Rich in potassium for heart health, with no refined sugars. It’s gluten, dairy, vegan, paleo and low fodmap.
There’s a lot of talk about plant based diets, most often supported and promoted by vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, and some health coaches and professionals. But what is it exactly?
Plants. Sounds simple enough – but is that it? Do we just eat plants? Because I think of my balcony garden when I hear ‘plants’ , and ‘salad’ when I read ‘plant-based diet’. Kind of sounds like deprivation, no flavour, and disappointment at meal times. Any body with me? Don’t get me wrong I love salad, and my veggies, but is that it…forever?
Before I get heated emails explaining that plant-based eating isn’t just salad, please be advised I do know that it is more than that. Let’s discuss…
Despite being marketed as meat-free, vegan, vegetarian, and/or excluding most meat and dairy – I’d like to present an alternative option.
You see, to me, a plant based diet is exactly that. BASED on plants. If it was vegan, vegetarian or another – it should just say so. Forks Over Knives, Food Choices – these documentaries promote a plant based diet yet, Forks Over Knives says:
“The program is based on whole or minimally processed plants, primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, and legumes. It excludes or minimizes animal-based foods such as meat (including poultry and fish), dairy, and eggs, as well as refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”
That’s not plant based. That’s pretty much just plants only. Plus I’m glad they clarified the refined foods part – as most junk food and processed foods aren’t heavily animal based… (chips, doughnuts, cake, pastries, soft drink, biscuits, etc……..they’re pretty much plant based!).
Ok so, a plant based diet is good for all of us. Fruits and vegetable are rich in plant nutrients that help to keep us well, and functioning optimally. But being plant based does not mean no meat, no chicken, no pork belly (if you desire). It’s serving that meat or vegetarian source of protein, WITH plants. And lots of them.
No matter what diet you try, or meal guide you buy, or weight loss product you read about (or try) – they all make you do one thing to be ‘effective’ = eat MORE fruit and vegetables. They should make up the bulk of your diet. Absolutely.
It’s not hippy to eat salad. It’s not macho to eat a burger. I’ve seen 3 year old girls eat a burger and steroid-fuelled weight lifters digging into salad. Scrap the stereotypes your family gave you, your friends gave you, your bully at school gave you. Fruit and vegetables are the basis of any healthy diet around the world and they will help save you from horrible, expensive chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our lives.
Dairy, dairy, quite contrary – how do you build your bones?
It’s drilled into us from the day we start eating solids that milk and other dairy products are the best sources of calcium. It’s true. Knock back a 250ml glass of milk and you’ve already got around 300mg of calcium. That’s 30% of an average adults recommended dietary intake (RDI). Eating dairy makes it very easy for us to get our calcium needs, it’s also a source of protein, zinc and B12 among others.
But what do we do when dairy just doesn’t agree with us?
If you have lactose intolerance, you can still consume dairy. Cheese such as cheddar is low in lactose (0.04mg per 40g) compared to milk (12mg per cup). Yoghurt is also lower than milk, as the bacteria use lactose as their food. The longer the yoghurt has been on the shelf, the less lactose it’s likely to have. How much you can tolerate each day however, is an individual thing.
Milk protein allergy (casein and/or whey)
An allergy to milk protein is typically seen in young children, not so much adults as we tend to outgrow it. Though, there are some of us who never actually do. If you’ve developed an issue with dairy products beyond your teenage years, then it’s more likely a lactose issue. For the allergic folk, symptoms include skin rashes, swelling of the tongue, mouth, face, lips and sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. In the most serious cases, anaphylaxis.
Vegan and Paleo lifestyles
Whilst they omit dairy for completely different reasons, strict followers cut it out 100%. *Gasp!* But what about calcium!??! Well, both vegans and paleo eaters have options.
A vegan diet includes soy products, fortified drinks and cereals, nuts and seeds, green veggies and bread. If their diet is healthy and balanced, with a variety of these foods, they should have their calcium needs covered.
A paleo diet cuts out soy and most fortified drinks, bread and cereals too. As a result, adequate calcium intake can be a little trickier to manage. Ensuring you have plenty of green leafy vegetables, broccoli, nuts, seeds, calcium fortified almond milk, tahini and sesame seeds, kelp, chia, salmon, mackerel and sardines with bones, oysters and mussels. These paleo approved foods can go a long way to ensuring an adequate intake as they contain some of the highest levels of calcium per cup or 100g.
What is an ‘adequate intake’?