Diet trends come and go. For anyone over the age of 20 years old, you know this to be true. As the latest dietary knowledge surfaces, large corporations do their best to inundate consumers with the newest product claiming to be perfect for their health. In the end, these products are exactly like the last – overly processed garbage not even approaching healthy. This unfortunate truth often overwhelms those of us who seek a sustainable change in diet and lifestyle that will improve our health. The plant-based diet is seemingly the newest trend; however, once you’re able to understand it’s efficacy and sustainability, the plant-based lifestyle will be here to stay indefinitely. Here I will answer your common questions as they pertain to this newest diet craze. As a leading innovator in the plant-based arena, my goal is to disseminate the knowledge I have gathered over the years, easing the overwhelming tension felt during a diet change.
1. What Are The Differences Between a Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based Diet?
There are common misconceptions when discussing meat and dairy reduced diets. For the curious out there, internet searches usually result in extreme differences of opinion and ideologically bent hot takes. Confusion should not be the takeaway after researching a possible lifestyle change. Brace yourselves for the utter simplicity in the differences of these three diets.
A vegetarian diet defined is the total abstention from meat, fish, or poultry. Many variations of the vegetarian diet exist, which allow the adherer to incorporate certain foods and eliminate others. Regardless of the variety, vegetarians typically stay away from meat and poultry but make allowances for other animal products. In most cases, vegetarians arrive at their diet choice for religious or ethical purposes. Vegetarians often cite environmental or animal safety reasons for their lifestyle.
Vegans take vegetarianism to the extreme. The vegan diet does not allow for any animal-derived products whatsoever, mainly for ethical reasons. Vegans eliminate animal-based products 100% of the time due to their views on animal welfare and the environment. Less variation exists in the vegan diet, but as long as animal products are uninvolved completely, vegans will adhere to it.
The plant-based diet is immensely different. To begin with, describing your diet as plant-based completely divorces any ethical connotations although some people adopting a plant-based diet are also vegan but not all by any means. A plant-based diet does not mean always mean eliminating animal products entirely or indefinitely, however; with a plant-based diet, the vast majority of what you eat does come from plants. For those who follow a plant-based diet, consuming small amounts of animal products is inconsequential to general health. In fact, plant-based admirers often claim long-term success due to diet’s overall flexibility. Plant-based dieters derive their recipes from mostly plant-based ingredients, increasing health and appealing to those who want to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products.
Vegetarians – elimination of meat and poultry with small allowances for other animal products.
Vegans – elimination of meat products 100% of the time, making no allowances or leeway, often for ethical reasons.
Plant-Based – a mostly vegetable-based diet without ethical connotations or inflexible views on meat products.
2. How Will I Ever Get Enough Protein or Vitamin B12 With A Plant-Based Diet?
Protein is an integral building block in our body, allowing us to repair tissues, balance hormone levels, and maintain the immune system. Proteins are made up of amino acids, many of which our bodies can make. The amino acids not produced naturally in our bodies are then supplemented with our food intake. A common misconception is that meat and meat alone is the only surefire way to achieve our needed daily protein intake. This is diametrically untrue. Plant-based products can contain as much or more amino acids necessary for protein development as meat, often with less of the harmful elements like mercury. The propaganda paid for by lobbyists will say otherwise, but evidence shows that those who stick to a plant-based diet not only get enough protein but 70% more than what is required.
Eating a vegetable-dominant diet will result in the necessary levels of protein. Choosing protein-rich foods found in the plant-based diet is not difficult, another giant misconception. Foods such as beans, quinoa, broccoli, kale, whole grains, soy, cashews, almonds, oats, brown rice, cabbage, pumpkin, seeds, blueberries, apples, and many more contain all nine essential amino acids needed for protein development. Obviously, the variety of foods is not a problem. Tofu and tempeh are excellent plant-based protein sources as well. With all of the controversy surrounding tofu, it’s essential to filter out the truth from the misunderstandings. Tofu and tempeh are both lightly processed soy products that generate tons of plant-based protein with little to no harmful effects if using a non-GMO variety.
Achieving the necessary levels of Vitamin B12 is often a concern for those considering a plant-based diet. Most prominent in animal-based products, meeting the recommended daily allowance for B12 can be tricky but by no means impossible. Many kinds of plant milk – soy, almond, cashew, oat, hemp, and peanut – contain enough B12 to stave off anemia and other issues related to a lack of B12. Other soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and soy itself also contain Vitamin B12, along with many nutritional yeasts; again, variety is not an issue.
Maintaining the appropriate levels of protein and Vitamin B12 is not difficult with a plant-based diet. It’s crucial to discern authentic nutritional information with that paid propaganda shoved in our faces by lobbyists. The truth is, plant-based foods are chock full of protein and amino acids at a level more digestible than that of meat products.
3. Is A Plant-Based Diet Sustainable (What Will I Eat?)
The ultimate benefit of sticking with a plant-based diet is the health benefits and the variety of allowable foods. Those of us who maintain a plant-based diet long-term, boast transformative improvements to health unmatched by any other way of life. Given the ultimate flexibility of the diet and it’s lack of ethical requirements, the plant-based diet has established itself as the preferred way of eating for the future.
The food options available for plant-based dieters have and will continue to expand. Those without any a prior knowledge on the plant-based lifestyle will inaccurately assume one must eat a diet of leaves, tofu, bland vegetables, or something otherwise unfamiliar. I cannot overstate how incorrect this assumption is. In all actuality, a plant-based diet lends itself to a vibrant, plentiful way of eating, bursting with a variety of flavor. Familiar dishes we all know and love are so easily adapted into a plant-based lifestyle. Substitution is not necessary; a plant-based diet is all about enhancement and improvement of what we already enjoy eating. I will discuss how easily our favorite and most typical dishes can transform into plant-based friendly in a later blog.
Besides its variety, the plant-based diet is beneficial to those who require an immediate healthful transformation. Beginning my plant-based journey 120 plus pounds heavier, I am fully aware of the results a plant-based diet can deliver. Removing meat, dairy, and including plant-based products, I eliminated six life threatening diseases in just 6 months of starting a plant-based diet. It is impossible to ignore the distinct advantages of switching to a plant-based lifestyle. The proof is in the (plant-based) pudding, as they say. But more on my story later.
The pros of a plant-based diet cannot go without saying.