More and more people are switching to a plant-based lifestyle thanks to its environmental and health benefits along with the growing awareness of animal rights. In the U.S 39% of Americans are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods. Transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle can help you to feel fantastic and even give you a competitive edge.
However, with the growing demand for plant-based food options, companies have created more and more plant-based substitutes. Nowadays, there is an abundance of vegan junk food that’s packed with sugar and processed foods. Although it’s great that companies and people are more interested in becoming more plant-based, many of these plant-based alternatives are bad for your health. By introducing more variety into your diet in the form of fruits and vegetables, you can make following a plant-based lifestyle healthy, enjoyable and sustainable.
If you’re in the first stages of following a plant-based diet, it can be hard to know what you should and shouldn’t try. With a ton of unhealthy options out there, you can easily be led astray despite trying to make positive changes. Processed foods, junk foods, and refined oils can easily make their way into your diet. By focusing on incorporating a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet, you can give your body the fuel it needs to flourish.
Generally, a plant-based diet emphasizes real foods from plants including:
- Whole grains: brown rice, oats, and barley
- Vegetables: kale, squash, cauliflower, and tomatoes
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, and lentils
- Unrefined plant-based oils
- Plant-based protein like tempeh and tofu
Many studies have shown that plant-based diets are beneficial to weight management. A review of 12 studies with more than 1,100 people found that those on a plant-based diet lost more weight on average than those on a non-vegetarian diet. It’s also been found to be beneficial to heart health. One large study in 200,000 people found that those following a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole-grains, and nuts had a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease than those who didn’t.
Just because a meat substitute is vegan doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest option. Supermarket shelves are currently booming with fake meats. The plant-based meat market is very lucrative with vegan burger brand Beyond Meat raising $240 million when it debuted to the U.S market earlier in 2019. A new report from The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation revealed that meat-free bacon had the highest average amount of salt, containing over a third of your daily recommended amount of salt.
This shows that just by choosing any plant-based alternative it doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your health. As with every diet, it’s important to know what to eat in order to get the most out of it and be the healthiest version of yourself.
Overall though it’s great that more and more people are choosing to become plant-based regardless.
There are a number of reasons why people choose a plant-based lifestyle including:
- Love of animals
- The environment
- Your health
- A competitive edge
Well-planned plant-based diets that follow healthy guidelines, contain all the nutrients you need allow you to thrive and feel amazing, and help animals.
4 Reasons to Go Plant-Based
Love of Animals
Preventing harm to animals isn’t the only reason to go plant-based but for a lot of people, it can be the key factor behind a change to your lifestyle. If you love animals and can’t stand the thought of them suffering, then a plant-based lifestyle could definitely be for you. The majority of animals live a short life on factory farms where they are confined to small spaces. By going plant-based, you can ensure that your diet doesn’t cause any harm to animals. Plus, by eating a whole foods plant-based diet, you can better protect your health as well.
Experts believe that we only have a short period of time to limit the worst effects of climate change. But, what does a plant-based diet have to do with the environment? Animal farming is actually one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, water pollution, and deforestation. Meat and dairy production accounts for about 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s more than motorized transport combined. Research from the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could help reduce your individual carbon footprint by up to 73%. If everyone were to stop eating these types of foods, global farmland could be reduced by 75%.
As with every diet, it’s important to know what to eat in order to get the most out of it and be the healthiest version of yourself. Well-planned plant-based diets that follow healthy guidelines and contain all the nutrients you need allow you to thrive. Plant-based diets have been linked to numerous health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and lower rates of types 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A study in more than 200,000 people found that people following a healthy plant-based eating pattern had a 34% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those following an unhealthy non-plant-based diet. If you’re considering going vegan, it can be difficult to know where to start. Once you equip yourself with the benefits of living plant-based, you won’t ever want to turn back.
A Competitive Edge
Professional athletes are increasingly turning to a plant-based diet to increase their performance and give them a competitive edge. From tennis star Venus Williams to Formula 1’s Lewis Hamilton, meat-free athletes are already showing the power of a plant-based diet when it comes to performance levels.
There are several reasons why athletes are adopting a plant-based diet. A scientific review published in the journal Nutrients shows how athletes benefit from a plant-based in terms of heart health, endurance, and recovery. The recent movie, Game Changers, showcases elite athletes and the explosive rise of plant-based eating in professional sports.
However, if you replace your meat with only plant-based alternatives and processed substitutes, the opposite effect could happen. The many health benefits experienced with a plant-based diet are due to eating more whole foods, less to no meat, and reducing or eliminating processed foods.
Plant-Based Diet: What Foods to Avoid
A plant-based diet focuses on fresh whole foods usually with plenty of fruit and vegetables. With a ton of unhealthy vegan foods on the market, even a plant-based lifestyle can become unhealthy. Whether you’re vegan or not, eating foods that are high in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is not good for your body.
High-fructose corn syrup has commonly been used as a sweetener in processed foods. It’s been linked to several health conditions including insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Just abstaining from animal products like meat, dairy and eggs doesn’t guarantee you a healthy diet. It takes a varied diet full of fresh and whole foods to get the most out of it.
Heavily processed foods have been chemically altered with artificial flavors and additives. They usually contain a high level of sugar, sodium, and fat. They are commonly calorie dense without having nutritional value. Always check the label of your foods and try to cook from scratch more so you know exactly what is going into your food.
You can still be vegan and follow a very poor diet. You should aim to get most of your nutrients from whole foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. High-sugar and processed food can be very addictive. Studies have shown that foods high in sugar that are very rewarding activate the same parts of the brain as cocaine.
Oils that have been refined using chemicals are produced artificially and heavily processed. The oils you cook with can have a massive impact on your health. Just because you’re using vegetable oils doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Different oils are produced using varying methods, this process may include being treated with acid or bleached.
Partially hydrogenated oils can affect heart health as they increase the bad cholesterol and decrease the good cholesterol. Some people already avoid processed and refined oils for health reasons.
Oils to avoid include:
A variety of inspirations spark an interest in a vegan lifestyle change. As more and more people are replacing meat with plant-based alternatives, it’s important to focus on getting your nutrients from whole plant-based foods for a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.