Nowadays, it seems like everyone knows someone who’s following a “plant-based” diet. But is this meat-alternative protocol just a trendy fad, or is it really better for your health?
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet consists only of foods that originate from plants. This includes vegetables, fruits, grains, lentils, seeds, nuts, etc. It does not include any animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, or eggs. It usually also does not include processed or sweet products.
Do plant-based diets benefit your health?
Kirsten Straughan is a nutritionist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When talking about plant-based diets, she says, “We know that the plant-based diet, there’s ample evidence of the health benefits. Decreasing risks of certain types of cancers, decreasing cardiovascular disease, decreasing risk of type 2 diabetes lower BMIs. If we can decrease the amounts of those animal products and replace those with plant-based foods, we’re going to have better health outcomes.”
Some benefits of a plant-based diet include:
- A longer life
- Healthier weight
- Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
- Decrease in cholesterol, high blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Less money spent on food
- Helping the environment
So it seems that plant-based diets do offer some great health benefits. But just because you don’t exclusively eat plant-based doesn’t mean you don’t reap some benefits. Straughan adds, “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to label yourself as a ‘vegan.’ Incorporate much more plant-based foods and if you love bacon, it doesn’t mean you can never have bacon again. Think of them as condiments, as small amounts.”
Many people worry about not getting enough protein when switching to a plant-based diet. Although this can be a concern, you shouldn’t worry as long as you are including protein-rich plant foods in your diet. These include tofu, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, and more.
It’s now easier than ever to eat a plant-based diet in America. It’s become so popular that restaurant restaurant chains like Burger King, McDonald’s and Denny’s have been adding plant-based items to their menu. From Impossible Burgers to Impossible Pizzas, the options for meat alternatives are endless.
So why is everyone switching to plant-based?
Well, as we’ve discussed, there are numerous health benefits from switching to a plant-based diet. But there’s also another reason people are making the switch: the environment.
Danny O’Malley, founder of Before the Butcher, says that “One of the biggest reasons is the concern for the planet, which includes us, and the health of the animals as well”. O’Malley creates imitations of turkey burgers, chicken burgers and meat burgers without using any meat. He uses a non-GMO soybean as the base of his products. There are other ingredients used in meatless burgers, such as quinoa, peas, lentils, beans, and more. The products are gluten-free and non-GMO. They are very similar to meat burgers; they almost have the same chew and texture.
The plant-based retail market is a $4.5 billion industry. In the last year, the sales were up by 11%, according to the Plant-Based Food Association.
Plant-based advocates and innovators in this industry hope to make the change easier for consumers, making it a smooth transition from meat to a plant-based lifestyle.
It is important to mention that nutritionists recommend checking the labels of plant-based products. Some of them may be too processed, with lots of added fat and high levels of sodium. It’s probably best to cook more at home when switching to a plant-based diet. It’ll be better for your health and your wallet.