What exactly is a plant-based diet and why should you consider giving it a try in 2019?

What does plant-based mean? 

A plant-based diet encourages whole, plant-based foods, and is generally low in fat.  It discourages meat, eggs, dairy products and all refined and processed foods. A plant-based diet aims to maximize nutrient consumption by emphasizing lots of vegetables, (both cooked and raw), fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. If it comes from an animal, has a long list of ingredients, a long shelf life, or a lot of packaging - it likely doesn’t fit into a plant-based diet.

We’ve seen endless fads propagated by the media or the weight-loss industry over the years, and numerous regimens prescribed by doctors to treat chronic illness. But of all the diets that have been recommended in the last few decades, research shows that a plant-based diet may be the most effective while also recommended the least. 

This is likely due to lack of knowledge and awareness. Many people are unaware of the many benefits of going plant-based as well as misinformed, believing that a plant-based diet is expensive, or really difficult to adopt. Which is simply is not the case.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that plant-based diets are both cost-effective and low-risk options for lowering body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet can also reduce the number of prescription medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates.” (1) Everyone can benefit from a plant-based diet, but those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity should especially consider trying it. 

But what about Protein? 

The number one most common concern about a plant-based diet is whether or not you’ll get enough protein. This question is born out of a lot of misinformation in the health and fitness industry which has the ultimate goal of selling protein powder and other similar products. 

Contrary to popular belief, plant-based eaters are not all walking around suffering from a lack of protein. Studies show that generally, those on a plant-based diet are not at risk for protein deficiency at all.

As a society, we’re led to believe that we need much more protein than we actually do. We’re also incredibly misinformed about which foods provide that protein. 

First, it’s important to understand what protein is. Proteins are made up of amino acids. All foods contain amino acids. Some proteins (non-essential amino acids) can be synthesized by the body, while others (essential amino acids) cannot and have to come from the food we eat. Many believe that essential amino acids are only present in meat, dairy, and eggs. But plant foods like soy and quinoa contain essential amino acids too. Many plant foods are so close to complete proteins, that if you eat a variety of plant-based foods you’ll get all the essential amino acids you need. It used to be that those on a plant-based diet were advised to combine foods like rice and beans or hummus and whole wheat pita to provide complete proteins. But it’s even less complicated than that. More recent research has taught us that “food combining” is not necessary for those on a plant-based diet. What was not understood until recently is that our livers store amino acids and our bodies do the combining for us. So, therefore, a well-balanced plant-based diet provides more than adequate amounts of essential amino acids and will prevent protein deficiency. (2)

And if you’re still not convinced, check out some of the many impressive plant-based professional athletes and body-builders today who are no doubt getting all the protein they need to thrive. 

But won’t soy give me man-boobs? Or mess with my estrogen levels? 

No, no it won’t. 

Soybeans have been given a bad reputation and have been overlooked as a health-food for far too long. We already know that soy is an excellent source of protein. But did you know it provides a ton of other health benefits as well? 

Studies show that soybeans and foods made from soybeans 

·     may help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein in the blood (3)

·     reduce the risk of hip fractures (4)

·     Reduce the risk of some cancers.

In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (5) reported that women with breast cancer who regularly consumed soy products had a 32% lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and a 29% decreased risk of death, compared to women who consumed little or no soy. 

And for men, an analysis of 14 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that increased intake of soy resulted in a 26% reduction in prostate cancer risk. (6)

The concern should not be with soy, but with isolated soy proteins found in many of the packaged soy-based meat substitutes. Healthier options like organic tofu, tempeh, and soy milk can certainly be included in a well-balanced plant-based diet. 

And will I get enough Iron?

While it’s true that the iron in plants is less bioavailable than the iron in meat, the American Dietetic Association states that iron-deficiency anemia is very rare in individuals who follow a plant-based diet. (7) Some plant foods that are rich in iron include black beans, kidney beans, soybeans spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage and tomato juice and well-balanced, plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of iron.  

But don’t I need milk for strong bones?

Adequate calcium intake is the key to strong bones, but despite what you’ve learned from the multimillion-dollar “Got Milk?” campaign, dairy is not the only way to get calcium. In fact, the risks associated with consuming dairy far outweigh the calcium you may obtain from it. Especially when there are so many healthier plant-based sources of calcium to choose from. Including foods like tofu, mustard greens, broccoli, spinach and kale in your diet will ensure that you get enough calcium. 

For more on the cancer risks associated with consuming dairy, check out switch4good.org



So now that you have a better understanding of what a plant-based diet is, and how it might be beneficial for you, consider giving plant-based a try in 2019! 

What better way to get the new year started than with whole, nutrient-rich, plant-based goodness free from all processed foods, refined sugar, meat and dairy? 

Which is why I’m offering a 30-day Plant-Based Reset starting on January 7th, 2019.

You get 30 days of plant-based meal planning- including easy to make recipes, detailed shopping lists, nutrition information and guidance from me, Certified Holistic Nutritionist Kara Lang Romero. 

To register, click on '“Work With Kara” above and then sign up for The 30-Day Reset