Plant-Based, Vegan & Vegetarian Diets | Kaleidoscope Wellbeing
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Plant-Based, Vegan & Vegetarian Diets

We are designed to eat plants

Although humans can digest both plant and animal foods, a number of our physical characteristics indicate that we evolved to eat mostly plant foods. Only four of our 32 teeth are designed for meat-eating (our canine teeth), while the other 28 are designed for crushing and grinding plant foods. In addition, we have a very long intestinal tract, which is typical of herbivores, whereas carnivores have very short intestinal tracts. For our closest relatives, gorillas and orangutans, 99% and 98% of their total calories respectively come from plant foods. They eat mainly fruits and vegetables, and if they have the opportunity, they eat eggs, lizards or small animals, with these animal foods only comprising 1-2% of their total calories. In comparison, well over 50% of the total calories in human western diets come from animal foods.1

The benefits of a diet based on plants

The evidence for the benefits of plant-based diets continues to increase. Diets rich in plant foods are protective – they reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart attack, cancer and many inflammatory conditions2. In contrast, a diet low in plant foods is a causative factor in the development of these diseases1.

Plant-based diets are now being recognised as “the single most important yet underutilised opportunity to reverse the obesity and diabetes epidemic”2 and “the nutritional equivalent of quitting smoking”3.

There are also significant environmental benefits which can be gained if we all reduce our consumption of meat and other animal-derived foods. Vegan and plant-based diets use fewer resources. Studies and statistics indicate that a varied vegan diet requires about a third of the land and a third of the water needed for conventional Western diets. As worldwide production of meat, dairy and eggs continues to grow significantly, it is contributing to global warming, pollution, deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction. 4

Plant-based, vegan or vegetarian?

There are different ways in which you can enjoy a diet based on plants.

A plant-based diet consists mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, with limited or no animal products.

A vegan diet excludes all foods of animal origin, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. A vegan diet consists 100% of plant-derived foods.

A vegetarian diet excludes all meat – red and white. However, there are different types of vegetarians. Some may eat fish, eggs, or dairy foods, while others may not – it’s a personal choice.

Nutrients which can be deficient in plant-based diets

No matter which of the plant-based diets you follow, there are certain nutrients which may be more difficult for you to get enough of without a good knowledge of nutrition. These include:

  • protein
  • iron
  • calcium
  • zinc
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • omega 3 long-chain fatty acids
  • vitamin D

Creating optimal plant-based nutrition

Creating a balanced, plant-based diet requires knowledge, thought and planning to ensure you are getting enough of all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

Kaleidoscope Wellbeing can help. I can design a plant-based diet tailored to your specific needs – and supply delicious recipes. I’ll work with you to develop simple, achievable goals, educate and empower you to make changes, monitor your progress – and support you every step of the way.

References

  1. Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The encyclopedia of natural medicine (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Atria Paperback. pp. 48-49
  2. Williams, K. A. (2017). Introduction to the “A plant-based diet and cardiovascular disease” special issue. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology : JGC, 14(5), 316. doi: 10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.001
  3. Barnard, N. D. (2013). The Physician’s Role in Nutrition-Related Disorders: From Bystander to Leader. AMA Journal of Ethics, 15(4), 367–372. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2013.15.4.oped1-1304.
  4. The Vegan Society. (2020). How your diet could change the world. Retrieved from https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/environment