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Plant Based Diets

Let’s talk plant-based diets    

Thinking of going vegan or veggie but not sure where to start? The plant-based diet could be the perfect fit for you. Often confused with veganism, the plant-based diet is when a person eats veggie/vegan alternatives without completely removing animal products from their diet.   

What can I eat in a plant-based diet?   

Plant based eating patterns encourage you to eat fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, leaves and grains. Essentially anything harvested or fortified from plants are welcomed to the diet. The general guideline is ‘avoid’ animal produce when possible, taking into account this isn’t always do able.   

Key changes include:  

– Reduce your meat intake  

– Swapping to dairy free alternatives e.g Oat Milk, coconut yoghurt  

– Avoid highly processed meats.  

– Swap from refined grains to wholegrains  

– Limit intake of refined sugar  

Unsurprisingly, the most common plant based diet in the UK is vegetarianism however recently, the Mediterranean diet has begun to rise in popularity.   

What are the challenges?   

Swapping to a plant based diet isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It’s important to ensure you are getting the correct nutrients to keep your energy and immunity levels high. Protein is an essential nutrient and a plant based diet may cause people to pay more attention to what exactly they’re eating to ensure they are getting a sufficient amount.   

The recommended daily intake of protein in the UK is 0.75g per kilo of bodyweight. This means you should make sure to include protein rich foods in your diet. These include: Eggs, Greek yoghurt, grains/pulses and vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus. If you’re concerned about reaching your daily intake there are plenty of high protein snacks and drinks that are on the market.   

What are the health benefits?   

There’s a bounty of research into the health benefits of plant-based diets including, lowered blood pressure, reduced chance of cardiovascular diseases and possible prevention of type-2 diabetes, all of which are linked to the diets high nutritional content and reduced intake of fats.   

Meat-based proteins are usually high in saturated fats, particularly red meats  such as beef, pork or lamb – these are often linked to the health problems listed above due to increased cholesterol levels. That’s not to say all animal proteins increase cholesterol levels, white meats such as chicken, turkey and fish are known as lean proteins thanks to their low fat content.    

Why have plant-based diets grown in popularity?   

As of 2021, it is estimated that 14% of the UK population follow a meat-free diet, with a further 12% intend to follow a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian diet soon. A figure that is consistently growing year on year. But what’s causing the sharp rise?  

There’s a notable divide when it comes to meat consumption. The older generation have a much greater consumption level, with a more traditional approach to their diet. ‘Meat and two veg’ springs to mind.  

Generation Z are the largest demographic of individuals that follow a plant based diet. This is due to a high level of research proving the associated health benefits, coupled with a greater understanding of the environmental implications of meat farming.   

Carbon accounts for almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions which are causing the steady rise in global temperatures. Leading to frequent severe weather event across the world. The amount of carbon produced in crop vs livestock farming differs significantly. To produce a kilo of wheat, 2.5kg of carbon are produced. To produce 1kilo of beef, a staggering 70kg of carbon is emitted.   

Not only this, the agricultural land needed for livestock farming accounts for 80% of the total farm land in the world, yet outputs just 20% of the worlds calories. Therefore, a swap to plant based diet not only significantly reduces carbon emissions, but also free’s up land, improving the global food source.   

Long story short, a plant-based diet is truly what you make it, when changing diets, it’s important to listen to your body and fuel it correctly based on your day-to-day life. The great thing about plant based, is there’s no right or wrong. if you’re considering taking a step toward a vegetarian or vegan diet the plant-based route offers a great stepping-stone.   

Without being overly restrictive, it gives an insight to how your future diet might look. Giving you the opportunity to explore new recipes and foods without making a drastic change that’s harder to stick to.  

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