You’ve probably heard the term “plant-based diet” because you know a friend who’s following it, you read about it somewhere on the Internet or a celebrity’s been posting about it.
Well, an article by South China Morning Post has declared the plant-based diet the hottest health trend right now. Research has found that the number of new US food and drink products that mention ‘plant-based’ grew 268 per cent between 2012 and 2018.
It’s a chicken-and-egg cycle (well not literally), but the end result is the same: plant-based diets are the biggest in the food biz, whether you get your inspiration from Instagram or the supermarket. Here’s where to start.
Michelle Low, a dietitian based in Pantai Hospital Klang, says that it’s a diet that involves consuming food and drinks sourced mainly from plants like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and limiting animal sources like meat, poultry and eggs. It’s categorised based on what you eliminate from your diet.
The diet can be further categorised into veganism, vegetarianism and semi-vegetarianism. Veganism is the strictest, where only plant sources are consumed. Vegetarianism may include eggs or dairy but no meat, poultry and seafood. Semi-vegetarianism, on the other hand, is a mostly vegetarian diet with occasional meat and poultry consumption.
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular! The South China Morning Post article tells us that the term encourages healthfulness as it prompts you to eat better, but it also goes easy on meat and dairy consumers. It doesn’t impose a strict rule on anyone who wants to follow the diet.
Animal products are not a complete no-no and to follow a plant-based diet, you essentially include more plant-based food into your everyday meals. So, you don’t have to make a complete change in diet or lifestyle. It’s doable and you can ease into it gradually, so you can make a plant-based diet work for you.
dig deep — why it’s so good
Besides the fact that you can be sure your diet will be packed with nutrients, following a plant-based diet can help with maintaining weight. Michelle explains that the high intake of fibre and low intake of fats helps to keep you within a healthy BMI range. Studies have also shown that plant-based eating can lower blood pressure levels and risk of hypertension. The risk of heart disease is also minimised.
Elina Nasution, a vegan, learnt to have a better relationship with food once she discovered veganism. She experienced improved recovery speed after weightlifting training, she felt more mentally and emotionally calm and was able to maintain her weight more easily. So, how can you ease yourself into a plant-based diet?
just beet it
Going cold turkey and restricting certain foods right away? You’re only human — you’ll find yourself craving certain foods more than before you started the diet! Michelle suggests being flexible when you’re starting out so you can ease into this new lifestyle change. Follow a vegetarian diet but also allow yourself animal-based foods a few times a week or when you’re eating out. You can still get the benefits of a plant-based diet by slowly increasing plant-based foods and reducing the intake of animal-based items.
you’ll leaf it so much
When you start out on your plant-based journey, you might feel like you’re limited to only a small range of foods. But starting a plant-based diet can actually be a great way to explore new food options! If you’re not totally into green leafy vegetables, there are also legumes, fruits, wholegrains, nuts and seeds in the plant category. Look into new recipes and ideas for incorporating vegetables and plant-based ingredients into your everyday life — you might find some new favourites!
rooting for you
Finding good plant-based food alternatives is really important when moving to a plant-based diet. Because animal- and plant-based foods hold different nutrients, it’s easy to become nutrient-deficient if you’re not careful! Michelle says that some vegetarian diets will cause one to lack protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and calcium, amongst others. It’s best to speak to a dietitian or nutritionist about the right supplements to take so you won’t fall short of nutrients in your body.