From protein-rich, plant-based hamburgers to fresh leafy greens, plant-based diets are all the rage!
More and more Americans are catching onto this trendy diet because of the science behind it. The plant-based diet eliminates processed vegan or vegetarian alternatives, excess salt, sugary foods, fatty or greasy fried foods, processed foods and even refined carbohydrates. Some food companies are now offering plant-based meat substitutes such as hamburgers, pork and sausage meals and they have grown incredibly popular. It’s not only good for your health, but it’s good for Earth’s health. So, what is the science behind this movement? In honor of March’s Nutrition Month at the Center for Health & Wellbeing, we are diving into this healthy eating phenomenon sweeping pro-health foodies, the stock market and even Hollywood!
The Popularity of Plant-Based Diets
It’s 2020. Physicians are swearing by it. Actors are promoting it. Companies are selling it. Plant-based diets and foods have been ruled in, with an estimated four billion people worldwide living primarily on plant-based meals. Why the sudden popularity?
Plant-based diets have health benefits that far outweigh those of veganism, vegetarianism or other weight loss diets. They’re also said to be environmentally friendly.
Some of the population loves this healthy eating lifestyle because of their limitations to cropland, freshwater and energy resources. Others, like celebrities Joaquin Phoenix and Ellen DeGeneres, choose to live on plant-based food for the health benefits. This influence stretches to the millennial generation — 25 to 35-year-old Americans are seeking healthier food options and they’re finding organizations who are willing to serve them.
Plant-based food companies have started to cater to this demographic, increasing their profits 11 percent alone over the last year, making it a $4.5 billion industry. Plant-based meat companies are seeing the demand and following suit. Today, that meat category is worth more than $800 million.
The Health Evidence
Plant-based foods can range, but include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, tofu or tempeh, nuts and nut butters, seeds, fruits and plant-based oils. Keeping to this diet doesn’t mean you transform into a vegetarian or a vegan.
According to a 2019 study by the Journal of the American Heart Association and recent study by the Harvard Medical Journal, sticking to a plant-based diet treats obesity and diabetes and lowers high blood pressure as well as the risk of heart disease by 16 to 25 percent. This is because plant-based diets are high in fiber, carbohydrates and water content from vegetables and fruits, which is said to keep people feeling full and energized when resting. Of course, veganism and vegetarianism treat the same health issues. The two diets involve the consummation of diary and eggs. In fact, the plant-based diet originated from veganism.
However, plant-based diets are quickly becoming popular because of the mass availability of its food groups, variety in types of food groups accessible, educational resources and publicized research of the newly formed diet. The diet can also be customized. For example, the Mediterranean diet has been voted the number one best plant-based diet out of 10 by U.S. News and World Report.
The Environmental Impact
There’s another reason to strive for a meatless plate. By adopting a plant-based diet, you are not only improving your health and wellbeing but of the planet on which we all live. Plant-based diets are eco-friendly and provide a low ecological footprint.
Research shows that by consistently reducing animal food intake and eating primarily plant foods, we, as a population, are reducing our impact on the planet over our lifetimes.
This impact includes lowered greenhouse gas emission and reduced water waste. Legumes, for example, such as beans, lentils and peas, are the most sustainable protein source on the planet, and they require very small amounts of water to grow. They provide food security to impoverished people, and act like a natural fertilizer. Thus, there is less need for synthetic fertilizers. Research also states that switching from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet is also said to help lower population, slow deforestation and reduce destruction of topsoil.
How to Get Started on A Plant-Based Diet
By eating a diet of 1/2 plant foods, such as non-starchy vegetables and fruits, 1/4 whole grains or unprocessed starchy food, and 1/4 lean protein, you’re consuming a healthful plate of plant-based foods. By also eating a plant-based meal once a week or swapping out one animal product for a plant based one can be an excellent place to start.
Join a Healthy Eating Program in March
Join us for one of many healthy eating cooking programs in March:
Speak to a Nutritionist at the Center for Health & Wellbeing
You may want to speak to a dietitian before making significant changes to your diet. The Center for Health & Wellbeing has a nutritionist available to discuss all your healthy eating questions or concerns. To learn more or to book an appointment, please call 407-543-4640 or visit https://www.adventhealthdiabetesinstitute.com/