By: Shivam Hingorani *
From generations, people have been changing their diet and food habits for several reasons such as: depending on the food’s availability; choosing foods to better suit their lifestyle; taking recommendations from experts; etc. A century ago, the diet was drastically different from the one we consume today. We have changed our food habits based on various factors. Nowadays with the vast exposure to the information available online, we have been changing our food habits even more rapidly than ever and adopting various diet trends. This has left no concept of staple food. We have been evolved in terms of adopting new food habits and we have customised our diets to suit us in every way – from resonating to our ideologies, backgrounds, preference of taste, health & fitness requirements, etc. With the easy access to information, we have become more conscious about our food choices. We prefer those foods that provide multiple health benefits and are powerhouses of nutrients.
A person may opt for a vegan/plant-based diet for health reasons, animal welfare, or religious reasons. More and more number of people are inclined towards vegetarian or vegan diets or reducing the consumption of animal-based food products. According to one survey conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a plant-based or vegan diet could provide all the nutritional requirements of adults, children, and those who were pregnant or breastfeeding.
Vegan vs. Plant-based Diet
Recent years have witnessed that the vegan diet and lifestyle are trending all across the globe. A vegan diet is very similar to the plant-based diet, but vegan lifestyle goes a step ahead. It advocates the idea of abstaining the consumption and dependency on animal-based products extending to food, clothing, etc.
A plant-based diet focuses mainly on foods that are derived from plant sources. These foods are not restricted to fruits, vegetables, and greens but also include: seeds; nuts; oils; grains; pulses; legumes; etc. A plant-based diet is a ‘Karmically Clean’ diet that specifically uses natural plant sources to nourish the body.
For a better and healthy lifestyle, one should eat a well-planned and balanced diet. We can have a wide variety of foods in the right proportions like a blend of fibre, beans, greens, nuts, etc.
But let’s be real – A 21st-century lifestyle is busy. The room to craft a daily strict food plan to complete daily nutrition is not an easy feat. Protein is an essential macronutrient and most people are deficient in protein. In this scenario, a well-balanced blend which has a good amount of proteins is the best choice. Make sure that your protein has acclaimed sources because the food you eat each day defines your health.
Benefits of Plant-based Diet
The benefits of a plant-based diet include: it is absolutely gut-friendly; rich in fibre; and enhances energy. The diet has gained popularity due to its multiple benefits and recommendations by active followers who have noticed a significant change and improvement in their health. Many nutritionists and experts are recommending this diet. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:
Nutrition and Gut Health: The plant food sources are filled with natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also loaded with phytonutrients and fibre that help fight inflammation, increases your body’s immunity and nourishes your gut’s healthy bacteria. These gut bacteria improve your gut and digestive health. If your gut is healthy, your brain health improves as well. Phytonutrients are also referred to as phytochemicals. These phytonutrients possess antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells throughout the body. A number of phytonutrients have been found to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Many plant foods contain phytonutrients such as: tomato which contains lycopene; spinach contains polyphenols and beta carotene; amla contains tannins; and many other plant food sources contain similar nutrients.
Boosting Mental Health: 90 percent of the body’s serotonin (also known as the good mood hormone) is produced in the gut and digestive tract. Therefore consuming plant-based foods that improve the overall health of your gut benefits you in the long run and improves your mood and cognition. Serotonin is synthesised by an amino-acid known as Tryptophan. Premium plant-based foods include: chlorella (natural sea algae); spirulina; almonds; pumpkin seeds; peanuts; chickpeas; and sesame seeds contain tryptophan.
Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes Control and Performance in Endurance Sports: A recent study published in the journal – Nutrients by Neal D Barnad, Susan M Levin in 2019 and others stated that plant-based diets boost insulin sensitivity which is important in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and also helps in improving glycemic index in diabetics which contributes to atherosclerosis – a condition where cholesterol builds up the arteries that obstruct blood flow. The study also mentions that plant-based diets have been shown to reverse the effects of atherosclerosis over time. In addition, this diet helps in increasing performance and accelerated recovery in athletes who perform endurance sports. It has also been observed that this diet results in leaner body mass, as well as this also facilitates glycogen storage, reduced inflammation, increased antioxidant activity, and many others.
Weight Loss: A study conducted by Hana Kahleova, Neal D. Barnard and others tested the metabolic effects of a plant-based diet over 16-weeks. The study concluded that plant protein used as a part of a plant-based diet improved body composition, reduced body weight and reduced insulin resistance. The study also proved that people who were consuming plant-based vegan meals have lost a significant amount of their weight.
Environmental Impact: Vegan experts and plant-based experts have always spoken about the benefits of opting vegan and plant-based healthy lifestyle on the environment. Notable platforms like the Vegan Calculator – help you to measure your contribution by initiating the change.
Studies reveals that if an individual adopts a plant-based/vegan diet for a month then that individual would avoid the death of 33 animals, 33,000 gallons of water for animal food production, the destruction of 900 square feet of forests, the creation of an extra 600 pounds of CO2 gas, and the feeding of 1,200 pounds of grain to animals that could have fed starving communities worldwide. Therefore, even one individual’s contribution for one month has a significant impact on our earth.
Opting vegan or plant-based diet requires some planning. With the right selection of plant-based food, people can eat balanced diets that support a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risks of certain diseases. Therefore, it is very important to discuss dietary portions with a doctor or a nutritionist, since these diets may lack some vital nutrients, necessitating the use of dietary supplements. The prime factor and the major benefit of the plant-based protein are that it is completely safe, natural and has no side effects on your body.
* Founder, Ace Blend (Natural Protein & Superfoods Nourisher)