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With all the buzz surrounding The Game Changers movie. Many people are questioning consuming meat and dairy and adopting plant based diets in the name of health. With this in mind let’s take a closer look into plant based diets and see if they are as healthy as The Game Changers make them out to be. In case you haven’t seen it yet, the Game Changers movie is available to watch on Netflix.

What IS a Plant-Based Diet? 

A plant based diet avoids animal products and foods made from animal products.

People have many reasons for choosing to follow a plant-based diet. Some reasons include health, allergies, the environment and animal welfare. I recommend a whole foods plant based diet, which means eating whole foods in their natural state.

Is a plant based diet nutritionally adequate? 

Research that has assessed the overall dietary intakes and nutritional status of plant based diets provides reassurance that well-planned vegan diets supply adequate nutrition (Davis & Melina, 2014). 

Generally, they contain greater amounts of iron, folate, thiamine, magnesium, potassium, manganese, fibre, beta-carotene, and vitamins B6, C and E than non-plant based diets (Davis & Melina, 2014).

However, they may contain lower amounts of zinc, iodine, calcium, selenium, riboflavin, and vitamins B12 and D. It is important that people following a plant based diet include reliable sources of these nutrients (Davis & Melina, 2014).

The bottom line is that animal products aren’t necessary for healthful and nutritionally adequate diets.

Can kids survive on a plant based diet? 

Yes, they can survive and thrive! 

Plant based diets have been approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who state “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes” (Melina, Craig & Levin, 2016).

Your plant based diet should be based on whole foods 

Consuming whole foods in their natural state ensures you obtain more nutrients. For example an olive contains fibre, vitamins and minerals. Compared to olive oil which has been processed and had most of its nutrients stripped from it and is virtually 100% fat. 

A whole foods plant based diet also avoids the hidden nasties that manufacturers put in our foods. Including nasty additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients (the ones you can’t pronounce), sugar and sodium.

Not all processed foods are created equally. If you’re doing the processing at home – chopping, blending and cooking. You still know what is going into your food as opposed to commercially processed foods.

How to live optimally on plant based whole foods

Increase your intake of

    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • legumes – lentils, chickpeas, beans
    • wholegrains
    • nuts and seeds
    • spices
    • herbs

Avoid the following

    • meat
    • fish
    • dairy
    • eggs
    • honey
    • animal fats, butter
    • sugar
    • oils, including olive, corn, flaxseed, canola, coconut
    • processed and packaged food, except for ones containing only ingredients in increase list
    • limit salt

Focussing on adding more whole foods into your diet rather than focussing on eliminating foods from your diet will help you to transition towards this new lifestyle positively. The intent is to crowd out the processed foods with loads of goodness!

The health benefits of a whole food plant based diet

According to the 2010 WHO Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases, the four primary causes of chronic diseases (63% of global deaths) are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption (WHO, 2018). In other words majority of deaths are self inflicted and can be prevented.

Large studies in England and Germany showed that people who avoid meat were about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters (Thorogood et al, 1994; Chang-Claude et al, 1992; Chang-Claude et al, 1993).

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means that there is strong evidence that they cause cancer. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork has been classified as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer (International Agency for Research on Cancer – World Health Organisation, 2015).

Clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. A 2005 review showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children (Lanou, 2005).

A WFPB diet has many health benefits and is the only diet that has been proven to reverse coronary heart disease and research has found a plant-based diet to be successful in treating type 2 diabetes. 

In summary, a balanced and varied vegan diet is safe and healthful, as long as energy needs are met as you follow a whole foods plant based diet you will have many health benefits.

If you are following or changing to a plant based diet, I recommend getting advice from a qualified Plant Based Nutritionist to ensure that your diet is nutritionally adequate and to prevent deficiencies. 

References

Chang-Claude, J., Frentzel-Beyme, R., & Eilber, U. (1992). Mortality Pattern of German Vegetarians after 11 Years of Follow-up. Epidemiology, 3(5), 395-401. doi: 10.1097/00001648-199209000-00003

CHANG-CLAUDE, J., & FRENTZEL-BEYME, R. (1993). Dietary and Lifestyle Determinants of Mortality among German Vegetarians. International Journal Of Epidemiology, 22(2), 228-236. doi: 10.1093/ije/22.2.228

Davis, B., & Melina, V. (2014). Becoming vegan. Summertown, Tenn.: Book Publishing.

International Agency for Research on Cancer – World Health Organization. (2015). IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat [Ebook]. Retrieved from https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf

Lanou, A. (2005). Calcium, Dairy Products, and Bone Health in Children and Young Adults: A Reevaluation of the Evidence. PEDIATRICS, 115(3), 736-743. doi: 10.1542/peds.2004-0548

Thorogood, M., Mann, J., Appleby, P., & McPherson, K. (1994). Risk of death from cancer and ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. BMJ, 308(6945), 1667-1670. doi: 10.1136/bmj.308.6945.1667

WHO | 2. Background. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/2_background/en/


About The Author

Megan Garner

Megan Garner is a plant-based Nutritionist, Naturopath and Herbalist, is an accredited member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and works as a blogger, author, presenter and workshop facilitator. She is passionate about eating a whole foods plant-based diet and empowering others to do the same. Megan is raising her daughter on a plant-based diet and has written an eBook 'Babies and Toddlers Plant Based Nutrition' to show parents how they can have a thriving plant based kid too.
Visit Megan’s website to learn more about plant-based nutrition, naturopathy, and book a consult or purchase her e-book.

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