Transitioning to a plant-based diet comes with heaps of health benefits. We bust the many myths that surround this lifestyle choice.
By Lori Cohen
WHAT IS A PLANT-BASED DIET?
It’s not vegetarianism, nor veganism – although plant-based eating does have some similarities. Instead, plant-based eating patterns focus on foods sourced primarily from plants. It includes fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. You may consume meat or dairy in this diet too, but the objective is to choose most of your foods from plant sources.
MYTH 1: You Won’t Consume Enough Protein
Plant-based eating for many still includes animal-based proteins in the diet, albeit in smaller proportions, and less often. According to a Protein Summit Report, anything from 15% to 25% of your calorie intake per day should be a combination of plant- and animal-based proteins. The key is to spread them over your meals throughout the day, rather than having them in one nightly meal. But, eating ‘healthy’ plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts, fish or poultry instead of red meat will not only see to your protein needs, it will lower the risk of several diseases. The key to transitioning is educating yourself on how to prepare the meals, says plant-based diet consultant and author of It Works For Me!, Noeleen Bridle. ‘Most people don’t know where to start because they don’t know what plant-based carbohydrates, proteins and fats are, and find it hard to put a meal together.’
MYTH 2: Plant-based Eating is Expensive
You don’t need to fill your pantry with pricey ingredients like quinoa or soy ‘meats’. Most of the ingredients consumed by plant-based eaters should consist of carbohydrates in the form of starches, fruits and vegetables – none of which are considered expensive. The facts back it up. A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition found that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is more economical than a diet that relies on meat (even when cheaper cuts are bought) and dairy products. Tips to help the budget? Buy your ingredients locally and seasonally.
MYTH 3: Plant-based Eating is Boring
There is nothing more exciting than learning how to control your diet using the power of the mind and educating yourself,’ says Noeleen. ‘Transitioning can be slow and requires work, but the choice is yours if you want to make an effort.’ A plant-based diet needn’t be restrictive or repetitive if you challenge yourself to try new food combinations, ingredients, and methods of cooking. Foods with a lack of taste are boring, true. Spices and herbs are the ultimate partners for a plant-based diet.
MYTH 4: You’ll Lose Muscle
Nope, but you will lose fat eating a plant-based diet, says Noeleen. The reason for this myth may stem from that fact that many in the fitness industry promote a high-protein diet and protein supplements to build mass. We naturally gain muscle by working on them, but it’s true that our ability to grow them comes from the amount of food we need to grow mass as an individual, explains Noeleen. ‘A balanced meal includes 70% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 15% fat per meal. If gaining muscle mass is your focus some individuals may need to eat up to six times a day and even then eat greater portions than others, but everyone can maintain muscle mass on a plant-based diet,’ says Noeleen.
MYTH 5: You’ll Be Hungry
Feeling hungry and having a craving are different things, explains Noeleen. ‘When your food choices have consisted of high fats and processed foods, removing them from your diet can lead to cravings. Fats keep us satiated, and when they are removed, we do feel the void. Our bodies almost have a withdrawal reaction to the lack of chemicals in our system when we drop processed foods too,’ says Noeleen. Taking daily doses of chromium, zinc and magnesium can help reduce the feelings, she says.