Plant-Based Eating: The Claims, the Research and the Truth

Why this topic?

Today, the plant-based way of eating is reaching a whole new level of popularity. Every day we hear of new people going “plant-based” and maybe even you are! Because we constantly interact with people who have chosen to go plant based, we decided to do an education on it. We wanted to dig deep into what it really means to be plant-based and talk about specific research that backs it up. This education is aiming to provide you with the tools necessary to live the healthiest life possible-the plant based way!

What’s the chatter?

Just like a lot of other trends today, non-backed up research is pushed and prodded into people’s brains. That’s why we’re here. We want to debunk the myths and give you raw information that has been scientifically backed up.

There have been a few myths about plant based eating going around that we wanted to confront in the beginning. Like what?

  • “It’s expensive!”

In all honesty, it CAN be expensive, but it never HAS to be expensive. If you want the prime cut steak of the plant based options, you’re going to pay for that prime cut. However, there are always going to be ways to get around the pricetag and make a budget that works for you.

  • “It’s all or nothing with plant-based”

I mean, you can go all or nothing (booya for you!), but if you’re the type of person who never wants to give up their weekly pizza and wine night, don’t. My philosophy is to start by eating at least one plant-based meal a day (One Part Plant!). You may stay at one or, in time, go for three meals a day.

Do your best and ease into what works for you. Also, who says that pizza can’t be plant-based? Don’t believe me?

  • You’re committing to living a life of all broccoli and no meat”

The only way I’m eating a bowl of plain steamed broccoli and rice is if it’s smothered in teriyaki sauce. Plant-based doesn’t have to be bland and boring! It can be tacos, pizzas, and desserts. I encourage you to make a list of your favorite dishes and find recipes for plant-based versions of them. Okay, so fondue is probably not gonna work here, but I’m pretty confident you can make enough options that will leave you satisfied and excited for dinner.

  • “You are going to lose weight like nobody’s business”

It’s true that most people lose weight when changing to a plant-based diet, but that’s not always the case. As you begin to make the change, be conscious of all the packaged “gluten-free! Dairy-free! Refined sugar-free!” foods. Some of these foods are incredibly processed and the ingredients aren’t going to make you feel your best. Keep in mind, cookies are cookies. Your body is going to process organic evaporated cane juice pretty much the same as good old-fashioned white sugar. Do your best to stick with whole plant-based foods, and eat your sweet treats in moderation.

  • “You won’t get enough of the nutrients you need”

You can and you will! As long as you’re eating a well-rounded whole foods plant-based diet, you’ll get everything you need. And if you do decide to go fully plant-based, look into taking a B12 supplement. This is the only vitamin you can’t get from a strictly plant-based diet.

Here’s some legitimate research on Plant-Based

One nutritional review done on plant-based diets had to do with comparing plant versus animal based consumption. It focused on skeletal muscle growth and how each type of protein differs in helping synthesize the muscle. Professors at the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health stated how recent evidence suggests that the ingestion of the plant- based proteins in soy and wheat results in a lower muscle protein synthetic response when compared with several animal-based proteins. The possible lower response to the protein possibly has to do with the connection of digestibility. So, when something isn’t digested completely into your system, all of the nutrients are not able to be processed by your body in a complete way. So, the connection was made that plant-based animal products have less digestibility than animal based, so the amount of protein utilized is greater, and so has an increased impact of skeletal muscle synthesis!

Another factor may be the fact that the majority of plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins, meaning they don’t have all of the essential amino acids compared to animal proteins which have all of them (making them complete). This, again limits the amount of amino acids that are able to be synthesized in the body. If one chooses to eat plant based proteins, they can eat a variety of plant based proteins in efforts to get the largest amount of amino acids daily. However, quick tip; soy protein and quinoa are complete protein sources AND plant based!

Interestingly enough, Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a study on the plant based diet in 2017. It focused on finding the difference between three different “groups” of plant-based eating habits and their effect on heart health. It did not include a factor of elimination of animal products but solely the healthful vs. unhealthful way to eat plant based.

The three groups consisted of 1) consumption of only healthy plant based foods, 2) consumption of both healthy and unhealthy, and 3) consumption of unhealthy plant based foods. By no surprise, they found that the people who followed the healthy plant-based diet (the second group) had the lowest risk for heart disease. They were also more active and leaner. On the other hand, those who followed the unhealthful plant-based diet (the third group) had a substantially higher risk for heart disease.

Bottom line

  • Plant-based is eating a diet mainly of foods that are sourced from…plants.
  • A healthy plant-based meal should consist of proper portions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy protein, and healthy oils
  • MOST plant-based dieters take in a very small amount of animal products if any
  • It is very similar to vegan if followed strictly
  • You don’t need to go full vegetarian or vegan (avoiding all animal products, even eggs and dairy) to get the best heart health benefits
  • The focus more on eating the right plants, avoiding the wrong kind, eliminating unhealthy foods, and moderating your intake of healthier animal products

For heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods, and it’s possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet,” says Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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