People following plant-based diet plans focus on eating more plant-based food like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and tubers. Simultaneously, they either totally avoid or consume a lesser quantity of animal-based food like fish, eggs, dairy, poultry, and beef. The main advantage of following such eating habits is that it reduces the risk of developing health disorders like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and high blood pressure. The purpose of this article is to discuss in detail the pros and cons of following a plant-based diet; read on to know more about them.
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
There are no fixed guidelines on what to eat in a plant-based diet, and because of this, there are different ways to follow it. For instance, vegans avoid all types of animal-based food products and byproducts. Then, there are other types of plant-based diets like vegetarian, flexitarian, fruitarian, pescatarian, and Mediterranean diets. These different variants of plant-based diets are based on the type of plant-based food as well as animal-based food products included in the diet.
Another popular plant-based diet is the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet. In this diet, people eat whole foods and avoid the consumption of processed food products like refined sugar, white flour, white rice, and hydrogenated oils. You must also know that often people confuse the WFPB diet with the vegan diet because, in both these diets, animal-based food products are avoided. Moreover, research has shown that eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases because they have lower amounts of saturated fats and higher amounts of dietary fiber.
How Do Plant-Based Diets Work?
Adopting a lifestyle that focuses on consuming plant-based consumer goods does not necessarily mean you have to give up on all types of animal-based food products, except for the vegan diet. It only asks you to prioritize plant-derived food over dairy, meat, fish, eggs, refined foods, and so on.
A 2017 research has shown that following a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet significantly reduced the risk of heart diseases. Also, it eliminated or reduced the need for certain diabetic drugs, statins, and blood pressure medications. This is the main reason health care experts ask their patients to include more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their meals. Moreover, whole foods have a lower glycemic index because they are not at all or minimally processed.
The Pros And Cons Of Plant-Based Diet
Following strict plant-based diets like a vegan diet or WFPB diet have many health benefits, and this is the reason that they are becoming popular among people. But there are few downsides like nutrient deficiency diseases. This is because certain nutrients are either absent or are not easily absorbed by the body from plant-based food.
Listed below are the pros and cons of a plant-based diet:
- Eating more plant-based food helps to improve heart health. For instance, nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help to maintain a healthy heart. Apart from this, they are rich in antioxidants that decrease the risk of diabetes and the complications due to it.
- Following a plant-based diet helps to reduce body mass index (BMI), which is especially useful for those who are overweight. This is because most plant-based foods have lower calorie density and high-fiber content. Due to this combination, the tendency to eat more food is reduced. Also, research shows that following a WFPB diet results in effective weight loss.
- Eating more plant-based food reduces the risk of certain types of cancers like colorectal cancer. This is because they have higher fiber content that is useful for maintaining gastrointestinal health.
- Plant proteins are not complete proteins like animal proteins, i.e., they do not contain some of the essential amino acids. To avoid this, you must include a wide variety of plant-based foods in your meal.
- People who follow a vegan diet have an increased risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency; it is not found in most plant-based foods. This can be avoided by taking vitamin B12 fortified foods like cereals, plant-based milk, or supplements.
- Diets followed by vegetarians may develop iron deficiency. This is because plant-based food contains non-heme iron, which is not easily absorbed by the body. So, doctors recommend that people who follow these diets must check their blood levels for iron and must consume supplements if required.
- Like iron, vegans and vegetarians have the risk of developing a calcium deficiency. The absorption of this nutrient is reduced due to the presence of antinutrients like oxalates and phytates present in plant-based food. Its absorption can be increased by cooking or processing vegetables. Also, nutritionists recommend consuming calcium-fortified plant-based milk and other food products.
On a final note, plant-based diets have become a trend among the younger generation due to their health benefits. Also, they are adopted by top athletes, environmentalists, and fitness fanatics. These diets improve your overall wellbeing and help you to lead a healthy lifestyle.