Here are 12 common questions about eating a plant-based vegan diet. And, you might have other myths or beliefs that make you question if eating a plant-based diet is for you so read my article, "15 Mindsets: Eating a Plant-Based Diet."
1. How is a PLANT-BASED diet different from these other labels: Vegan, Vegetarian, Nutritarian, Plant-Strong?
The important point is to not worry if you fit into a label. The science says to eat as many fruits and vegetables on a plant-based diet, as possible, if you want to maintain health or reverse disease. You can do that in any way you find works for you.
PLANT-BASED: A plant-based diet is made from whole plant foods that include FRESH FRUITS and VEGETABLES, LEGUMES, WHOLE GRAINS, NUTS, and SEEDS, NO DAIRY or EGGS, and very little or NO MEAT or PROCESSED OIL. A vegan diet follows these guidelines, however, could include unhealthy, processed foods. A person following a vegan diet usually abstains from the use of all animal products including items such as fur and leather, Veganism is rooted in animal rights.
• VEGAN: A vegan diet does not include any meat, fish, poultry, or dairy and often does not include the use of other animal by-products such as honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, or cosmetics. A vegan diet might include dairy or meat substitutes like soy cheese and tofu granules and does not necessarily focus on healthy foods only, therefore, a vegan could eat foods with higher fat and sugar such as french fries or sugary cookies.
A vegetarian diet is a practice of following a plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, etc.), with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat. Abstention from by-products of animals may also be practiced.
A nutritarian diet contains highly nutritious foods with a high percentage of micronutrients. A nutritarian does not exclusively eat plant foods, but eats a lot of high-nutrient, natural plant foods: vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, eats fewer animal products, and chooses healthier options in this food group. Eats much less or almost no foods that are completely empty of nutrients or are toxic to the body, such as sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed foods, and greasy fast foods. The term was originated by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
Being Plant-strong is not classically vegan because it doesn't promote eating fake meat or cheese substitutes. It closely aligns with the "plant-based" term. Being plant-strong is about eating whole foods ONLY - foods that are grown from plants - veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, roots, grains, fruits. Nothing manufactured and nothing with a face.
2. What are the health benefits of a plant-based diet?
Numerous studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet can protect against or even reverse chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and even osteoporosis. Most people are able to lose weight and gain energy on a plant-based diet and find their cholesterol numbers lowering.
3. Won't this way of eating cost more?
A plant-based diet is very affordable. Grains, beans, nuts, and seeds can be purchased in bulk in many grocery stores, and are generally less expensive than meats. Buying fruits and vegetables in season or frozen can save you money. Whole legumes and vegetables deliver more nutritional value for less money than most foods that come in a package and since you'll probably be healthier, you may save money with fewer healthcare costs.
4. Can I really cook or bake without eggs?
Yes, it's easier than you might think. There are substitutions for all egg uses. As long as you know what the purpose of the egg was in the recipe, you can easily choose an alternative ingredient such as flaxseed, fruit puree, or chickpea flour. For example, you can replace one egg by mixing one tablespoon of ground flaxseed or chia seeds with three tablespoons of warm water and letting it rest for five to ten minutes until it becomes a gel. Then, add it to the recipe as you would the egg. For more how-to substitutes read this article, "Plant-Based Substitutions," which includes dairy, meat, fish, and more.
5. How will I ever give up meat?
Once you know that eating meat can affect your health, but also that it's bad for the planet and the well-being of animals, you'll see your path more clearly. You don't have to go cold turkey. Start gradually with ideas like Meatless Mondays or going plant-based at breakfast and lunch for a while. There are many substitutes for meat at the market these days that can help you on the journey.
6. Will I be missing any nutrients on a plant-based diet?
The only nutrient missing from a plant-based diet is Vitamin B-12 which can be easily replaced with a supplement or by the addition of food items such as nutritional yeast to your diet. Even people on a diet that includes meat can be deficient in the B vitamins. Taking a D vitamin is a good idea, as well. Read this article, "Plant-Based Nutrition: Getting It Right," to learn more.
7. Do I have to be 100% to see results?
No, you don't, and just losing weight will put you on a path to a healthier you. However, to really make a difference in your long-term health, sticking with a plant-based diet, as well as exercising for at least 30 minutes most days will be your best bet against age-related diseases.
8. Are soy products really safe?
There is a lot of controversy over soy and although you'll want to stay away from GMO soy and isolated soy protein products and powders, recent science says that whole and minimally processed soy products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and fresh soybeans are good for you and even protective. For more information about soy, read my post, "The Truth About Soy: Nutritional Powerhouse or Hormone-Destroying Toxin?"
9. What about milk. Don't I need calcium?
There is calcium in a plant-based diet of whole grains, legumes, nuts, and grains, and especially in green leafy vegetables. By eating calcium-rich plant-based foods, including leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and kale, white beans, fortified soy milk and juices, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, you can obtain all the calcium your body needs. But keeping your bones strong and avoiding osteoporosis depends on more than calcium intake—you also need to keep calcium in your bones. Exercise and vitamin D help keep the calcium in your bones. Calcium is abundant in leafy greens as well as legumes, oranges, and tofu. Other dairy-free foods packed with calcium include sesame seeds, almonds/almond butter, soy/tofu, broccoli, beans, figs, oranges, chia seeds, and blackstrap molasses.
10. How will I get enough protein?
The protein available in a diet of whole grains, legumes, fruit and beans, and red, yellow, and green vegetables is adequate to nourish even professional champion athletes such as those who compete in Ironman races, professional football, mixed martial arts, track, and field. But if you want the whole lowdown on getting enough protein on a plant-based, vegan diet, read this article, "Am I Getting Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet?"
11. Won't eating so many carbs put on weight?
Simple carbs, yes, but you shouldn't put on weight with complex carbs like rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, whole grain bread, and, of course, all vegetables and fruits. Complex carbs contain micronutrients and our bodies need them for proper functioning of the immune system and to enable our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms to protect us from chronic diseases.
Fiber-rich whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, and brown rice, help improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Dietary fiber can also make you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories and decrease the risk of obesity.
Studies have even shown that those eating whole grain carbs (70 grams per day) lowered their risk of mortality by 22%.
12. Will I feel hungry?
You should only feel normal hunger once you start eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, not hunger brought on by lack of adequate nutrition. Dr. Fuhrman calls it, Toxic Hunger. To see more about this concept and how to improve and maintain great health, read the explanation of his plant-based Nutritarian Diet.
"Do yourself a favor and start eating a plant-based diet today because it's never too late to get healthier."