PHOTO: UNSPLASH/ELLA OLSSON
A plant-based diet is based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits, with few or no animal products. People choose a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons, such as environmental threats, health concerns and treatment of animals. While plant-based foods and diets are becoming more and more popular, there are a few things that still confuse most people.
Here are 5 facts you might not know about plant-based foods:
1. Not all plant-based foods are healthy
Just because something is plant-based doesn't mean it's automatically better for you. It’s easy to get vegan versions of almost anything now, but sometimes because of the large amount of processing plant-based foods entail, the final product isn’t necessarily healthy. An ideal plant-based diet should ideally be whole plant, and high whole-grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies and very limited in processed foods.
2. Plant-based eating is not the same as being vegan or vegetarian
A vegan diet completely excludes all animal products in the diet (and often lifestyle), including dairy, eggs and meat; while a vegetarian diet includes eggs and dairy but not meat, poultry or seafood. Plant-based eating, however, means adopting a diet that prioritises whole plant foods without entirely giving up any other ingredient or food type. Plant-based automatically implies more vegetables, more fruit, and more whole-grains.
3. Flexitarian is key to plant-based diets
Plant-based foods allow for a reduction in the amount of meat and dairy consumed, as meats can be replaced with mushrooms, tofu, and legumes; dairy alternatives include nut or oat milks and cheeses, and so on. As in the point above, plant-based diets allow for a large amount of flexibility, rather than being limiting and restrictive, hence they are more sustainable in the long run.
4. Plants are loaded with protein
Most people assume that being on a plant-based diet means sacrificing important nutrition and not getting enough protein. Not true! Think tofu and soy. Many plant-based foods are loaded with protein, although it is true that you will have to eat more of them to match the same amount of protein found in animal products. Protein from a healthy, varied daily diet of plant foods (especially including slow-releasing starches such as rice, beans and corn), can provide the body with all the essential amino acids.
5. There might not be a pandemic with plant-based foods
Some recent research suggests that plant-based foods are not susceptible to viruses such as Covid-19, as are animals, which means that we can perhaps help prevent the next pandemic by reducing our meat intake. Food for thought definitely.
6. Try one plant-based food at a time
Reducing your dependence on meat or dairy might seem a daunting task, so go slow. Slowly replacing one or two foods a week is likely to be more sustainable in the long run and have a more lasting positive impact on your health. Remember, you don’t need to give up eggs, meat or dairy fully – you’re not turning vegan or vegetarian! Instead, focus on adding more plant-based foods to your diet. For instance, try a nut-based milk instead of regular dairy; or plant-based burgers over regular red meat. You might just surprise yourself with the ease of adopting a plant-based diet.