The phrase ‘plant-based diet’ indicates that the user does not truly understand human nutrition. I’m not going to enter into a debate on ethical, religious and/or environmental differences of eating meat as they are a completely separate issue to the effect on human health, which is where my expertise lies.
It’s important to be aware that a diet based solely on plant-foods is not automatically a healthy diet. There are many unhealthy plant-based foods, so this adjective is completely irrelevant when it comes to health. Being a vegan really only describes the foods we are NOT eating, rather than what we ARE eating. For example, a vegan diet can consist predominantly of white bread, pasta, chips, processed grains, soft drinks, alcohol and sugar, all of which we know are far from healthy choices – plant-based or not.
As spruiked in the recent film, Game Changers, those switching from ‘meat eaters’ to vegan had some great health benefits, such as improved physical performance, more energy and even better erectile function! Unfortunately, the influence of Arnold Schwartzenegger (executive producer & investor in multiple vegan food companies) may have persuaded those with little understanding of the ‘science’ (and I use that word loosely!) behind their claims.
Firstly, each time they mentioned ‘meat eaters’ they showed an image of a hamburger & fries, or a 2kg slab of beef – sans veg! It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that eating copious slabs of protein with no plant foods is not the healthiest choice. Even Arnold confessed to eating dozens of eggs a day in his bodybuilding days. It’s nuts!
If you take some of these guys and change their diet from burgers & fries to loads of colourful, fresh plant foods, of course they will see health benefits...even more frequent erections! However, we’re assuming that it’s the absence of meat that’s responsible for these results, not the addition of vegetables. A wise person once told me, when you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME (spells assume J)…and there are no assumptions in science!
There was no mention of consuming an appropriate portion of protein with plenty of colourful, fresh plant foods, which is clearly the most balance way to construct a meal.
Many of the studies condemning meat are based on these ‘slab a day’ meat eaters whose diets are devoid of plant foods. If you char meat during cooking, this is known to produce carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). If you consume copious quantities of meat without vegetables, your gut flora will be given no choice but to ferment meat in your gut, rather than its preferred fibre from plant foods. Obviously the fermentation of meat is not healthy for anyone and your body will only do this as a last resort (in the absence of adequate plant foods).
The ‘plant-based diet’ agenda is now pushed in mainstream media by many of the big food companies because of the incredible success of the fake meat companies. In hot pursuit of making a plant-based diet easier to follow, we can now buy foods that are plant based but taste very similar to real meat. How did they create these 'frankenfoods'? Let’s look at the ingredients. Pea protein isolate? expeller-pressed canola oil? Yeast Extract? Modified Food starch. Are these ingredients whole foods? What are they extracting from the yeast? Peas are whole foods. Pea protein isolates are not. Let’s be clear that this is NOT part of a ‘Whole Food Plant Based’ diet.
I have nothing against veganism or vegetarianism. It is certainly possible to be healthy on such diets. It’s also possible to get really sick from such diets, even when followed diligently. Several high-profile vegans have been ‘caught’ eating meat and the backlash from the community was scathing. The reasons are commonly the same – they did it to save their health.
Despite the ‘science’ about our ancestors following a primarily plant-based diet with the occasional ‘kill’, eating plants provides some of the essential nutrients, but not all. For this reason, it is necessary to eat a variety of plant types to get all the essential nutrients. Some nutrients, such as iron, omega 3 and B12, are difficult to get from plants. It's also common when consuming a high-carb (exclusively plant-based) diet that you will push your insulin high constantly, making fat loss close to impossible.
Eating the flesh of animals in appropriate portions, combined with a variety of in-season, fresh and colourful plant foods provides almost everything our bodies require. That is a simple scientific truth. The ethics and environmental cost of eating animals is not one I wish to debate, since there are no simple answers.
Do many of us currently eat too much meat? Yes! Do many of us consume too few vegetables? Yes! Is the answer to swing to yet another extreme, introducing the total abstinence of all animal-sourced foods? No!
The more you restrict sources of essential nutrients from your diet, the more difficult it becomes to sustain optimum health. Many diets absent of animals products will commonly contain excessive amounts of grains and gluten, which can lead to other health and digestive issues over time.
The key to diet and nutrition is balance….