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So, you want to go plant-based? Here are some things you should know

By Brooke Villanueva Published Jan 18, 2022 12:00 pm

Looking to make healthy changes for yourself in 2022? 

While the plant-based diet has been around for some time now, it’s been a hot topic among many people for the past few years. More and more restaurants have been offering plant-based products, including the ones we didn’t expect.

We’re not just talking about fast-food chains that have long been famous and loved for their sinful offerings like Burger King (meatless Whopper), McDonald’s (McPlant), and KFC (Beyond Fried Chicken), but also dessert brands that now use almond, soy, or oat milk and other plant-based alternatives to keep meeting the public’s ever-changing tastes and preferences.

The emergence of these offerings on a larger scale gives us an idea of its rising popularity in the Philippines and other parts of the globe. We continue to come across individuals who have either made the switch or are still planning to. And with the prediction of food forecasters about the plant-based diet becoming even bigger this year, it’s only expected to have more followers.

Been planning to transition to the plant-based diet, but don’t know where to start? Read on for some pointers that could help you on your journey. 

What’s a plant-based diet—and how is it different from the vegan diet?

A plant-based diet includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other food derived from plants. Roni Matalog—a registered nutritionist-dietician who advocates for a plant-based diet—gave it a much simpler definition, which is “proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.”

Under it is the Whole Food Plant-Based diet that "emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods, focuses on adding more plants in your meals, limits or avoids animal products, avoids refined foods (like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils), and chooses locally sourced, organic food whenever possible."  

“There is no need to consciously combine different plant proteins at each meal as long as a variety of foods are eaten from day to day, because the human body, particularly the liver, maintains a pool of amino acids, which can be used to complement dietary protein,” she said. 

To this day, many still interchange it with the vegan diet as they both focus on the consumption of plants and plant items. The difference, however, lies in the philosophy or advocacy that one chooses.

“In a plant-based diet, there may still be consumption of animal products, but very minimal,” Jo Sebastian, RND told PhilSTAR L!fe. “A vegan diet isn’t really a diet but more of a lifestyle. Most vegans also practice their beliefs for lessening harm through clothing and products used. No consumption of meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and dairy, or use of leather, silk, honey, and the list goes on.”

“Some question why vegans eat foods that taste like meat if they don’t eat meat—it’s because they don’t necessarily hate the taste of meat. They just don’t like the process of getting meat, which is through animals,” she clarified. 

Here's a quick look at their similarities and differences from plant-based living website Forks Over Knives, as shared by Matalog.

Will you really lack protein and other nutrients by following a plant-based diet? 

The simple answer to that is “only if you don’t make the right substitution,” said Sebastian.

Matalog reiterated that you can get your protein needs from plants—where some animals get theirs, too. “The recommended dietary allowance for protein intake is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight according to the World Health Organization. This is equivalent roughly to 8-10% of the daily calorie intake,” explained Matalog. “Some people may be interested in increasing their plant protein intake for a variety of reasons, but this recommendation is already enough.” Among the foods that are high in protein content per serving are tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, chia seeds, and potatoes.

Keep in mind that there’s no need to take supplements if you’re able to meet your daily food requirement. Just make sure to enjoy certain items (like avocado, seeds, nuts, tofu, tempeh whole grain bread, plant-based milk, and other plant-based minimally processed products) in moderation as they are "more calorie-dense and may contribute to weight gain if your primary goal is to lose weight."

Another note: no, you won’t always feel hungry. You might only do so “if you don’t eat balanced meals that have the right portion for your satisfaction,” Sebastian added. 

Is the plant-based diet for you?

Going on a plant-based diet brings in various benefits not only to animals and the environment, but also to your health. Studies have shown that going plant-based could nourish and heal the body. Since whole plant foods have lots of nutrients, vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients, low in calories and saturated fat, and zero in cholesterol, Matalog said they can provide proper and good nutrition that “prevents and even reverses chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, and other health conditions.” 

“I would recommend a plant-based diet to anyone who’s interested in trying to achieve their personal health goals may it be to address any health condition/s. The problem most people have now is the lack of whole plant foods in their meals, and the goal of plant-based eating is to encourage individuals to eat more of it,” Matalog said.

For her part, Sebastian emphasized the importance of doing your own research and consulting with a professional if you can, “mostly because if you don’t know the proper substitutes, you can end up not getting the right nourishment and it wouldn’t work for you.”

How to get started?

Matalog gave some helpful tips to kick off your journey to a great start. Keep in mind: PLANTS.

To spice things up, why not take part in a challenge? “On each plate and day, feel how your body is responding and thanking you for the nourishing foods that you’re taking in,” she added.

If you wish to consult with a professional before going plant-based, you may e-mail Roni Matalog, RND at [email protected] or message Jo Sebastian, RND on Instagram at @itsjosebastian.