The “Stalk” in The Rise of Plant-Based Diets: Fad or Real Deal?

Plant-based diets, superfoods, whole-foods, and so many other buzzwords shine the spotlight onto healthier, alternative diets that are all the rage just like the magic keto diet that everyone and their dog seems to be trying. Diet fads aside, these buzzwords aren’t just marketing words to exaggerate benefits, but health professionals agree that a plant-based diet provides numerous health benefits. And more people are looking for ways to eat better, both for their health and for the planet.

What’s a Plant-Based Diet?

The plant-based diet focuses on minimally processed foods (plants) that lead to weight loss and improving overall health. There is no official, strict plant-based diet to follow, but a lifestyle change. It means minimizing eating meat and animal byproducts and increasing the amount and variety of natural foods like plants.

The basic principles of a plant-based diet to follow are:

  • Focusing on minimally processed foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts as the major source of nutrition
  • Avoiding or limiting animal byproducts
  • Cutting out refined food like sugar, white flour, and processed oils
  • Prioritizing the quality of food and choosing locally sourced and organic food whenever possible

Harvard health experts recommend a vegetarian diet or a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is plant-focused, but also includes some fish, cheese, eggs, poultry, and yogurt avoiding meat and sweets.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The secret to plant-based diets is the increased intake of phytochemicals. These naturally occurring chemicals come only from plants and are responsible for a plant’s deep color, flavor, and smell. Health experts have seen a strong correlation between phytochemical intake and improved health benefits.

Following plant-based diets provides better nutrition and lowers your risk of chronic illnesses such as:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

As you can see, a diet that consists of natural and minimally processed foods help stave off chronic illnesses that usually require prescription medication that have negative side effects that come with it.

Benefits to the Planet

The rise of plant-based diets doesn’t just improve overall health, but has positive long-term impact on the earth. As the demand for meat lessens, then the current industry can scale down giant production units that have negative effects on the environment like:

  • Water use and pollution
  • Land use and deforestation
  • Increased greenhouse gases
  • Potential relation to poor health in humans

It’s hard to determine the exact impact of the meat industry from farm to fork, but with almost half of the planet used to feed the entire population, we can assume that it’s a lot.

No Cold Turkey

The popularity of plant-based diets shows a demand for more natural, healthier, and ethical food. With the negative effects of climate change threatening to irreversibly alter the planet, more people see the importance on changing their eating patterns not just for their health, but for the future. The enticement of plant-based diets is that it’s simple to follow and has many benefits, but also gives people a chance to wean off their meat dependence instead of going cold turkey.