While you can certainly stop eating meat, there are significant downsides to living off of a plant-based diet. If you are considering going with a plant-based diet, it’s important to understand the various nutrient deficiencies that you will be inherently dealing with due to the lack of meat and various other foods in your diet. In this article, we will be going over some of the benefits associated with going strictly with a plant-based diet, the deficiencies that you will be dealing with, and what supplements you will need to consume alongside your diet to effectively deal with them.
What Does A Typical Healthy Plant-Based Diet Consist Of
A healthy plant-based diet should be heavy in vegetable, fruit, whole grains, protein, and healthy oils.1
Your diet is primarily going to consist of healthy and nutrient-dense vegetables. The more vegetables you get in your diet, the better your diet is going to be. You want to focus on the most nutrient dense vegetables including but not limited to sweet potatoes, leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, and more.
Another significant component of your plant-based diet should consist of healthy fruits. You want to eat all kinds of fruits with a variety of nutrients. Some of the best fruits to get in your diet would be various berries, apples, avocados, pomegranate, and more.
Another portion of your diet will be relegated to whole grains. You want to consider various whole grains that can help to add more fiber to your diet and lower bad cholesterol. You should be eating a variety of whole grains and limiting the intake of processed and refined grains like white bread and white rice.
You want another good amount of your diet to consist of healthy proteins. You should be consuming beans, nuts, and fish primarily as a healthy source of protein.
Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet:
Ward Off Diabetes
One of the benefits that you can get from following a plant-based diet is the ability to successfully ward off the onset of diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is a disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can be effective at limiting risk factors associated with developing Type 2 diabetes.2
Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Risk Of Developing Heart Disease
Another significant benefit that can come from implementing and sticking to a plant-based diet would be the ability to effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the overall risk of developing heart disease. Studies show that a healthy plant-based diet can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce overall bad cholesterol, which can subsequently lower your risk of heart disease.
Ability To Maximize Weight Loss
Another significant benefit that you are likely to get from switching to this type of diet would be the ability to lose weight. This is primarily because you will be consuming much-less calories than those that consume a non-plant-based diet. There are many reasons for this, but the theory is that those that adhere to a plant-based diet typically consume food groups that are more satiating.3
Another benefit that is likely to come from adhering to this type of diet is the ability to optimize your digestive system. Because a plant-based diet is inherently rich in fiber intake, it can help to keep the digestive system functioning optimally, and it can lower blood sugar levels as a direct result.
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Now that we have gone over some of the benefits of adhering to a plant-based diet, we will be going over some of the key deficiencies that you will be dealing with due to the lack of variety in the diet.
Key Deficiencies Of A Plant-Based Diet:
When you adhere to a plant-based diet, you are bound to be deficient in vitamin B12, because it is something that you primarily get through animal protein sources. Thus, those that completely avoid all animal byproducts can and will become deficient in this critical vitamin at some point. In fact, studies have shown that both vegans and vegetarians run a serious risk of deficiency in vitamin B12.4 This is very important to address when following this sort of diet because vitamin B12 is essential for proper maintenance of brain function and overall blood flow throughout our bodies.5 While it is always recommended to get optimal vitamin B12 intake through food sources, if you are adhering to a plant-based diet, it is necessary to supplement with it by taking vitamin B12 supplements.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is responsible for various bodily functions. Not only does it play a crucial role in regulating the body’s immune system function, but it also can help to ward off immune system diseases.6 The problem is, it can be extremely difficult to get enough through your diet alone, especially if you are someone that is adhering to a plant-based diet. The primary sources of zinc come from animal sources. Thus, you need to be supplementing with zinc if you are following a plant-based diet with limited sources available in plant-based foods.
Calcium is another common mineral that you are likely going to be deficient in if you adhere to a plant-based diet because there are not as many sources available that avoid dairy.7 While you can certainly add more fortified foods to your diet and consume natural calcium plant-based sources like leafy greens, you are unlikely to achieve the required amount through diet alone, and they are not as easy to absorb for our body. Thus, you will need to supplement an additional amount to avoid a deficiency of this mineral.
Essential oils, different than supplements, can help with some of the issues that you are likely to experience while on a plant-based diet. Because you are likely to be deficient in vitamin B12, you might lack sufficient energy production. By using various essential oils to improve energy levels and supplementing with vitamin B12, you can improve your energy levels on a daily basis. One of the most effective essential oils for improving energy is peppermint oil and it has shown to be effective at increasing exercise performance.8
Overall, a plant-based diet might have specific health benefits, it can and will lead to various severe nutrient deficiencies that must be filled in with the use of supplementation. Along with the use of supplementation and essential oils, you can certainly live off of a plant-based diet without significant compromise.
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