let’s talk comparisons and nutritional values!
now that you’ve been challenged to a plant-based diet for 30 days, i thought it’d be cool to go over various topics surrounding PBDs.
first up, let’s go over what a PBD actually is, in more detail.
there seems to be a lot of misuse and/or misconception of what a PBD is, as compared to vegetarianism or veganism. but they are in fact different!
a healthy PBD aims to maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods (including dairy products and eggs). it encourages lots of vegetables (cooked or raw), fruits, beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, seeds, and nuts (in smaller amounts) and is generally low fat.
a key distinction between a PBD and other diets is that although most diets are defined by what they exclude, the PBD is defined by what it includes. here’s how different “plant-based” diets work:
- vegan (or total vegetarian): excludes all animal products, especially meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. does not require consumption of whole foods or restrict fat or refined sugar.
- raw food, vegan: same exclusions as veganism as well as the exclusion of all foods cooked at temperatures greater than 118°F.
- lacto-vegetarian: excludes eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry and includes milk products.
- ovo-vegetarian: excludes meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products and includes eggs.
- lacto-ovo vegetarian: excludes meat, seafood, and poultry and includes eggs and dairy products.
- mediterranean: similar to whole-foods, plant-based diet but allows small amounts of chicken, dairy products, eggs, and red meat once or twice per month. fish and olive oil are encouraged. fat is not restricted.
- whole-foods, plant-based, low-fat: encourages plant foods in their whole form, especially vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds and nuts (in smaller amounts). for maximal health benefits this diet limits animal products (not excludes). total fat is generally restricted.
hopefully these silly labels all make more sense now.
so why choose a PBD (versus the others)?
crunchies, i know i’ve said this before, but i could have an entire blog dedicated to nutrition. please bear with me while i try to do a ton of condensing!
i will present my views (with research) and of course encourage respectful, knowledgeable conversation. my views are going to be completely void of all animal cruelty/farm-raising habits/etc. i won’t accept comments not based on nutrition for this post, because we aren’t here to debate or get into various beliefs. we’re here to learn how to be as healthy as we can right? so i will simply state my views based on NUTRITIONAL VALUE and research, k?
“with all this plant talk, why not just go vegetarian?” to address this topic, i’ll try to present information as objectively as i can, while providing the research to back me up. this is a hot topic, and is under much debate between those in different “plant-based diet” lifestyles. for example, vegans avoid it all for very respectable ethical reasons. we all believe different things for different reasons, so let’s please not make it about that, okay? let’s simply talk NUTRITION 🙂
here we go.
i will never exclude animal meats and fats from my diet. i’m not saying to eat a crap ton of meat every day, all day. that’s not okay! and i’m not saying to buy just any ol’ meat from walmart. i don’t think that’s okay either. BUT, i AM saying i believe they are essential to human health!
my reasoning for a PBD with moderate animal product consumption:
- it’s the optimal mixed diet – from the available research i’ve seen, i firmly believe it gives you the best of all worlds. you’re getting plant-based nutrition, good fats, and still consuming animal products. it does limit animal products (generally also limited to organic, grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free meats and products), but they’re still included. roughly speaking, plant food and beverages account for 75% of what you consume, followed by foods of animal origin (15%) and fatty and sugary foods (5%). and yes, i know the percentages don’t work out to 100%. i’m just trying to make a point here. and yes, it bothers me. lol
- getting enough vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria, not plants OR animals, but is only found in animal-originating foods, including meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. we’ll specifically go over B12 a little later, in the nutritional concerns section below.
- ensuring proper zinc & iron levels – research found simply fortifying the low-meat diet with minerals from meat was ineffective in making up the difference in absorbed zinc. this “fortification” reduced fractional zinc absorption, so that the amount of zinc absorbed was no greater than from the unfortified low-meat diet. the amounts of both iron and zinc absorbed are negatively affected by reducing meat, especially red meat, and by increasing plant sources of phytic acid such as whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. deficiencies of both these nutrients are associated with plant-based diets of limited variety with little or no animal protein. children and women of child-bearing age should be especially focused on maintaining proper zinc and iron levels.
- animal products are an essential part of a healthy human diet – especially in those little humans that are still growing and need it for proper brain development. i’m a huge advocate of bone broths, raw milk, real butter, and animal fats (and when i say that, i obviously also advocate moderation!). but you don’t need to always consume plain ol meat. bone broth is terrific and a great “alternative” to chowing down on meat or consuming dairy products if you can’t. it’s a great source of minerals, great for healing your digestive system (hello, GAPS diet!), and overall reduces your needs for plain ol meat. by the way, have you tasted it? delicious!
you should always opt for organic, grass-fed meats and animal products. 🙂
secondly, let’s address those nutritional concerns:
even though this lifestyle choice is well-rounded, those following a PBD still need to take heed of some nutritional value concerns. because of the nature of the “diet” itself, there are certain aspects that should be a little more closely monitored. let’s talk about them –
- protein – generally speaking, those following a PBD are not at risk for protein deficiency. proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which, called essential amino acids, cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. that’s just how it is. essential amino acids are found in meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as many PB foods. all-in-all, a well-balanced, PBD will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency. try to learn about other ways to ensure you’re getting enough protein, using foods such as chickpeas, kefir, beans, etc.
- calcium & vitamin D – these pups go hand in hand. those who do not eat plants that contain high amounts of calcium may be at risk for impaired bone mineralization and fractures. the key to bone health is adequate calcium intake, which, according to research, seems to be irrespective of dietary preferences. there are also a number of studies have shown that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is associated with increased bone mineral density and improvement of bone microarchitecture. some PB foods rich in calcium include mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and kale. keep in mind that all calcium-rich foods aren’t the same. for example, spinach contains calcium that, although abundant, is bound to oxalate and therefore is poorly absorbed.
- iron – PBDs do contain iron, but the iron in plants has a lower bioavailability than the iron in meats, aka, despite an iron content equivalent to an omnivorous diet, the iron from a PBD is likely to be substantially less available for absorption because of differences in the chemical form of iron and the accompanying constituents that enhance or inhibit iron absorption. iron is a tricky one, guys. dietary factors or foods that inhibit iron absorption include phytic acid (6-phosphoinositol) in whole grains, legumes, lentils, and nuts: polyphenols, such as tannic and chlorogenic acids, in tea, coffee, red wines, and a variety of other cereals, vegetables, and spices: soy protein (apparently independent of the phytic acid in soy): and eggs (unidentified factor). as people move toward plant-based diets, they are likely to consume more enhancers of iron absorption, such as ascorbic acid (and possibly carotene), but this enhancement is likely to be more than counteracted by the inhibitory effects of increased intake of phytic acid, polyphenols, and soy proteins, as well as the reduced intake of meat, poultry, or fish. therefore, iron stores may be lower in individuals who follow a PBD and consume little or no animal products; however, the ADA states that iron-deficiency anemia is rare even in individuals who follow a PBD. to ensure you’re getting enough iron, focus on including PB foods that are rich in iron, such as kidney beans, black beans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage, and tomato juice.
- zinc – as with iron, zinc is also a tricky one, but unlike iron, there is no clinical indicator of adequate versus marginal zinc nutritional status in humans PB foods rich in zinc, such as legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts, are also high in phytic acid, a main inhibitor of zinc bioavailability. despite high phytate content that lowers the fraction of zinc absorbed from unrefined foods, the higher zinc content of these foods may make these foods preferable to more refined products lower in zinc.
- vitamin B12 – this little guy is needed for blood formation and cell division. we briefly touched on this earlier, but vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem and can lead to macrocytic anemia and irreversible nerve damage. those following a PBD that also choose to not include animal products may be vulnerable to B12 deficiency, and need to supplement their diet with vitamin B12 or foods fortified with vitamin B12.
- fatty acids – essential fatty acids are fatty acids that humans must ingest for good health because our bodies do not synthesize them. only two such essential fatty acids are known: linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). 3 other fatty acids are only conditionally essential: palmitoleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid), lauric acid (a saturated fatty acid), and gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). deficiency in essential fatty acids may manifest as skin, hair, and nail abnormalities. vegans are the most likely to be deficient in these, particularly omega-3’s. you can easily ensure you’re getting some good ol fatty acids by including ground flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts, etc., into your diet. i always put cold-milled ground flax seed in my morning yogurt!
i hope y’all feel better and more educated on PBDs now! 🙂 i know it all gets overwhelming, and there’s a TON of info to sort through. hopefully this super condensed post helped!
who’s pledging?? comment on this post to pledge and support your fellow crunchies! and don’t forget to post your recipes and support HERE on pinterest, and tweet your support and food pics with the tag #PBDchallenge. let’s do this together! 🙂
*information presented above is taken from peer-reviewed research journals and cited publications