele Bündchen told People she does not only follow a plant-based diet because it is healthy, but she is also making sure her kids grow up with a respect and love for the environment. 2
5 Potential Benefits of Plant-Based Diets
In order to keep your gut in good health and enjoy normal digestion, one of the most important things you can do is eat lots of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Other actions critical to gut health include drinking a lot of water, eating probiotics from plant-based food sources like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and dairy-free cultured yogurts, and avoiding sugar and high-fat foods. Therefore, plant-forward eating habits can lead to healthy bowel movements.9
Decreases risk of heart disease
A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in animal-based products is associated with increased heart health. This is due to the increased intake of nutrients, such as vitamin K from leafy greens, which is cardio-protective, and a decrease in certain animal products that are high in saturated fat, which may increase your risk of heart disease.1, 5, 6
Decreases risk of some cancers
Sulforaphane in broccoli, anthocyanins in berries, poly- and mono-unsaturated fats in nuts, curcumin in turmeric, lycopene in tomatoes, and allicin in garlic are just some of the many plant compounds that are highly associated with a decreased risk for developing certain cancers.1, 7
Decreases risk of diabetes
A diet filled with high-fat food from animal products and a diet low in fiber, which would mean low in plant-based foods, can increase your risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. A study published by the Public Library of Science, Medicine, suggested that plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with a substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.8
Helps the environment
Food production of animal-based products accounts for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions while plant-based diets are associated with significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Also, eating a plant-based diet can have an enormous impact on the water supply. For example, to produce a pound of beef, it requires 1,800 gallons of water, while a gallon of tofu requires just 219 gallons of water. Eating plant-based minimizes agricultural land use as well. A study in 2017 concluded that if Americans ate more beans and less beef, we would require 42 percent less cropland.3,4
A Note on Nutrients
While everyone’s diet is unique and personal, in general, plant-based diets may be higher in some nutrients (thanks to all the plants!), but lower in others (since there are less animal-based sources).
When following a plant-based diet, ensure you are obtaining an adequate amount of:
Plant-based diets have become extremely popular over the last decade, gaining attention in the media, food industry, and the world of wellness. Eating a plant-based diet may improve your digestion by healing your gut, decreasing your risk of heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Eating plant-based also helps save the environment by cleaning and saving air, water, and land. Though there are many benefits to a plant-based diet, keeping in mind crucial nutrients that lack in these diets, is extremely important to your health. Your nutrition is personal.
- Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2005). The China study : the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. BenBella Books.
- Charlotte Triggs. (n.d.). Gisele Bündchen’s Kids Eat a Plant-Based Diet. Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://people.com/parents/gisele-bundchen-kids-eat-plant-based-diet/
- Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Water – 2011 Meat Eaters Guide | Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health |. Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/interactive-graphic/water/
- Harwatt, H., Sabaté, J., Eshel, G., Soret, S., & Ripple, W. (2017). Substituting beans for beef as a contribution toward US climate change targets. Climatic Change, 143(1–2), 261–270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1969-1
- Hu, F. B. (2003). Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3), 544S-551S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.3.544S
- Massera, D., Graf, L., Barba, S., & Ostfeld, R. (2016). Angina rapidly improved with a plant-based diet and returned after resuming a Western diet. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology : JGC, 13(4), 364. https://doi.org/10.11909/J.ISSN.1671-5411.2016.04.005
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (n.d.). Reduce Cancer Risk with Plant-Based Foods. Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/reduce-cancer-risk-plant-based-foods
- Satija, A., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Rimm, E. B., Spiegelman, D., Chiuve, S. E., Borgi, L., … Hu, F. B. (2016). Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLOS Medicine, 13(6), e1002039. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039
- Tomova, A., Bukovsky, I., Rembert, E., Yonas, W., Alwarith, J., Barnard, N. D., & Kahleova, H. (2019). The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00047