Is the Plant-Based Diet Good or Bad For You?

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Is the Plant-Based Diet Good or Bad For You?

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1.What's a plant-based diet?

As the name suggests, a plant-based diet refers to any diet that centers around food, especially protein, that is sourced from plant sources. This can include fruit, grains, vegetables, legumes, peas, nuts, seeds and substitutes for meat such as soy products. Ideally, a healthy plant-based diet should consist primarily of nutrient-dense plant-based foods while minimizing the consumption of processed foods, animal products (including dairy), and oil. This diet has lots of vegetables (cooked or raw), fruits, beans, lentils, soybeans, seeds, nuts (in smaller portions), and is generally low in fat.

In recent years the plant-based diet has grown in populatiry significantly.  Often the case, people get confused that sports nutrition is “anti” plant-based diet, however this could not further from the truth.  Sports nutrition is based on the understanding of balancing of the macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as the correct caloric intake according to goals.  Whether you are a vegan, or meat eater the sports nutrition strategy and goals will be relatively the same.  The only functional difference is that a plant-based dieter may have to consume more foods to hit adequate protein needs as plant-based sources can often be less concentrated in protein per serve comparing to dairy and meat sources.  A plant-based dieter also will have to plan the correct combination plant protein sources to ensure a whole protein food source.  Unfortunatley not all foods containing protein are not created equal, and one may need to combine a few foods together to ensure consuming the 9 essential amino acids.

Incomplete & Complete Proteins

Proteins can be classified as complete or incomplete. Complete proteins are those that contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. Meat, eggs, fish, poultry, dairy products and some seeds and legumes are all sources of complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are those that do not have one or more of the essential amino acids. Beans, nuts, peas and grains are examples of incomplete proteins.

2.The History of Plant-Based Diet?

Abstaining from animal-based products such as meat and fish is not in any way a new concept. In ancient times, many cultures were familiar with plant-based diets, for example, the diets of parts of Africa, India, and the Mediterranean were dominated by plant-based foods about 2,000 years ago. Several ancient parts of the world followed vegan and vegetarian diets either because of their own circumstances, traditional methods of preparing food, or religious reasons. For instance, religious leaders like Buddha condemned animal slaughter, and Mahavira (apostle of Jainism) advocated nonviolence and vegetarianism, therefore perpetuating a predominantly plant-based community. Vegetarianism and plant-based diets, however, emerged in modern western history with the movement at the turn of the 18th century.

One of the movement’s prominent advocates was Percy Shelley, who famously wrote a pamphlet entitled A Vindication of Natural Diet in which he blamed all the most crucial ills of industrial society on abandoning what he considered “natural habits.” 

The culmination of this movement led, among other things, to the founding of the Vegetarian Society in 1847 in the city of Manchester. Their first public meeting was held in 1848, and they had nearly 900 members at the time; that number increased to 5000 by the turn of the century.

Today, it is a registered charity and is the longest-running vegetarian campaign group on Earth by a long shot. Since then, the world has adopted the plant-based diet system at varying rates; however, we are seeing a massive resurgence of this diet type in today’s world. Globally, vegetarianism is growing at an unprecedented rate as people choose not to consume animal products.

A survey published in March 2018 calculated that approximately 7% of people in the UK have now become vegan, a significant increase on the figure of just under 1% published only two years earlier. The study also found that 21% of people in the UK consume a diet that consists primarily of plants with occasional meat, as well as limit their intake of of dairy also.  Globally, 20% of people eat no meat or animal products, while India has the highest proportion in a single country, with 38% of people eating no meat or animal products.

Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. Firstly, many people switched to a plant-based diet after suffering a severe health scare such as a heart attack, stroke, or type-2 diabetes diagnosis. A doctor or nutritionist may have recommended the change in the aftermath of these health scares. Secondly, many people also choose plant-based diets to improve their overall health and well-being or lose weight. The last reason most people switch to a plant-based diet is to support animal rights. They believe modern industrial farming methods are incompatible with the idea of a civilized society and that animals also deserve respect and a compassionate attitude.  

Whether you beileve in the plant based diet or do not, it is better to understand it also apply it correclty still using a quality sports nutrition strategy, which can be achieved with the correct plan in place.

3. Types of Plant-Based Diet

The exact constitution of plant-based diets differs from person to person, thereby ensuring that there are different types of plant-based diets. There are generally speaking four significant types of plant-based diets, and they are:

I.Vegan Diet

In vegan diets, all types of animal products and animal by-products are avoided, including meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. It is one of the most restrictive forms of a plant-based diet, and it is often accompanied by other lifestyle choices such as abstaining from using non-food animal products like leather and wool. However, it must be noted that a vegan diet can make it difficult for some people to consume adequate amounts of some nutrients, such as iron or vitamin B12. Therefore, in addition to maintaining a well-planned diet, it may be necessary to utilize nutritional supplements and fortified foods to meet nutrient needs completely. The kinds of food permitted in a vegan diet are Fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes. Vegetables and grains.

II.Vegetarian Diet 

There are different types of vegetarian diet, all of which are generally considered less restrictive than the Vegan diet that was earlier discussed. They all adopt all the kinds of food contained in the Vegan diet but allow certain forms of animal products as part of their composition. There are three main categories or types of vegetarian diet, and they are:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet

The prefix “Lacto” indicates the use of cow’s milk or dairy products, and it derives from the Latin word lac, which means milk. Milk can only be produced by mammals, such as cows and humans. In Latin, “Ovo” means an egg, and it originates from the Latin word ovum, which means “egg.” Therefore, a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet allows the consumption of dairy products (lacto) and eggs (ovo) but excludes meat.

  • Lacto Vegetarian

Lacto-vegetarian diets include dairy products (Lacto) but exempt all forms of eggs, egg products, and meat. This includes whole eggs, egg whites, mayonnaise, and baked goods containing eggs. This particular vegetarian diet may be chosen for a variety of reasons, including egg allergies and intolerances, personal dislike of eggs, etc

  •  Ovo Vegetarian

In the ovo-vegetarian diet, eggs (ovo) are allowed, but dairy products such as cheese, cream, ice cream, yogurt, and butter are prohibited. Meat is also excluded.

.Flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) diet

Flexitarian diets are the most flexible of the main plant-based diets. Flexitarian diets, sometimes referred to as semi-vegetarians, do not prohibit meat or any other animal-based food. Although flexitarian diets are mainly composed of plants, a small amount of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy can be added as desired. Flexitarian diets are packed with many of the same benefits as other plant-based diets but without the strict regulations associated with some of them. Several people use a flexitarian diet as an ‘easing in’ process for a more restrictive plant-based diet, such as vegan or vegetarian. Others use it to maximize their intake of plant-based nutrients while still having the option to consume animal products occasionally.

Ⅳ Pescatarian

Pescatarian diets are plant-based diets that exclude all meat except fish and shellfish. As a term, pescatarian is derived from the Italian word for fish, “pesce,” and the word for vegetarian. Often, it’s spelled “pescetarian,” but it’s the same idea. According to scientific literature, this diet is referred to as “pesco-vegetarian” and is placed within the category of vegetarianism. Some pescatarians consume dairy products and eggs, while others don’t.

4. What Are The Benefits of Plant-Based Diets?

We at Global Performance Nutrition Institute (GPNi®), often get asked questions about the benefits of plant-based diets as the trend grows. Research has shown that there some benefits that accompany plant-based diets, however, may not be for everyone.   Some research, though not yet conclusive has shown that the consumption of plant-based diets has been associated with a lower incidence and of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia, as well as supporting sustainable weight management.  Possibly reducing medication needs and reducing chronic disease risks also has shown some. Diabetes type 2 and advanced coronary artery disease may even be reversed with it.  The jury is still not out on this one, and the solid research proving either way maybe years away.  What is proven to work in relation to sports nutrition can be viewed on the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Position Stand.

5. What are the Disadvantages of Plant-Based Diets?

It has been demonstrated that plant-based diets are beneficial when they emphasize fresh, non-processed ingredients. An individual’s health can be improved in some way by switching to a plant-based diet or simply adding more fresh produce to their diet. With that said, plant-based diets can be associated with the following health concerns where there is the absence of adequate planning and education:

  • Insufficient protein intake: Proteins derived from plants are not as effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis as those derived from animals. It is thought that this is due to the lower content of essential amino acids and the selective deficiency of particular amino acids.
  • Deficiency of iron
  • Low calcium and vitamin D intake reduce bone mineralization and increases fracture risk
  • Deficiency in vitamin B12
  • Reduced essential fatty acid intake

International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Position Stand

Ingestion of 30 g of a wheat, corn, and pea protein blend increases muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy, young males. The post-prandial muscle protein synthetic response to the ingestion of 30 g of a wheat, corn and pea protein blend does not differ from the ingestion of an equivalent amount of milk protein in healthy, young males.

Research Conclusion

Whether your Choice a plant-based diet, flexitarian, or a balanced approach to eating the fundamentals all need to remain the same.  Consuming adequate amounts of dietary protein and complex carbohydrates for an active individual is key, and healthy amounts of fat.

If you are choosing an exclusive plant-diet strategy, be sure to work very closely with your Sports Nutritionist or Dietitian to ensure you are not lacking in essential nutrients or becoming sick in the process.  A plant-based diet may work for some but is not recommended for everyone and a balanced approach in diet always more highly recommended over something that is heavily restricted.  Be wise with your dietary choices vs. following a fad that may not be your healthiest choice.  If you are choosing a plant-based approach, be sure to do your homework and understand you will need to work possibly more closely on your diet to hit adequate macro protocols, also not lacking in key essential nutrients than that of a non-plant-based dieter.

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