Is a Plant-Based Diet Good for Me?
WRITTEN BY OUR OFFICIAL SCIENCE STEEPER: ALLISON TANNIS, MSC RHN.
Wondering whether all the hype about eating plants is healthy – let’s go steep in the science of plant-based diets and discover if it’s good for you.
Plant-based diets are everywhere, transforming store shelves and menus at restaurants. Even the American Heart Association is touting plants for their benefits, with their experts concluding that a mostly plant-based diet is linked with lower rates of heart disease and death. In fact, after investigating the diets of over 12,000 middle-aged adults, they determined the more plants they ate, the lower the risk of heart disease and death. How much of a benefit would your heart get if you ate more plants? Eating a mostly plant-based diet offered a 19% lower risk of heart disease.
Is Eating Mostly Plants Healthy?
Evidence also notes eating more plants can help in treating various disease aliments. Plant-based foods are linked with a reduction in weight status, energy metabolism, inflammation, and immune and gut health. The latter is linked to the interaction between plants in your diet and the probiotics that live in your gut.
5 Health Benefits of Eating More Fruits and Vegetables, Backed by Science
- Less stress
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of death
- Weight loss
- Lower inflammation
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cognitive function
Should I Eat More Plants?
The advantage to eating plants is the nutrient density they offer – there’s more nutrition per bite in plants than in processed foods. Plus, plants are less energy-dense than processed foods, making them a key part of a healthy diet for anyone hoping to lose weight or maintain healthy body weight.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Healthy for Me?
A simple swap of a plant protein for animal protein (mainly red or processed meat protein) was associated with a lower risk of death (as well as mortality from cancer or cardiovascular disease) by scientists. What about whether you eat more plants, instead of processed foods? A plant-based diet ensures your gut receives lots of fibres that the helpful microbes that live there thrive on. The health of our gut impacts not only our visits to the porcelain throne, but other aspects of our wellbeing, including immune and inflammatory responses, mood, energy levels, and cardiovascular health.
Why Eating More Plants is Scientifically Proven to be Healthy?
Eating plants offers the body more than fibre. Plants contain other nutrients known to support health, such as protein, good fats, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds plants produce to protect themselves against pathogens and cope with environmental stress, acting as a natural defence system. These compounds are impressively helpful to the human body.
You probably are already familiar with some of these compounds: vitamins, antioxidants, or polyphenols. A famous polyphenol is curcumin - the bright yellow plant compound found in turmeric. There are also the polyphenols that make tea (Camillia sinensis) the best leafy greens to eat.
The tea plant’s health benefits have long been recognized in various cultures, with scientific evidence piling up to support this traditional use. Nutrients in tea leaves are linked with health benefits that include:
Can I Get Enough Protein from Plants?
Proteins are the building blocks of life. Protein plays an important role in maintaining the structure and function of all living things, including plants. Animal sources of protein are routinely ranked among the highest quality proteins for muscle creation, but the evidence is accumulating on the ability of various plant-sourced proteins to build muscle. Studies also point to plant-based proteins being equivalent to animal proteins in their ability to help muscles grow and adapt as exercise training requires.
You can make the switch to eating more plants and still get enough protein. That can be hard to believe with Western diets being so meat-centric: typical adults eat 64-88 grams of protein per day, of which 37% is animal meat and meat products. That’s far greater than the 45-55 grams per day, recommended in nutritional guidelines. Science shows plant proteins are sufficient to achieve complete protein nutrition and build muscle. Eating a variety of plants can offer you all of the essential amino acids required for a healthy body, according to studies.
How Do I Eat More Plant Protein?
Surprisingly, cooking with plants can be easy and quick (beans and chickpeas require no cooking – just open the can and rinse well). Many of your favourite recipes can switch to plant-based options.
Do Vegetables Contain Protein?
Yes, even potato is a source of protein, with a bit more than 4 grams found in one medium-baked potato (with the skin on). Edamame offers about 18g of protein per cup. You may have hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, but it’s time to give them a try again as a simple cup of them has 5 grams of protein.
9 Surprisingly Protein-rich Plants Worth Eating
- Legumes (pea, edamame, bean, chickpea)
- Seeds (flaxseed, chia, pumpkin)
- Cereals (whole wheat, brown rice, barley)
- Brussel sprouts
Are Fruits High in Protein?
No, fruits aren’t high in protein but, they do contain small amounts, along with a pantheon of nutrients that boost energy, promote health, and prevent disease.
Do Tea Leaves Contain Protein?
One Millennia Tea Superfood Tea Cubes contains 81 grams of fresh tea leaves that have been flash frozen offering you about 4 grams of protein per cube. Two cubes in your smoothie adds over 8 grams of protein. For inspiration with your next smoothie, check out these recipes.
How to Start Eating a More Plant-based Diet?
Simple swaps or additions are the easiest places to start. An example of a swap is to use smashed chickpeas instead of eggs in your egg-salad sandwich. But, additions might be the easier way to start eating a more plant-based diet. Add some leafy greens and tomatoes to that sandwich. Toss some more vegetables into your morning omelette or smoothie. Or, toss in a Millennia Superfood Tea Cube into your salad dressing, soup, curry, or salsa.
Check out more plant-based recipes here.
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