Personal and Environmental Health Through a Plant-Based Diet
Personal and Environmental Health Through a Plant-Based Diet
With so many mainstream diets to choose from, it is hard to know which most benefits you, your health, and the environment. While there are many great options, plant-based diets are shown to be effective in contributing to overall health and environmental sustainability. Read on to discover what a plant-based diet is, the many benefits, and how to incorporate this diet into your day-to-day life.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
While there are many definitions of a plant-based diet, the concept is simple: a plant-based diet focuses on consuming more plant-based foods while minimizing animal products and processed items. Under this definition, a plant-based diet emphasizes healthy eating patterns incorporated into a lifestyle rather than a focus on what you can and cannot eat. For that reason, many diets such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Mediterranean, etc. can fall under the category of plant-based diets while each is dependent on the variety of foods and types of protein consumed.
Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based diets have many advantages, but often the most emphasized are the benefits to your health. While eating plant-based you are cutting out many of the foods that are processed or may be difficult for your body to digest. Here are some of the many benefits to incorporating a plant-based diet into your life:
Helps Maintain Healthy Weight
While noting the benefits of a plant-based diet often one of the most notable is weight control. A study done by the International Journal of Obesity showed that vegetarians and vegans are leaner than omnivores. When eating plant-based you are taking in more fiber and macronutrient foods to support a healthy weight.
Decreased Risk of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can often be associated with poor eating choices and a lack of macronutrients in a diet. JAMA Internal Medicine explored the effect plant-based diets have on the prevention of type 2 diabetes and discovered that plant-based diets may have an inverse correlation with the development of type 2 diabetes. This correlation was perceived as stronger when healthy plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and nuts are included in a plant-based diet.
Decreased Risk for Disease
There are many perceived explanations for why plant-based foods promote overall health, lower risk for disease, and improve immunity. In a study by the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, they stated that a big factor is switching harmful substances found in processed and animal foods for health-promoting substances found in plant-based foods. While intaking plant-based foods, you are increasing your intake of fiber and phytonutrients which increase protection against various diseases.
Environmental Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
It is not only important to make food choices that are best for you, but it is also important to factor in the impact of food production on the environment. Here are some ways that adopting a plant-based diet can impact the world around you as shown by a study presented by PLOS ONE.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Agriculture is responsible for up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, with animal-based food being one of the largest contributors. As plant-based diets decrease or eliminate that use, we are able to see a lesser contribution to these emissions assisting with global climate change
Agriculture is responsible for about 70% of freshwater use, with animal-based food a large component of that use. While adopting a plant-based diet, one consumes foods that require less freshwater use. This study mentioned that freshwater use could be decreased by about 50% by adapting more sustainable dietary choices.
Agriculture occupies more than one-third of all potentially cultivable land, with animal-based agriculture as one of the largest contributors. The PLOS ONE study showed that by switching to a plant-based diet, the overall environmental footprint caused by food production is reduced.
Negatives of a Plant-Based Diet
Access to Foods
One of the biggest hesitations on adopting a plant-based diet is access to foods that fit within this diet. At times, fresh produce can be more expensive than processed foods and not as easily available. This can be a barrier to many who are on a tight budget or low on time. One of the advantages to adopting a plant-based diet is that it can be customized to your needs, you are able to integrate these changes at your own pace and at your own convenience.
While cutting out animal products, many worry about essential nutrients that they are getting from having certain dairy and protein in their diet. Although many of these nutrients are available in plant-based options, a common concern is a deficiency in vitamin B12. In a study conducted by MDPI, they noted the importance of B12 and stated that there aren’t many plant-based options available to receive your daily intake of this vitamin. When considering a plant-based lifestyle, speak with your doctor to make sure you are getting enough B12 in your diet.
Getting Started with a Plant-Based Diet
Just like all things in life, you have to start somewhere. Plant-based eating is the same way! If you throw out everything in your pantry to make the switch, it may feel overwhelming and be difficult for your body to adapt. The best way to transition into a plant-based diet is to start small, begin making daily choices that will ease the transition. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling happy while making healthier choices.
Below you will find a list of plant-based options to incorporate into your daily meals. These options are versatile in that you are able to eat many different foods and not feel overwhelmed by a limited menu.
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butters
- Unsweetened plant-based milks
- Spices, herbs, and seasonings
- Plant-based protein
Why Choose Plant Junkie?
We created Plant Junkie to support plant-based living. There’s no reason that your favorite plant-based options can’t be fun and flavor-packed. Our range of delicious dressings take everything they touch to a whole new level of flavor and creamy richness. Try them with your favorite sandwiches, salad dressings or dips – you’ll be hooked!
International Journal of Obesity. Weight gain over 5 years in 21 966 meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford. Nature.com. Published March 14, 2006.
JAMA Internal Medicine. Association Between Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Jamanetwork.com. Published July 22, 2019.
Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Jgc301.com. Published May 14, 2017
PLOS ONE. The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review. Plos.org. Published November 3, 2016.
MDPI. Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment, and Supplementation. Mdpi.com. Published November 29, 2016