Nutritionists On Plant-Based Eating: The Positives And The Negatives

There's more to the food trend than you know.

benefits of plant based eating
Image: Brenda Godinez

Eating more plants is a win-win for both our own health and the health of the planet. But what do nutritionists have to say about plant-based eating? What are the negatives? What are the positives? We got a few opinions and decided to lay them out for you, along with information on how to weigh the benefits equally. However, the influence of external factors is too strong or convincing to warrant us making a change. If you are trying a plant-based diet, read below to learn more about the trendy way of eating.

the positives and negatives of plant-based eating
Image: Ella Olsson via Unsplash

The Negatives

Plant-based diets are typically quite high in fiber so they are a popular protein pick. Additionally, other mainstays of a plant-based diet such as vegetables, oats, fruits, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are also high fiber. If your diet pre-plant-based was relatively low to moderate fiber and overnight you shift towards a high fiber diet, it’s not unreasonable to expect some digestive ill-effects such as bloating, abdominal pain, excessive wind, increased bowel motions, diarrhea or it can even swing the other way and lead to constipation. Digestive upset is uncomfortable. But, it can also lead to an unnecessary nutrient loss if we are going to the toilet too frequently or too soon after eating.

This means it’s really important to slowly increase fiber intake over the course of a few weeks when changing your diet. If you did start slow but after a few weeks, things haven’t settled down and your digestive system has a mind of its own, it’s probably time to reassess whether you can afford to rely on plant-based proteins as your main protein source. An easy fix may be bringing in a small amount of animal-based protein to balance it out.

It’s not uncommon to feel hungry when eating plant-based if your meals do not contain adequate protein and healthy fats. These are the two most satisfying macronutrients. But plant-based diets can often favor carbs over fats and proteins and that is why people tend to consume more food and feel hungrier. Keep a food diary for a few days. Then, you can assess whether you are actually consuming firstly enough calories and secondly adequate fats and protein per meal. Also, make sure the carbs you are consuming are whole grains and high in fiber.

The Positives

Nutritionist Zoe-Bingley Pullin says this about plant-based eating. “I love and have always loved a high plant-based diet. Not only is this a diet rich in good health it’s high in antioxidants and many other delicious phytochemicals and so much better for the environment. Over the course of the lockdown, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of Indian dishes. They have such a great variety of plant-based dishes and the excellent things is both my husband and 6-year-old daughter love them.”

According to Medical News Today, “research suggests that people who eat primarily plant-based diets tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower rates of obesitydiabetes, and heart disease than those who eat meat. Plant-based diets are high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and water content from fruit and vegetables. This may help to keep people feeling fuller for longer and increase energy use when resting.

A 2018 study found that a plant-based diet was effective in treating obesity. In the study, researchers assigned 75 people who were overweight or had obesity to either a plant-based diet or a continuation of their regular diet, which contained meat. After 4 months, only the plant-based group showed a significant weight loss of 14.33 pounds. The plant-based group also lost more fat mass and saw improvements in insulin sensitivity, whereas those who consumed a regular diet with meat did not. There’s also a huge lowering of risk in the following health conditions:

  • stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • certain cancers
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
positives and negatives of plant-based eating
Image: FOODISM360 via Unsplash

While you’re here, check out nutritionist Jessica Sepel’s guide to exercising with kindness

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