Why You Should Adopt a Plant Based Diet

Why You Should Adopt a Plant Based Diet
Diet & Nutrition Education
By Krysta Fioranelli, 14 October 2018

Plant based diets offer protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers. But with so much nutrition misinformation, how can you be sure a plant based diet is right for you? Read on to learn why you should adopt a plant based diet.

Why Choose a Plant Based Diet?

Plant based diets are a new trend, but why? For years, we were convinced that animal-based protein sources were best for muscle building and tissue repair. We now know that consuming a plant based diet may be just as, if not more beneficial! Plant based diets are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes when compared to an animal based diet. More and more athletes and top physique competitors are turning to a plant based diet for strength and performance gains, too.

Benefits of a Plant Based Diet

Plant based diets are associated with an array of benefits, including the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Observational studies have shown¹ that those who consume a plant based diet tend to have lower rates of type 2 diabetes. This is likely due to an increased consumption of high fiber fruits and vegetables and a decreased consumption of saturated and trans fatty acids.

Antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables also help to reduce oxidative stress, improve the integrity of microvascular walls, and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol – all major players in the prevention of heart disease². A high meat diet³ is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Plant based diets may confer protective effects against atherosclerosis and thus the development of heart disease.

According to a statement by World Health Organization 4, red meat is associated with increased rates of colon cancer. Though association does not equal causation, plant-based diets high in fibrous fruits, vegetables, and whole grains improve colon motility and overall gastrointestinal health. Even if you do not go fully plant based, simply adding in more fruits and vegetables can have a major preventative effect.

Importance of Protein on a Plant Based Diet

Despite the benefits of a plant based diet, many remain concerned about consuming enough protein. Protein forms the building blocks of every cell in our body – so it’s important that we get enough! According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics5, those that consume a plant based diet tend to consume adequate amounts of protein when calorie intake is adequate. Unless you are cutting calories, you are probably consuming the amount of protein your body needs, even without animal products!

It is important to remember, however, that an adequate protein intake does not necessarily equate to an optimal protein intake. The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for those consuming a mixed animal-based and plant based diet. When consuming only plant based protein sources, this value increases around 10%6 due to the decreased digestibility of plant based protein.

Active individuals and the elderly have increased requirements7. It is recommended that the elderly consume at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Athletes require even more: 1.2 - 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Why Should I Choose Pea Protein on a Plant Based Diet?

Plant based proteins such as pea, soy, and rice are nutritious alternatives to the traditional whey and casein based protein powders. But not all protein powders are equal! Whey protein is typically touted as the most beneficial protein powder due to its complete amino acid profile. But for many, especially those conscious of the benefits of a plant based diet, it is not the best option. Pea protein is rich in almost all of the essential amino acids, making other plant based protein sources inferior. Pea protein can compete with the best animal based protein sources, as it is high in the branched chain amino acids that decrease muscle breakdown after exercise. It is also hypoallergenic and perfect for those sensitive to gluten or dairy.

Nutrition Tips with Implementing a Plant Based Diet

It is important to make sure you consume enough nutrients on a plant based diet, as some vitamins and minerals are only found in animal products. Vitamin B12 is one of the few nutrients that is difficult to derive from plant based sources and must be supplemented on a vegan diet. Calcium and iron might also be of concern. Be sure to check with your dietitian or doctor to see if you need a supplement.

References
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466941/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315380/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27557655
  4. http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
  5. https://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatrightpro%20files/practice/position%20and%20practice%20papers/position%20papers/vegetarian-diet.ashx
  6. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0217p26.shtml
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