Plant based Eating
Plant based diets are defined by the elimination or avoidance of animal products and the inclusion of whole foods that are unrefined and minimally processed. It also focusses on the exclusion of ultra-processed foods.
There are a number of different plant-based diets namely: Vegan, Whole-food-plant-based (minimal intake of animal products but permitted in moderation), raw vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian (permits egg, dairy, honey), lacto-vegetarian (permits dairy), ovo-vegetarian (permits egg), pescatarian (permits fish, dairy, eggs, honey) and semi-vegetarian/ flexitarian.
Some reasons for adopting a plant-based diet and lifestyle are for animal welfare, ecological factors, economical factors, concerns about the greenhouse emulsions brought on by the animal produce market and most commonly, health benefits associated with consuming fewer animal products.
So, what are these health benefits and why are they associated with less consumption of animal products?
Plant based diets have shown a reduced risk for development of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain cancer types, rheumatoid arthritis as well as a reduction in weight, which can in turn prevent overweight and obesity. The reason for these benefits is mainly due to a reduction an overall energy intake and total fat and saturated fat intake when fewer meat and animal products are consumed.
Although there are benefits to consuming plant-based diets, it is not as simple as just cutting out meat, as most plant-based proteins are not complete proteins. This means that they do not contain all the essential amino acids to form a complete protein. For this reason, plant-based proteins must be consumed in certain combinations with other foods (complementary foods), to ensure that all building blocks (amino acids) are consumed. A dietitian is knowledgeable about these combinations and is crucial in ensuring that the plant-based diet being consumed is optimal and is providing all macro-and micronutrients in the desired amounts.