Plant-based eating is becoming more popular

Plant-based eating is becoming more popular as reflected in our stores, restaurants, and eating plans. Experts agree that incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diets while reducing the amount of animal products we consume is good for our health. (Paige Impink photo)

Plant-based eating is re­ceiving a lot of attention in the media these days. People are seeking ways to improve their health, re­duce dependence on large scale agribusiness, and re­verse the environmental im­pacts that factory farming has produced.

When exploring a plant-based diet, a question of­ten raised is “how will I get enough protein?” Accor­ding to experts in nutrition, it is a common misconception that humans need protein from animal sources in order to be healthy.

As a simple comparison, black beans and lentils have more protein per one cup serving than a hamburger. Spinach, quinoa, and edamame pack a nutritional punch with protein and essential amino acids.

This is not to bash a juicy hamburger; rather, to show that options exist which can achieve satiation for the eater while also reducing the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol and by­products found in animal-sourced foods.

Several plant-based diets have gained popularity, including the Engine 2 eating plan and the Forks Over Knives series. Lower cholesterol, weight loss and reduced blood pressure are documented and irrefu­table results when adopting a plant-based eating plan.

Plant-based eating has demonstrated additional long-term benefits including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, lower risk of high blood pressure or diabetes, and increased longevity.

Restaurants are incorporating more plant-based menu options, including ve­gan choices. In fact, Ele­ven Madison Park in New York City, a Michelin 3 star restaurant and one of the top eateries in the world, just announced this week it is going vegan.

Cooking website Epicu­rious has announced it will not publish recipes which use animal products. Fast food chains such as Dun­kin’ Donuts, Burger King, White Castle, TGI Friday’s and Quiznos are offering plant-based alternatives for consumers’ changing tastes.

Recognizing the growing interest in eating cleaner and more sustainably is good for businesses to reach new markets, and the quick market response is good for customers seeking ways to eat healthier without sac­rificing their lifestyle.

Now, transitioning to a plant-based diet need not involve giving up meat or dairy completely. Nutri­tio­nists suggest a shift in the proportion of meat to vegetables on your plate and building meals around veg­etables instead of ma­king meat the centerpiece.

Start with stacking your plate half full of vegetables, then slowly increase the amount as you limit your meat intake. Stocking up on snacks such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, and moving away from cheese and luncheon meats can be an easy first step.

Incorporate one salad each day into your menu. Try oat milk or flax milk instead of cow’s milk, and try applesauce or chia in baking instead of eggs. Experiment with beans and oats to replace meat in recipes.

Simple changes can put your eating on a path that is more healthful not only for your body, but for the planet at the same time.

(1) comment

RandomJitter

The assertion in the title is misplaced and, frankly, terrible advice. A more helpful

direction would be to “Eat more whole foods and less processed food for a healthier diet”.

Since the low-fat craze of the late 1980s and early 90s, reinforced by the USDA food

pyramid and the more recent My Plate recommendations, the per capita consumption of beef,

has declined, chicken has risen and pork has remained essentially unchanged. The creation

and consumption of nutrient poor calories made with sugars, processed grains and seed oils

(marketed as heart healthy vegetable oils) have increased. The majority of calories

consumed in the “Standard American Diet”, or SAD, which has been adopted in many industrialized

countries, is dominated by these hyper-palatable and ultra-processed products produced

by a few large corporations. Recently, it is these large food companies that are developing

the new plant-based “frankenfood” made with, you guess it, sugars, processed grains and

seed oils.

Along with the above change in diet is the correlated and unrelenting increase in chronic

obesity related diseases across all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders. Just look around,

this is the number one health crisis in America today and it’s barely getting any serious

press. But I digress.

While it may be fashionable to promote plant-based eating and vilify traditional animal-based

diets, there is simply no credible science that shows a direct causal relationship where meat

consumption drives the formation of these modern chronic diseases. There is, however, an increasing

body of evidence linking these illnesses with consumption of a carbohydrate heavy and ultra-processed

diet.

In the original article, the author states, in essence, that health markers (blood pressure,

weight loss, etc.) and long-term benefits are improved when adopting a plant-based diet.

Left out of these assertions is what other diet is this being compared against? The long

answer is that when compared against the SAD, a whole food Mediterranean, Paleo, low carbohydrate,

carnivore or even plant-based diet would be an improvement over the nutrient poor, carbohydrate

heavy and ultra-processed SAD.

Outdated and weak science still drives the narrative that consuming saturated fats, leading

to higher cholesterol, is the primary cause for modern chronic cardiovascular disease. In fact,

there is little compelling evidence that shows consuming saturated fat causes a substantial

elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. By the way, did you know cholesterol is a vital and

compound that our bodies makes? Ask yourself why would an evolutionary compound that’s required

for every cell in the body is suddenly deemed dangerous? The pharmaceutical industry makes multiple

billions of dollars selling statins to lower cholesterol.

The article also states that one cup (8 ounces) of black bean and lentils “have more protein

… than a hamburger”. In fact, 8 ounces of cooked ground beef contains over 60 grams of

protein compared to 15 grams for black beans and 18 grams for lentils.

The fact is that animal products are the most ancestrally appropriate, nutrient dense and

highly bioavailable foods for humans. Ancestrally appropriate means humans have thrived

consuming mainly meat, fish, eggs, and milk products for hundreds of thousands of years. Nutrient

dense means the highest amounts of essential nutrients per weight exist in animal products.

Finally, highly bioavailable means these nutrients are highly absorbable in the body. For

example, the highly bioavailable forms of vitamin A (retinol) is from animal liver (cod, duck,

lamb, etc.). Some plants provide carotenoids, which must be converted to retinol, but the

conversion rate is quite low.

Finally, when at the supermarket, buy primarily from the edges where fresh fruit, vegetables,

meat, fish, eggs and dairy are made available year round thanks to modern agriculture and supply

chain.

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