People choose plant-based diets for a variety of reasons ranging from animal welfare to health. There’s no doubt that filling your plate with colorful fruits and veggies is a healthy move, but are vegan and vegetarian diets really the healthiest option?
As it turns out that answer is going to be different for everyone. Some people thrive on plant-based diets, while others feel downright crummy. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of plant-based diets so that you can make an informed decision for yourself. If you’re still trying to differentiate between the various types of plant-based diets this post has everything you need to know "Thinking About a Plant-Based Diet".
According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
The key to this ADA statement is the appropriately planned” phrase. To meet all of your daily nutrition needs, a plant-based diet must contain enough of the micro- and macronutrients that your body needs to thrive. Micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals, and macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Many foods are animal-free, but that doesn’t always mean they’re healthy. A Snickers and a Diet Coke are both vegetarian-friendly, but they don’t represent the foundations of a healthy diet.
If you’d like to try a plant-based diet for weight loss-related reasons it’s still important to pay attention to your caloric intake. Even if you’re filling up on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains, a surplus of calories will still lead to weight gain.
Because plant-based diets have a number of health benefits due to low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol while also offering an abundance of fibers, vitamins, and minerals, current research indicates that a plant-based diet can:
Plant-based diets aren’t without their negatives. People who adhere to a plant-based diet may have trouble consuming enough nutrients such as:
To combat these potential deficiencies, plant-based dieters need to learn about the types of foods that contain these important nutrients. For example, plant-based sources of protein include quinoa, beans, lentils, tofu, and other soy products.
For calcium and Vitamin D, milk alternatives like almond, rice, and hemp milk are good choices. Dark leafy greens are also an excellent source of calcium (here are three healthy salads to inspire you, and pescatarians will love the tuna salad).
You can also use supplements to meet some of your nutritional needs, but remember: You can’t out-supplement a poor diet. If you do need to choose supplements, read this article to learn how to pick the vitamins your body needs the most.
At the end of the day it’s best to discuss the benefits of a plant-based diet with your physician to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients for your body.