Busting the myths on plant-based diets
I’m sure you’ve heard about it or even follow it and are aware of all the amazing things it can do for your health. It’s said to improve immunity, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and is considered an effective tool in weight control.
That all sounds great, doesn’t it. Its that easy, all you must do is follow a plant-based diet and you will be healthier than ever.
Did you know that people who follow a plant-based diet incorrectly are more likely to be lacking important nutrients and have an increased risk of deficiencies in comparison with those who don’t follow the diet?
It’s true. So, let’s delve in deeper to plant-based diets and discover how to prevent this.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a diet which is primarily derived from vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, seeds and nuts with few or no animal products.
There are many nutrients which are important on a plant-based diet. Let’s now discuss which nutrients may be lacking in a plant-based diet and why this would be worrying.
A high protein intake is sometimes more difficult to achieve on a plant-based diet as plant sources of protein are usually of a lower quality and have a reduced bioavailability than animal protein. In simplest terms, plant protein is not absorbed as easily by the body as animal protein making it more difficult to achieve an adequate protein intake. Getting enough protein on a plant-based diet is easier than you think. By eating a wide variety of plant-based protein you will get all the essential amino acids that your body needs meaning protein can be used for growth of repair of muscles and tissues. Plant protein could even be considered better than animal protein in some ways as not only does it aid with growth and repair but it also provides plenty of nutrients, fibre and antioxidants to improve overall health.
5 amazing sources of plant-based protein:
Beans and lentils
A plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily make someone more prone to an iron deficiency, but it is still important to ensure that they have an iron-rich diet. Iron is essential in making haemoglobin which is a protein in red blood cells and is needed to help carry oxygen around the body.3 Iron is an essential nutrient with sources including tofu, leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, beans and seeds chickpeas, lentils and other pulses.
Top tip: Consuming vitamin C enhances non-haem (plant based) iron absorption as it stores it in a form that your body can absorb more easily.4 Ways to combine non-haem iron and vitamin C for maximum absorption.
Drizzling lemon juice over leafy green vegetables.
Add chia seeds and raisins to porridge and serve with a glass of orange juice.
Eat a kiwi fruit as a treat after a lentil curry.
Add red bell peppers to a tofu stir fry.
Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world which is why it’s so important to maximise absorption. Symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, pale skin, weakness and headaches. Anaemia is extremely common in females due to loss of blood through menstruation so having a high intake of iron is important for everyone but especially in females to prevent ill health making it hard to function in everyday life.
Vitamin B12 is arguably the nutrient which is most difficult to achieve the recommended amount. Plant-based diets do not naturally contain vitamin B12 as vitamin B12 is found in animal sources only. This nutrient is needed to form red blood cells and DNA while also playing an important role in the development and function of brain and nerve cells.
“Vitamin B12 is hard to achieve on a plant-based diet, so what happens if I don’t get enough of it?”
Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in megaloblastic anaemia which is a condition that causes red blood cells to become abnormal and enlarged. Symptoms of this include, aches and pains, pale skin, dizziness, smooth or tender togue and muscle weakness.5 “How do I stop myself from getting this deficiency?”
Well, this is difficult but by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as breakfast cereals it can help you get an adequate intake of this important nutrient.
Dairy is often thought of as the main source of calcium but there are many plant-based sources also. Calcium is important in a plant-based diet as it is important to build and maintain our bones and plays a role in blood pressure regulation and nerve transmission.6 Soy beans, kale, dark leafy green vegetables and blackcurrants are all relatively high in calcium and when eaten often can help prevent the calcium deficiency osteoporosis. Osteoporosis refers to bones which become weak and break which cannot be reversed which is why it’s essential that the body has a high intake of calcium to keep bones at their strongest to prevent this deficiency from occurring. Deciding what to eat on a plant-based diet is difficult so here are some simple, easy recipes to help get you started!
Plant based Breakfast Recipes
Quinoa breakfast parfait
½ cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup of nut milk of your choice
¼ cup plant-based yogurt
1 tsp nut butter
Handful of blueberries
1. Add your cooked quinoa with your chosen nut milk. Top your mixture with your chosen plant-based yogurt. Add blueberries and nut butter to your bowl and enjoy.
Healthy Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup fresh berries (optional)
½ ripe banana sliced (optional)
2 tbsp chopped nuts, such as walnuts and pecans
Maple syrup (optional)
Combine the oats and 1 ½ cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the cinnamon and salt. Top with berries, banana, nuts, and/or dried fruit, as you like. If desired, pour a little maple syrup on top. Serve hot.
Serves 1 2 tsp acai powder
Handful frozen berries
½ a very ripe banana, chopped
1 tsp coconut flakes
5 pineapple chunks
1 tbsp toasted oats
Put the acai powder, frozen berries, banana, and ice cubes into a powerful blender with 100ml water. Blitz until smooth, then pour into a bowl and add your choice of toppings.
Plant based Lunch Recipes
1 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 spring onions
½ tsp onion powder, garlic powder, baking soda
¼ tsp white pepper and black pepper.
Optional toppings: tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach
Combine chickpea flour, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, black pepper nutritional yeast and baking soda in a small bowl. Add 1 cup of water and still until the batter is smooth.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, pour the batter in the pan. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of spring onions and mushrooms (optional) into the batter for each omelette as it cooks. Flip the omelette. When the underside is browned, flip the omelette again and cook the other side for a minute.
Serve with any optional toppings you want.
Kimchi brown rice bowl
Serves 2-3 1 cup cooked brown rice ¼ cup kimchi
1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons
½ cup thinly sliced red cabbage
8 ounces marinated tempeh, baked or grilled
½ teaspoon sesame seeds
Lime slices, for serving
Assemble the bowls with rice, kimchi, cucumber, cabbage, avocado and tempeh
Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with lime slices.
Avocado, hummus and crudités
1 avocado, peeled and stoned
210g chickpeas, drained
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 lime, juiced
Handful coriander leaves
2 carrots, cut into strips
2 mixed peppers, cut into strips
160g sugar snap peas.
Blitz together the avocado, chickpeas, garlic, chilli flakes and lime juice and season to taste. Top the hummus with the coriander leaves and a few more chilli flakes, and serve with carrots, pepper and sugar snaps.
If you are following a plant based diet and want 1-1 nutrition support by world leading expert dietitians, we are here to help you! At Nutrition and Co, we have UK's leading online dietitians that are ready to support you!