What is not a part of plant-based diet?
A whole food plant-based diet gives you the best way to achieve good health through healthy eating. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and herbs. Whole food plant-based diet is high in micronutrient density and comprises of about 7-15% of total energy. Plant-based diet has all essential nutrients such as proteins, fats, calcium, iron, vitamins and carbohydrates.1
Animal-based products, refined and processed foods are not a part of a plant-based diet. Animal-based diet comprises of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Although the number of calories is same for both diets, animal-based diet differs from the plant-based diet in terms of health benefits. This article gives you an insight into which food products are not included in the plant-based diet and why.
Why is meat not included in a whole food plant-based diet?
Meat is rich in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. High dietary intake of red and processed meat increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases which is one of the major leading causes of death. Meat contains L-Carnitine (building block of animal-based protein). The gut bacteria present in the intestines convert L-Carnitine to a compound that causes hardening and thickening of arterial walls that proceeds to clogged arteries. This clogged coronary artery can lead to cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks. In plant-based foods, the protein content is found in legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables which are also rich in fiber and dietary fats. This helps to lower the risk of cardiac diseases.2
The reason why fish does not come under a whole food plant-based diet?
Although fish is high in omega fatty acids which contribute to heart health and children growth and development, fish is not a part of the whole plant-based diet. Some fishes are consistently high in mercury content. This high level of mercury in the human body may affect the development of the fetus and can damage the brain and nerves. Mercury from food sources is absorbed into the bloodstream and then carried throughout the body. High levels of mercury may get accumulated in the body, leading to renal failure. Fishes are not the only source of omega fatty acids. These can be found in plant-based foods such as olives, soybeans, avocados, and sunflower seeds.3
Why are dairy products not included in whole plant-based diet?
Although, dairy products are rich in calcium, potassium, and phosphorous they are not included in the plant-based diet. High levels of cholesterol present in dairy products may lead to many health-related problems. Consumption of dairy products may imply an overall high dietary fat intake, particularly saturated fats, which is associated with breast cancer risk. Milk products may contain contaminants such as pesticides that are potentially carcinogenic. Some dairy products may have insulin-like growth factor-Ι, which increases the risk for breast cancer. Plant-based sources like broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, turnip, watercress, oranges, and sweet potatoes are equivalent to dairy products in their nutrient content.4
Why is poultry not included in a plant-based diet?
Poultry products can be contaminated with the antimicrobial and anti-parasitic drugs or pesticides. Ingestion of antimicrobials can cause anti-microbial resistance bacteria to develop in individuals. Many of these poultry products may contain salmonella bacteria, which are found in the gastrointestinal tract of animals and birds. Instead, poultry, include vegetarian protein sources such as legumes, soy foods and whole grains in combination in your diet.5
Why are refined and processed foods not categorized under a whole plant-based diet?
Highly processed foods include oils, salts, sugar and other food additives. When plant foods are refined or processed, the fiber and phytonutrients are diminished. The refined carbohydrates such as sugar, flour, and other processed food can lead to illness and mal-nourishment, inflammation, oxidation, and carcinogenesis. Whole food plant-based diet provides protection from disease initiation and progression. Intake of whole food plant-based diet which is rich in fiber and phytonutrients helps in weight management.
Plant-based whole food diet is healthy, nutritionally adequate, and may contribute to prevention, treatment and even reversing some of the chronic diseases. The intrinsic benefits of eating a wide variety of plant-based food products have been associated with lowering the risk of ischemic heart disease, coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, weight management, chronic illness and minimize your dependency on medication.1