Recently I attended the Plant-Powered Expo in London, an event designed to highlight the benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Although I don’t currently follow a plant-based or vegan (yes there is a difference) lifestyle, I attended because I was curious. Plant-based living or veganism – in the past few years – has really entered my consciousness & (in my opinion) society as a whole in a way that vegetarianism never quite has.
As I said, I’m not vegan. I’m also not anti-vegan. I’m open-minded. I understand there are evidenced wellness benefits to leading a plant-based lifestyle which I wanted to write about or at least, begin a discussion on.
Here is what I’ve come to understand about leading a plant-based lifestyle…
Being plant-based & being vegan isn’t necessarily the same thing
Whether you classify yourself as vegan or plant-based usually depends on your motivation. Where vegans are often motivated out of compassion for animals, for plant-based dieters, the driving force can be more nutritionally motivated for increased health & longevity.
There can also be a difference in the diet itself…
Firstly there is no ‘set’ diet – which is why it’s commonly referred to as a lifestyle. You are left up to your own devices, with the intention being that you won’t consume any meat or animal by-products. And that’s kind of where the similarity between vegan and plant-based ends.
If the motivation to be vegan is purely animal-based, you can eat whatever the heck you like. As long as it states suitable for vegans, you’re good to go. Which also means – as with the diet of a meat-eater – you’re not necessarily eating a healthier diet. You can still consume refined sugars and processed foods which can be just as high in calories, fat and salt.
A person motivated by nutrition leading a plant-based lifestyle will be more focused on what is being consumed. Actively steering away from processed foods and ensuring the consumption of more whole foods.
Some – who consider themselves plant-based – may not even cut back on animal products entirely, just greatly reduce their intake.
What can you eat as part of a plant-based lifestyle?
Vegetables, Fruits, wholegrain (think brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa), legumes (chickpeas, lentils black beans etc) nuts & seeds. You can find a more comprehensive list here.
What are the health benefits to adopting a plant-based lifestyle?
It is claimed adopting a plant-based lifestyle reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes when compared to less healthy dietary patterns. Scientific research also indicates that healthy plant-based diets can have beneficial effects on the risk of disease by, for example, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood cholesterol and promoting a healthy body weight. [source: nutrition.org]
Truth or scare?
Whilst at the expo, I heard a motivational speaker & wellness coach talk about the health benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle. He explained how the human body is not naturally designed to eat meat. Namely, our teeth and hands aren’t prime for tearing flesh, our intestinal tracts are far longer than you would find in a carnivore & our stomach acid is not strong enough to break down & kill the bacteria in raw meat (which is why we have to cook it).
He himself claims (since adopting a plant-based lifestyle) to have cured himself of high blood pressure, severe headaches, chest pains, painful joints, back pain, abscesses and dandruff without the use of any medication. He also displayed a photo of himself 5 1/2 stone heavier – all lost due to going plant-based.
Quite often, when it comes to sharing research into health & nutrition there can be an element of scaremongering. Whilst I’m not discrediting what was said, the message the talk went on to deliver – for me – was a good example of this. I’m all for understanding the truth, but not when the message is delivered in neither a helpful nor motivating way.
Sometimes, and maybe this is just me, it can feel like people pull out the big C-word to scare us into doing something. I’m sure this is because they are passionate and want to help as many people as possible. But I don’t agree this is the right way to get us to adopt a new lifestyle choice – one based in fear.
Although I could not (and would not) deny eating healthily is essential for better health, I believe there are far more factors at play than solely our diets.
This sort of ‘talk’ is the type that closes people off and can develop an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset. I would advise anyone wanting to encourage people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle to offer a message of inclusivity & support for the purpose of eating better.
Are there any pitfalls to being plant-based?
With any diet, you need to be mindful that you are getting all the vitamins & nutrients you need. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle will require you to ensure you’re supplementing the lack of meat & eggs etc. with alternative protein sources. Protein can be found in plant-based foods such as quinoa, tofu, nuts & seeds. Here’s a helpful article outlining the best protein sources for vegans.
You also need to ensure you’re getting enough B12 alternatively gained through taking a supplement or nutritional yeast. It’s definitely worth consulting your GP or a professional nutritionist before embarking on any major changes to your diet.
As well as knowing people who have thrived from adopting this lifestyle, I’m also aware of people who had to adapt it. Everyone is individual and you always have to work to your best interests.
How do you adopt a plant-based lifestyle?
That’s really up to you. What I take from a plant-based approach is the ethos of exceptionally healthy-eating – providing your body with the best fuel – no set prescription just taking good nutritional care of yourself.
Achieving this requires research on your part – something that should be gained from multiple sources, not just one book or any one person.
I know of people who have jumped straight in (Veganuary has been a kick-start for many) and others who have gradually build up to it over time. Be that having a few plant-based days a week, to starting off by cutting out red meat and working up from there. Whatever you feel would work best for you.
Side note: I’d also like to say people can turn their nose up at plant-based meals, thinking they can’t be delicious or satisfying. Well, this simply isn’t true. I’ve eaten plant-based several times now & the food has been tasty, so I do advocate trying it before you turn away from it. Additionally, after eating it – I feel full but not bloated or sluggish, which is great for my energy levels. So again, give it a try – no one is going to be knocking at your door trying to convert you over it.
Will I be adopting a plant-based lifestyle anytime soon?
If I’m honest, not fully & not anytime soon anyway. What I have come to learn & appreciate are the health benefits that can be gained through being very mindful of what we are putting into our bodies & the positive impact that can have on us.
A clear move away from processed & refined foods is definitely something we are addressing in our household. There’s a high chance we’ll naturally progress to plant-based over time, but right now sensible healthy eating (read: all in moderation) is what we’re personally comfortable with.
A healthy lifestyle requires a nutritionally balanced diet & exercise. Read: 5 Ways Exercise Makes You Happy
So what do you think? Is this your understanding of a plant-based lifestyle? Do you already live a plant-based lifestyle? What has been your experience & what top tips or advice do you have to share? Whatever you’d like to say, please do get in touch by leaving a comment in the box below – I’m always happy to hear from you!