Healthy and Eco Living

Plant-based diets – fact or fad?

Switching to a plant-based diet might sound like a good idea. But, what exactly does it entail? Check out these five benefits of following a plant-based diet.

A significant portion of people across the globe are swapping out animal products for a plant-based diet – not because veganism is the new consumer fad, but because of the evidence of the associated health benefits. As they say: Science doesn’t lie.

As kids, most of us were told to eat breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. Critically, a balanced breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels and cravings and provides energy and nutrients to power you through your day so you’re parents did not lie. And it’s the perfect meal to swap for a plant-based one.

As Jessica Kotlowitz, a popular Green Dietitian explains: “Breakfast is an easy option to ‘veganise’ as it’s usually vegetarian already. You can just replace dairy products with plant-based alternatives. If you enjoy eggs at breakfast, for example, experiment with tofu scrambles or chickpea omelets.”

If you prefer a “quick-fix”, options include fruit and nuts, toast, pre-made muffins to-go, or even a bowl of a high protein cereal like South African favourite ProNutro made from plant-based* proteins, high in 18 essential vitamins and minerals, with whole wheat variants high in dietary fibre.

Intrigued?

Much more than taste, health is a fundamental factor in making the choice to move to a plant-based diet. It is therefore important to note that your health should be the fundamental factor in deciding to switch to a plant-based diet. As Jessica stresses, it is critical for anyone making the switch to a plant-based diet to research the nutritional aspects to ensure their meals are balanced and comprised of all the essential nutrients. Interestingly, nutritionists will tell you, it is indeed possible to eat unhealthily as a vegan.

different nuts in eco friendly package
Different nuts. Photo: Sarah Chai (Pexels).

As such, for those choosing to adopt a predominantly whole food plant-based diet, it is important to read the labels on food carefully to determine your intake of Vitamin B12, iodine, Calcium, Vitamin D and Omega 3. You may well need to supplement to ensure sufficient intake of these essential nutrients.

So, is a plant-based diet an easy switch? And is there evidence?

Jessica stresses that while it’s a good idea to switch to a plant-based diet for the health benefits, there are also important ethical considerations: “Environmental concerns have led many people to adopt a more plant-centred diet, especially since the 2010 United Nations report on climate change urged a move away from meat-centred diets in order to mitigate the impact of climate change.”

It’s difficult to argue when we learn that more than 20 times more fresh water is required to produce animal products compared to the same weight of plant products, proving the enormous strain that animal agriculture puts on water resources and water security. In Australia, for example, 43% of irrigation water is used by the animal agriculture industry, while only 24% is used for fruit, vegetables and grains for human consumption. Farmers in South Africa are also the leading direct users of water, consuming 66% of all water.

Before you tuck into that next bacon-and-eggs breakfast, spare a thought for your lifestyle, your health … and the planet. As Jessica says, a plant-based diet doesn’t only offer the opportunity to enjoy tasty, healthy food, but also to ensure the welfare of the Earth.

Five top benefits of following a plant-based diet:

  • A balanced plant-based diet reduces the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, overweight/ obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Eating a plant-based diet, with staple plant foods like legumes, pulses, and grains, is cheaper than buying animal products.
  • A plant-based diet is kinder to the environment.
  • Plant-based diets are effective for managing weight.
  • A longer life: A Journal of the American Heart Association study found that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all causes of mortality by 25%.
  • *Excludes strawberry and chocolate variants which are 93% plant-based.*

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