3 Pros and 3 Cons of Plant Based Diet
As people are more self aware about the environment and the rising popularity of plant-based diets it’s natural to start asking questions. What is a Plant-based diet? Is it good for us? What are the long term effects, can everyone become Vegan/Vegetarian? In this blog post I’ll present 3 Pros and Cons about Plant-Based diets that will definitely clear some things up for you.
- Lowers Blood Pressure and keeps your heart healthy
Probably one of the most important benefits of following a plant based diet.
Numerous studies and research papers present evidence that plant-based diets have significant effect on both prevention as well as treatment of hypertension (high or raised blood pressure). This means it’s good for the general health of our heart as well, as it eases the pressure of the heart to pump harder. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium (a mineral super important for our body balance regulation) - what does this mean? It means the more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose and because sodium affects the BP it’s better to reduce it. Potassium also relaxes the walls of the blood vessels positively affecting blood pressure.
- Decreases the risk of cancer
Cancer - an illness so cruel and painful, can it be prevented by following a plant-based diet?
Much attention has been paid to analysing the effect of plant based diet on colorectal cancer in particular. Results show that vegetarian and pescovegetarian diets are associated with lower incidence of colorectal cancer than nonvegetarians.
Another interesting study where after only 2 weeks of healthy living, blood samples of participants showed a significant improvement in suppression of cancer growth and killed 20%-30% more malignant cells than the blood samples taken prior to the lifestyle change. That is incredible!
Although more studies yet to come and the association between diets and cancers analysed, we can see clearly a great correlation between a plant based diet and cancer risk reduction.
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight
It seems that the adoption of a plant based diet is effective for weight loss. People generally following a plant based diet have lower BMI than the non plant based dieters. This can be due several reasons. Fruits, vegetables and whole foods are known to have less calories than meat products. They are also higher in fiber that slows digestion, manages sugar levels and minimises glucose and lipid absorption. Reduced intake of saturated fats (fat molecules majority coming from animal sources) and animal protein is thought to decrease fat mass despite the changes of BMI.
Several studies have shown improvements in body weight, composition and insulin resistance in overweight individuals. However, there is definitely a need for further research to be able to fully understand the mechanisms and benefits of the plant based diet in weight reduction.
- Possible nutrient deficiency
Plant based diet followers should pay extra attention to their meal planning. By eliminating animal products from their diet, they also reduce the protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12 intake. These nutrients are extremely important in healthy and normal body functioning, bone strength, production of red blood cells and brain function.
- Digestive problems
When people switch to a fully plant based diet they may experience some discomfort in the stomach, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. This is normally due to their bodies adapting to the foods they eat and the gut bacteria are optimised in order to easily digest what is eaten most. Hence, the digestive problems.
- Fiber excess
Although in adequate amounts (30g/day) fiber is a great for our digestive system, high amounts of it reduces absorption of other nutrients. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is solely obtained from food of plant sources. It’s main function is to assist in digestion by bulking up the food we consume as it moves through the digestive system keeping it clean and healthy. Excess fiber though may cause the formation of unabsorbable complexes with minerals that is then eliminated from the body.
To be honest I struggled to find more cons for this article. Plant based diet may seem difficult at the beginning but you need to remember that you shouldn’t go ‘cold turkey’ on it anyway. However, if you are planning to switch or just to try out how it is to eliminate some animal products from your diet, it is important you do it correctly in order not to miss out on some vital nutrients! It is not enough to just replace the animal products with analogue substitutes, as this can be more harmful due to high salt and sugar content. Definitely consult your GP or dietician before making any drastic changes to your diet.
Let me know if you ever tried or maybe you are following a plant based diet already and how did it go for you?
Joshi, S., Ettinger, L. and Liebman, S. E. (2020) ‘Plant-Based Diets and Hypertension’, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 14(4), pp. 397–405. doi: 10.1177/1559827619875411.
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Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):767-776. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.59
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