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New to the plant life or confused about the nature or suitability of plant-based diets?
Here are 5 quick, hard facts about plant-based diets that you need to know.
1. Plant-based diets exclude all products of animal origin: The most salient characteristic of a plant-based diet is that it excludes all products of animal origin including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs and honey.
2. Plant-based diets are nutritionally suitable for all: Plant-based diets, when well-planned, are recognized by the largest network of dietitians in the world (The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) as being healthful and nutritionally adequate for people of all ages and lifecycle stages. This means that, when carried out correctly, anyone can get all of the nutrients they need from eating exclusively plant-based foods.
3. Plant-based diets may offer financial flexibility: Animal protein products are expensive, and a luxury for many. In most cases, a plant-based diet will be less expensive than a conventional meat-rich diet. If you are financially restricted or have a family to feed, choosing a plant-based diet may allow you to retain more money for personal finances. It may also allow you to direct more money into healthful foods like fruits and vegetables, which are among the most important food items for maintaining general and long-term health, regardless of the type of diet pattern you pursue.
4. Plant-based diets are higher in fibre: All else equal, switching from animal to plant based protein should increase your daily fibre intake. Animal products do not contain fibre whereas many of the plant-based protein options do. This is an important consideration because most of us don’t consume enough fibre, a nutrient which helps us to feel satiated, manage our weight and regulates the functioning of our digestive system.
5. Plant-based diets help prevent chronic disease: It is well accepted that a strongly implemented plant-based diet is associated with lower rates of heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
6. Plant-based diets are less environmentally intensive: The amount of resources (land, water, food) and emissions (greenhouse gases) required to raise animals for milk production or slaughter far outweighs that which is required to raise plant-based sources of protein. It is fair to say that a plant-based diet is more environmentally sustainable than a conventional meat-rich diet owing to the burden of animal agriculture on the health of our planet. The well known documentary Cowspiracy contends that you cannot reasonably identify yourself as an environmentalist if you consume animal products.
7. Plant-based diets need to be carried out with consideration: All the benefits of plant-based diet can be yours, as long as you carry it out effectively. We must recognize that animal products are a rich, but not irreplaceable, source of protein and offer a variety of helpful nutrients such as calcium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Have a look at this helpful article from PETA to ensure your plant-based diet hits all of the important nutrients you may be missing.
Andy is a private practice dietitian and avid nutrition blogger from Toronto, Canada. He holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Toronto and loves spreading the good word on healthy eating through his writing.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself.