There is somewhat of a stigma around the phrase “plant-based.” Despite what many may think, a plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan diet. Yes, vegans and vegetarians obviously eat a plant-based diet. But that doesn’t mean that meat-eaters can’t follow a plant-based diet as well.
Essentially, the term “plant-based” means to eat mostly foods that come from plant sources. However, eating mostly foods from plant sources does not have to exclude meat altogether. Personally, I try to follow a plant-based diet, a large volume of my food being fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains. I do still eat meat and other animal products, but I try to do so in reasonable quantities, rather than making it the main focus of my meal. Americans tend to eat too much meat, resulting in too high of a protein intake. Someone my age and size really only needs 5.5 ounces of protein a day, yet we are served a 10 ounce serving of chicken in just one restaurant portion. The tricky part is finding a balance between too much protein and not enough.
In Defense of Meat
Depending on your lifestyle, getting all of the nutrients you need may be challenging if you cut out animal products entirely. Meat, poultry, and fish provide significant quantities of protein, B-vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. When you aren’t consuming these foods, it can be very difficult to still get the Recommended Daily Allowances of these nutrients. That’s not to say that it’s impossible. With a lot of intentionality, you can be vegetarian or vegan and still get all of the nutrients you need. But it definitely requires a lot more planning.
What Does a Plant-Based Diet Have to Offer?
Setting the topic of meat aside, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains are also very important sources of nutrients in our diet. Unfortunately, many Americans tend to not get enough of these foods. Often, they are replaced with foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, and just calories in general, resulting in an overall nutrient deficiency. Eating a plant-based diet encourages people to focus more on things such as whole fruits and vegetables, and hopefully get them away from the less nutrient-dense foods. It is shown that those who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a much lower risk of various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. This is due to the vast variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals packed into these foods.
There are also environmental impacts of a plant-based diet. Our excessive meat consumption contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere. The process of preparing these meat products causes many other issues as well, including deforestation, water pollution, and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. If we were each to cut back on meat consumption just a little bit, we would notice a steep decline in some of our environmental problems.
While the idea of a plant-based diet may seem daunting at first, it can easily become a reality for anyone who puts in a little effort. Despite common misconceptions, having a plate filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains can be extremely affordable and easy. So what do you say? Will you give it a try?