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What is "plant-based?"

In the most general terms, plant-based simply refers to diets centered predominately around plant foods. Within this general classification there are several subcategories:

Vegan: All meat and animal byproducts are avoided
Lacto-vegetarian (LV): Meat and eggs are avoided; milk is consumed
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (LOV): Meat is avoided; milk and eggs are consumed
Macrobiotic diets: Fowl or fish are occasionally consumed; dairy is avoided. All foods are locally sourced with minimal processing
Pescatarian: Fish, eggs and milk are consumed; all other meats are avoided.

 

Vegetarianism is frequently applied to all meat-free diets, but it is also used colloquially to refer to lacto-ovo-vegetarianism.

The term "plant-based" is often utilized synonymously with veganism. Strictly speaking, however, plant-based diets do not restrict the use of non-edible products (leather, guanine, fur, estrogen, etc.) while veganism does.

Within the nutrition community there is plenty of debate regarding categorization of plant-based, plant-only, and vegetarian diets. At beatify we use the term "plant-based" to describe dietary habits that adhere as closely as possible to veganism.

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What does "whole foods" mean?

"Nothing bad added, nothing good taken away."

Dr. Michael Greger

Whole foods refer to foods that are unprocessed and most closely resemble their original state; how the food appeared when it was grown and picked. Conversely, processed foods have been altered in some way before being sold for consumption. Processing typically removes nutrients and adds toxins. Generally, the more processed a food is, the less healthy it is (Ares et al., 2016).

Why whole foods, plant-based?

10 scientific reasons to fuel yourself with plants.

1. Weight control

In the United States, vegan diets are the only dietary patterns associated with a healthy weight. This may be a result of several factors. Firstly, plant-based diets naturally rev up your metabolism; individuals on a plant-based diet average an 11% higher resting metabolic rate than those on a conventional American diet. Additionally, vegetarians typically consume 364 - 464 fewer daily calories than meat eaters without consciously calorie counting. There is also accumulating evidence demonstrating that not all calories are created/processed equally. When comparing groups of people who consume the same amount of daily calories, those who consume meat gain significantly more weight.

2. More nutrient dense
Vegan diets are typically higher in micronutrients than conventional diets. In fact, by switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet, multivitamin supplements usually become unnecessary (Davey et al., 2002).

 

3. High in fiber
Less than 3% of Americans consume their daily recommended allowance of fiber. Fiber deficiency is associated with an increase risk in various cancers, constipation, diverticular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and overall mortality. By increasing your fiber consumption by just 7%, you can decrease your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease by 9%.

4. Plants are cholesterol-free

High cholesterol leads to the clogging of arteries, resulting in cardiovascular disease. For most people, cholesterol is determined primarily by diet. Statistically, vegetarians have significantly lower cholesterol than meat eaters, and vegans are even lower. Transitioning to a plant-based diet can reduce cholesterol by 17 - 40%, depending on adherence. Stronger effects can be seen by incorporating exercise.


5. Lower in saturated fat
Most saturated fats are derived from meat, eggs, and dairy. Because saturated fats contribute to the clogging of arteries, they increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, type II diabetes, and cancer.

6. Significantly reduces your risk of developing disease
Plant-based diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and many types of cancer (Orlich et al., 2013; Fraser, 1999). This may be a result of avoiding animal products and/or the consumption of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (Fraser, 1999; Snowden, 1984).

7. Reduces stress hormones

Animal protein increases the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, that is circulating in your blood. Within 30 minutes of eating a meal high in animal protein, circulating cortisol levels almost double while a plant-based meal, such as vegetable stir fry with rice, causes a reduction in cortisol. Within 10 days of switching from a high protein to a high carbohydrate diet, rich in fruits, vegetable, and whole grains, cortisol levels can decrease by 25%!

8. Animal rights
Every hour, over 6 million animals are killed for food (Oppenlander, 2013). Furthermore, the meat, egg, and dairy industry continue to use inhumane feeding practices, provide insufficient physical activity, and hold animals in crowded, unhygienic conditions. Electric prodding and breeding practices lead to chronic stress and pain, and each year thousands of animals die from their horrific conditions, never even making it to the supermarket (Greger, 2010; Espejo et al., 2006; McConnel et al., 2008).

9. Less environmental impact

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of water pollution, ocean dead zones, species extinction, and habitat destruction. Every person that switches from a standard American diet to a vegan diet reduces their carbon foodprint by 50% and water use by 92%.  Due primarily to the large farms dedicated to animal feed, it takes 1/6 acre of land to feed a vegan for 1 year, compared to a vegetarian which requires 3 times as much and a meat eater which requires 18 times as much.
Seafood is no exception to environmental destruction; 75% of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted. At this growing rate we could see fishless oceans by 2048.

10. Feeding the planet
Globally, 1 in 7 people have insufficient food to sustain health and well-being (Godfray et al., 2010) and 8.3% of all mortality is attributable to malnutrition (FAO, 2012). Due to a growing demand for animal products in the developed world, animal feed holds a premium over the cost that local human consumers can afford to pay (Capper et al., 2013). More farms are, therefore, used for animal feed instead of food for human consumption. Eighty two percent of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals that are subsequently eaten by people living in western countries. Reducing the global demand for animal products creates an opportunity to readjust crop yields that nourish local populations.

References

Jacobs, C. and Dwyer, J.T. (1988). Vegetarian children: appropriate and inappropriate diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 48 (3), 811-818.

Ares, G., Vidal, L., Allegue, G., Giménez, A., Bandeira, E., Moratorio, X., Molina, V. and Curutchet, M.R. (2016). Consumers’ conceptualization of ultra-processed foods. Appetite, 105, 611-617.

Achieving health and happiness through evidence-based nutrition

 

Nikola Hamilton

MSc GLobal Public Health Nutrition

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Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Furthermore, it is important to work closely with a qualified healthcare provider when starting any new exercise regimen, diet or treatment as dietary adjustments may alter medication needs or have other effects on physical health.