Switching to a plant based diet is becoming increasingly popular and has been proven to have numerous health benefits. There have been so many studies that suggest that people who follow a plant based diet are thinner; have less issues with high blood pressure, less diabetes concern, and even less cancer! As an added bonus, they often have improved energy, sleep and mood.
However, one pitfall is that when you remove all animal products and substitute only refined carbohydrates, you may not receive these health benefits. We call this becoming a “Carbatarian”. When this happens, people gain weight, raise their blood pressure and increase their risk of diabetes and cancer. These are the exact opposite results than we are looking for!
A healthy, plant-based diet requires planning, reading labels, and discipline. The recommendations for patients who want to follow a plant-based diet include eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that includes beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and small amounts of whole grains while avoiding or limiting animal products, saturated fats, and refined, processed carbohydrates.
But what about protein? Most patients wonder how they will get enough protein if they stop eating beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products. The answer is that it’s easy to get enough protein and by eating plant based proteins in combination with a whole foods diet ensures that you will get all the complete proteins that your body needs. Good plant sources of protein include quinoa, legumes, organic edamame, nut butters, wild rice, almonds, chia seeds, steel cut oats, nuts and seeds, spinach, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
We recommend staying away from the processed “fake meat” substitutes that often are made with genetically modified soy products and often contain higher amounts of isolated soy proteins which are not what our bodies are designed to eat. If you are going to incorporate soy into your diet enjoy it as tofu, tempeh or edamame and always choose organic. Another meat “alternative” on the market is Quorn, which is protein, made from the fermentation of starch and termed a mycoprotein. There are some concerns about allergic reactions in susceptible people and some of the products also contain egg, milk and gluten.
One last note is that patients who adopt a plant based diet with minimal or no animal products may become B12 deficient over time. Unfortunately, there are no ideal plant B12 sources that can reliably prevent or correct these deficiencies. Plant based eaters can get B12 from fortified foods or B12 supplements, and in some cases nutritional IV therapy or injections may be recommended.
Switching to a plant based diet is easy once you get the hang of it! It can also be fun as you try new foods and discover how eating a nutrient-rich diet makes you feel. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to see if this diet is right for you and how to make the switch.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
—Hippocrates, c 460-370 BCE, ancient Greek physician known as the father of modern medicine
Article contributed by Dr. Tracy Magerus