Plant-Based Eating and Organic FAQs: Key Questions Answered
It wouldn’t be untrue to call plant-based eating a ‘trend’ - even if the label doesn’t apply in the traditional sense. As awareness of the benefits of going plant-based and buying vegan becomes more widespread on a global basis, millions are making the effort to reduce their intake of animal products.
In this instance, we’re therefore talking about a trend that could lead to permanent change. Not the kind of flash-in-the-pan fad that disappears just as quickly as it emerged in the first place.
Understandably, those moving away from animal products (or planning to do so) often have countless questions as to what they can expect. From nutrient intake to the health benefits of plant-based living to whether or not it really makes a difference, it’s natural to be the curious about how it all works.
In the FAQ below, we’ve provided summarised answers to a selection of important questions on plant-based eating, organic products and related issues:
Q. What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
Contrary to popular belief, plant-based eating is not the same as veganism. Nor does the following a plant-based lifestyle mean you have to become a committed vegetarian.
The term ‘plant-based’ simply means that you have made the conscientious decision to reduce, minimise or eliminate meat and animal products from your diet. You do not necessarily have to cut out animal-derived foods entirely - a plant-based diet simply means that the majority of the foods you eat contain no animal products at all.
A partially plant-based lifestyle can often be far more accessible and less intimidating for those who cannot realistically see themselves eliminating animal products entirely.
Q. Why Should I Go Plant-Based If I’m Already Healthy?
Switching to a plant-based diet isn’t exclusively about feeling ‘better’ in the short term. Research suggests that those who follow a predominantly plant-based lifestyle are significantly less likely to develop certain types of dangerous and deadly diseases.
Several types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes - just a few of the diseases vegans and vegetarians are statistically less likely to develop.
This therefore means that even if you are feeling fantastic today, going plant-based could help you safeguard your health and wellbeing for the future. It is also one of the few lifestyle changes experts believe could be beneficial for the vast majority of people - not just a select few individuals.
Q. Is There A Difference Between A Plant-Based Diet And A Vegan Diet?
Yes, and a very big difference too! As outlined above, you can technically follow a predominantly plant-based lifestyle and still consume animal products. If you adopt a vegan lifestyle, you completely eliminate the consumption of all animal products without exception.
Different people define ‘plant-based’ in different ways, but the term nonetheless refers to any lifestyle where the consumption of animal-based products is deliberately and conscientiously minimised.
Q. Does Exclusively Eating Plants Mean Always Being Hungry?
One of the most widespread assumptions regarding veganism is that to eat nothing but plants makes it almost impossible to feel genuinely full. This stems from the fact that vegetables are typically seen as an ‘accompaniment’ by meat eaters - not the main component of a dish in their own right.
In reality, vegan dishes that contain no animal products whatsoever can be just as satisfying as any carnivorous dish. In addition, the fact that you’re consuming greater quantities of dietary fibre, key vitamins and nutrients in general means you’re more likely to stay full for longer. One of several reasons why healthy weight loss and weight management are often easier for those who follow plant-based lifestyles.
Q. Is A Vegan Lifestyle Suitable For All Age Groups?
There’s much debate as to whether excluding meat and dairy products entirely can benefit all people of all ages, without exception. Some will tell you that certain age groups only should consider going vegan, while others say it’s perfectly fine for kids, teenagers, adults and seniors alike.
Truth is, only your doctor (or a suitably qualified nutritionist) can provide you with the advice you need on matters like these. Under no circumstances should any drastic lifestyle changes be made, without first consulting with an expert. This counts double for anyone with pre-existing health conditions and those who are taking any kind of medication - consult with your doctor before altering your lifestyle.
Q. Will I Definitely Lose Weight If I Eliminate Animal Products?
No, but you stand a much better chance of doing so, if it is your goal. Statistically, people who follow plant-based lifestyles are more likely to have a lower BMI than those who eat more conventional diets. In addition, research also suggests that those who switch to vegan or vegetarian diets subsequently find it easier to lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.
However, plant-based products are not always healthier by design. Just because something does not contain any animal products doesn’t mean it cannot be ludicrously high in calories, sugar, fat and all manner of weird and wonderful chemicals.
Q. Does Plant-Based Eating Mean Going Exclusively Organic?
Not at all - it is entirely up to you whether you stick with organic produce, or also include conventionally grown products in your diet. The potential benefits of organic products are well documented, but this does not necessarily mean that all non-organic products are hazardous to your health.
Whether or not you go organic is down to your own personal preferences and priorities. There are plenty of non-organic products on the market that are just as safe and delicious as their organic counterparts. Just as some organic products are no better than non-organic alternatives, just because they carry the ‘organic’ label.
Q. Is It True That Eating A Plant-Based Diet Is More Expensive?
It depends entirely on your shopping habits - any dietary regime can be expensive, if you allow it to be. If you eat a mixed diet, you could spend a small fortune on all the most expensive organic cuts of meat, luxurious seafood and artisan cheeses with eye-watering price tags. Just as with veganism and vegetarianism, you could set your sights on all the most needlessly-overpriced products on the shelves, simply for the sake of doing so.
By contrast, shop more strategically for what’s in season at the time and eating more plant-based products can actually save you a small fortune. Plant-based convenience food has a tendency to be notoriously expensive, but is generally best avoided anyway. If you thought the plant-based world was devoid of artificial ingredients and synthetic additives, think again!
Q. Does Only Eating Plants Not Become Boring After A While?
Most people who transition to a plant-based lifestyle actually find the opposite to be the case. This is due to the fact that when you exclude animal products from your diet, you find yourself in a position where you’ve no choice but to get creative and experimental in the kitchen.
You also suddenly find yourself dealing with a long list of ingredients and staples you probably didn’t bother with before. You discover a world of incredible plant-based cuisines from other countries, you learn how so many different things can be used as meat substitutes and you become even more adventurous than before. Plant-based eating may be a lot of things - bland and boring it most certainly is not.
Q. Will I Need To Take Vitamin And Mineral Supplements Every Day?
It depends entirely on your eating habits, but the same nonetheless applies with all other dietary preferences. The elimination of meat and animal products from your diet simply means that you need to get the key nutrients you need from other sources. Calcium, iron, protein, Vitamin B12 and so on - all readily available in a wide variety of plant-based products and ingredients.
Therefore, you will only need to resort to supplementation if you are not getting enough of any of these in your daily diet. Vegans and vegetarians are advised by nutritionists to monitor their nutrient intake, in order to assess whether or not supplementation could be beneficial.
Q. I’m Interested, But What’s The Best Way To Get Started?
By far, the best way to get into the plant-based way of living is to make the decision to start right now. Not to immediately eliminate all animal products from this moment, but to instead gradually remove them from your daily eating habits.
Instead of just doing a meat-free Monday, consider doing the same each Wednesday and Friday. You can then expand this into Sunday, while reducing the animal products you consume on the other days to the bear minimum. Soon enough, you will find yourself in a position where you neither need meat to keep yourself satisfied, not miss it as an everyday ingredient.