Plant-based diets have been met with an increased level of enthusiasm in recent years. Traditionally considered by many to be somewhat of a niche diet—plant-based food options have recently garnered mainstream appeal due to newly discovered health benefits.
While nobody would argue plant-based diets to be a cure-all for diseases and ailments, the evidence supporting their potential health benefits is unquestionable. As more research has pointed to the efficacy of plant-based diets and products—more companies have been creating items specifically catered to these types of diets.
Beyond meat and impossible burgers helped initiate the food industry’s push towards a plant-based movement. Now other companies such as Burger King, Carl’s Jr, and more have created plant-based products catered to the masses.
The problem is that many people fall under some sort of preconceived notion that diets are an all-or-nothing strategy—you’re either vegan or you’re not. I’m here to tell you that plant-based dieting doesn’t have to involve complete elimination of meat and dairy sources. With the increasing number of plant-based products on the market, people can practice a moderate based approach where alternatives can be consumed in places meat was traditionally consumed.
Hi, I’m Sean Torbati. As a longtime advocate of healthy diet alternatives, I’ve long since praised the benefits of plant-based dietary choices. For years many people in the health and fitness community operated under the false pretense that utilizing a plant-based diet meant losing valuable muscle gains. With the creation of viable meat alternatives, many people can now reap the benefits of a plant-based diet without sacrificing muscle.
Modifying your diet and utilizing plant-based alternatives can provide several health benefits while simultaneously limiting your carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at some of the positive byproducts associated with incorporating plant-based food options.
Health Benefits of Plant-Based
Rising obesity rates and increased levels of cardiovascular disorders have plagued the United States for several years. Adoption of healthier food choices centered around plant-based diet options may be able to mitigate the potential risk of certain diseases and ailments.
Implementation of plant-based alternatives may be able to reduce the need for medications while simultaneously helping to treat chronic diseases and mortality rates. A case study was performed on a 63 year old man with a history of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. His blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels far exceeded what would be considered normal, healthy levels. As a result he had been prescribed several medications. After seeing his doctor, he was placed on a plant-based diet consisting strictly of vegetables, legumes, beans, and nuts. After 16 weeks, substantial improvements were seen as all health markers returned to within healthy, functioning levels (1).
A much larger meta analysis pointed to similar results. More than 11 studies were included over a period from 1999 to 2017. Overall results suggested that plant-based diet alternatives were able to improve quality of life, psychological well-being, and chronic diabetic neuropathy (2).
Further research has indicated that plant-based diets may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 40% and the risk of cerebral vascular disease by 29% (3). The health benefits associated with plant-based diets are unmistakable, but did you know switching to plant-based diet choices may also lower your carbon footprint?
Reduction of Carbon Footprint
Farming for meat and dairy products can be harmful to the environment due to their production of methane gas and carbon dioxide. Both of these greenhouse gases cause harm to the environment and can contribute to negative climate change.
Studies have shown that switching to a plant-based diet can help reduce emissions at a rate of up to 73% (4). Many people are unaware that simply shifting their dietary choices has the ability to significantly impact the environment around them.
Although plant-based diets can provide several intrinsic and extrinsic benefits—that doesn’t mean you have to make a 100% switch to plant-based. Simply substituting some food choices can go a long way towards positively impacting your health and the environment.
Utilizing a Hybrid Plant-Based Diet Approach
Plant-based diets have the ability to positively impact your health in numerous ways. The problem is many people see plant-based diets as an all-or-nothing type strategy. The truth is you create a hybrid approach that involves simply incorporating certain plant-based items in place of traditional meat and dairy products.
Here’s some common changes you can make for creating a hybrid plant-based approach.
- Implement meat substitutes: common foods such as burgers, tacos, sausage, and more can be substituted for plant-based alternatives. Grocery stores and restaurants are becoming increasingly more accommodating by providing alternatives that look, smell, and even taste like meat.
- Use dairy-free cheese: cheese lovers may find it hard to completely give up cheese. The good news is dairy-free substitutes can commonly be found in most grocery stores.
- Eat meat once per day: many people choose to eat some form of meat with every meal of the day. Eating meat only one time per day can drastically improve your overall health and well-being.
- Consume high protein alternatives: several non-meat products can provide protein if you’re concerned about getting enough of it in your diet. Legumes, chickpeas, and several veggies can help make up much of the protein in your diet. Many studies have even linked plant-based protein to longer lifespans (5).
Simply incorporating basic diet strategies can go a long-way towards long-term sustainable health. Following a completely vegan based diet isn’t necessary for achieving positive health benefits. Making small changes can have significant benefits to your diet and overall well-being.
As you can see, adopting a complete vegan diet is not necessary for achieving positive health ramifications. Simply changing a few aspects of your lifestyle can help you obtain achievable, long-term results.
I’m confident that anyone can incorporate elements of a plant-based diet into their life—even if they don’t think so. Veganism oftentimes get portrayed as an extremist lifestyle but the truth is you can create a hybrid form of dieting that allows you to eat meat in moderation.
If you have any questions about making positive changes to your diet, feel free to reach out to me. No matter what food options you choose to consume, began by asking yourself the simple question Will these choices have a positive effect on my life and long-term health?
Sean Torbati - PN Certified Nutritionist | EXOS Phase 3 Training Specialist
Co-Founder, Ambrosia Collective