A plant based diet is a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts. The emphasis being on the consumption of a variety of whole, fresh foods and avoiding processed or refined foods. This way of eating excludes the consumption of animal based products.
This way of eating is naturally hydrating with fruits and vegetables having a high water content, up to 92%! Hydration is key to good kidney function, great digestion and healthy skin and it helps us to excrete waste and toxins through these elimination pathways. Plant based is also fibre rich, keeping your bowel transit time fast and avoiding constipation, haemorrhoids and many more medical problems.
A plant based diet is nutritionally complete. You can safely provide you and your family with adequate calories (energy) and macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fats. In fact, when you eat plant based and you eat a variety of whole foods you can be assured that your micronutrient needs will be met too! From vitamin A to K and minerals calcium to zinc, a plant based diet is abundant in macronutrients in the best combinations for absorption and metabolism.
Two important considerations are vitamin’s “D3” and “B12”. Vitamin D3 requires plenty of sunshine in doses relative to your skin colour and the daily UV index. Vitamin B12 is essential for cell function throughout the body and DNA synthesis, and it protects against degeneration of nerve tissue. Deficiency is common and also prevalent in non-plant based eaters! Traces of soil and bacteria in our foods are not enough to safeguard us against deficiency. It is recommended by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine that people eating a plant based diet consume a B12 supplement of 5 micrograms per day (1). B12 is stored in the liver for months to years so have your levels checked before taking a supplement. For this reason, you do not need to take a supplement daily.
Meat in all its forms is naturally dehydrating and cooked meat often has a zero water content. It actually consumes water in your bowels during the digestive process. Meat is very low in vitamins and minerals and lean meat, like chicken is still high fat at 25-50% calories from fat. Consumption of meat and dairy is linked to increased risk of western diseases including diabetes, high cholesterol and bowel cancer. Going plant based is also making a stand against animal farming and animal speciesism.
So what does a plant based diet look like? I can reassure you now it’s not all salads and green juices, in fact the meals plant based people eat look very regular and taste extraordinary. If I served you up my chocolate banana smoothie for breakfast, mangoes as a snack, a serve of Shepherd’s pie and salad for lunch and a sweet and spicy Caribbean curry and rice for dinner you might just be instantly converted!
Dr Alyce Churchill
Founder of Plant Based Easy