You might think that plant-based diets are relatively new and have come about as a result of some people’s aversion to eating meat. The truth is that plant-based diets have been in existence for centuries, if not longer.
Throughout history, many civilizations have been forced to adopt plant-based diets when game animals were scarce. Nowadays, most people who have plant-based diets are either vegetarian or vegan, with the vegan lifestyle being much stricter about using animals in any way to satisfy the needs of humans.
Most people today who favor a plant-based diet will have fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and tubers as their primary sources of food intake. Some will supplement that with small quantities of meat or fish as a way of satisfying their need for protein.
However, it would be a mistake to think that a plant-based diet is healthier than one including meat. In fact, there are advantages and disadvantages to any of the dietary choices – vegan, vegetarian, and meat-eating. In this article, we’ll discuss what some of those pros and cons are for plant-based diets.
Pros of a plant-based diet
There are quite a few advantages of maintaining a plant-based diet, with all the most important benefits described below:
- Lower blood pressure – blood pressure can be managed better when eating only plant-based foods. That’s due to the increased potassium, lower sodium, high antioxidant content, and lower calorie count associated with plants.
- Contributes to weight loss – eating plants reduces the calorie intake, while also lowering the intake of cholesterol and increases the level of gut microbiota diversity. Strictly speaking, a plant-based diet should not be used as a weight-loss diet, but it does usually have that effect on a person.
- Cardiovascular protection – by reducing oxidative stress and lowering cholesterol intake, a plant-based diet can provide significant protection for your heart. It should be noted that a healthy mix of plant foods must be ingested, rather than simply adopting a diet centered exclusively around them.
- Improves insulin resistance – research has shown that a plant-based diet actually facilitates lower insulin resistance and improves insulin sensitivity. A healthy plant-based diet can reduce the likelihood of a person contracting Type-2 Diabetes or becoming pre-diabetic.
- Less restrictive – a simple, plant-based diet is much less restrictive than a vegan diet would be, and that can be important. Research has shown that the more restrictive a diet is, the less likely that the user will be to maintain it for any length of time. Restrictive diets are often associated with weight gain and disordered patterns of eating.
Cons of a plant-based diet
Depending on how restrictive your plant-based diet is, there’s a chance you could be missing out on a good supply of protein, as well as some essential vitamins and minerals.
Given that there is a wide variety in how people carry out their plant-based diets, the disadvantages described below may come into play somewhat, or they may be crucial shortcomings.
- Difficult to get protein – while there is a small amount of protein found in some plants, it just isn’t enough to supply your body with all the protein it needs. Even eating protein-rich plants like soy and quinoa will not provide your body with the different kinds of protein needed. If you can ingest an assortment of plant-based foods containing different kinds of protein, you might come close to taking in the essential amino acids needed.
- Planning requirements – it can take some serious planning on your part to schedule meals and/or snacks that are acceptable in your plant-based diet. Since only certain foods are allowed, it takes a lot more planning to come up with meals that provide the necessary nutrients and are acceptable. All this planning and shopping can be time-consuming and extremely inconvenient.
- Nutrient deficiencies – plant-based diets are inherently deficient in protein, vitamin B12, calcium, and iron. All these can be found in meats and dairy products, but most vegetarians and vegans eschew these products as unacceptable. That means you’ll be obliged to make up for the deficiencies either through food supplements or by occasionally cheating on your adopted dietary restrictions.