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Plant-Based Eating: 6 Myths & 6 Truths You Should Know

jo leon

Plant-Based Eating - (Image Credit: Shutterstock); Author picture - (Image Credit: Author)

Most likely we’ve all heard about this not so new way of life that is eating plant-based. But what is it exactly? Read further to discover 6 myths & 6 truths you should know about switching to a plant-based diet consisting of whole foods.

What is Whole food?

whole-food

Whole Food can be defined as unrefined, unprocessed (or minimally refined or processed) food such as fruit, vegetables, seeds, beans, nuts, and legumes.

Whole Foods or minimally refined/processed foods retain their fiber while refined foods lose the majority of their nutrients during processing. Similarly, plant-based foods come from plants and do not contain any animal based ingredients such as milk, honey, eggs, or meat.

Therefore, a plant based, whole food diet consists of fruits, veggies, tubers (such as potatoes, beets, carrots), whole grains, and legumes. Not to mention options including plant-based milk, whole grain flour, breads, tofu, and tempeh.

Plant-Based Eating: Making the Switch

It isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Relearning how to shop for food and prepare meals when making the switch can be intimidating but it is like learning anything new. Start small.

Add and/or eliminate one thing at a time and build from there. Most importantly, do your research. Continue reading to start by learning 6 Myths and 6 truths about plant based eating supported by medical and scientific references.

Plant-Based Eating: 6 Myths & 6 Truths You Should Know

6 Myths:

  • Plant-based foods can contribute to low energy, loss in muscle mass, and weaker bones. Myth! In fact, plant foods actually contribute to very high bone mineral density. While different food sources give different levels of strontium (mineral Sr) in the bones, high strontium levels are found in vegetarians while low strontium levels are found in carnivores. Ref: Dr. Fabian Kanz, Forensic Pathologist, Medical University of Vienna
  • You need meat for protein. Myth! Plant-based sources of protein are beneficial for your health and for the planet. Plants offer plenty of options to mix and match in order to obtain the recommended amounts for a healthy diet.

  • Plant protein is inferior to animal protein. Myth! As a matter of fact, every plant contains all of the essential amino acids in varying proportions. Ref[4]: Am J Clin Nutr 59 (5 Suppl) 1203S, 128. Circulation 105 (25)e97.
  • Early humans (Cavemen) had a diet consisting primarily of meat. Myth! Ref: Dr. Richard Wrangham, Chair of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University. Instead, tools, bones, and teeth of our early ancestors indicate they are mostly plants. Ref: Max Planck Institute
  • Because your body is capable of storing several years’ worth of vitamin B-12, deficiency is rare. However, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might be prone to deficiency because plant foods don’t contain vitamin B-12. Myth!…Partially.

  • Animal based foods have more antioxidants than plant based foods. Myth! In reality, plants have on average 64 times the antioxidant content of animal foods. Ref[5]: Nutr J, 9:3.

>More on B12

vitamin-B12

Food sources of vitamin B-12 include poultry, meat, fish and dairy products. B12 is ingested by animals when they consume soil and water. Ref[6]: NCBI. MeSH.B12. It is important to realize pesticides, antibiotics and chlorine now kill the bacteria that produce this vitamin therefore even animals are now given B12 supplements [1]. The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms [2]. While B12 is found in animal products, supplements can help plant based dieters obtain this vitamin normally obtained from soil.

6 Truths:

protein

    The best way for people, including meat-eaters, to get enough B12 is by taking a supplement. True! 39% of people tested, including meat eaters are low in B12. Ref[7]: Am J Clin Nutr. 71(2):514-22

  • All protein originates from plants. True! The animals are the middlemen. However, even meat eaters get more than 1/2 of their protein from plants [3].
  • 1 c of cooked lentils or a peanut butter sandwich has as much protein as 3 ounces of beef or 3 large eggs. True! Ref[9]: USDA FED

  • Animal-based meals impair blood flow. True! Endothelial function or regulation of blood flow throughout the body is impaired when animal products are consumed. In particular, sources of animal based protein and fat have an immense impact on endothelial function that lasts for 6-7 hours after you eat. Robert Vogel, MD – Co Chair NFL Cardiovascular Health Subcommittee. Moreover, plants actually improve endothelial function based on studies Ref[10]: (JAMA. 298(1):49-60. IntJ Food Sci Nutr. 64(8):968-92. Hypertension. 46(2):398-405. Heart. 92(1):19-20 & Heart. 901(12):1485-6.

  • Switching to a plant based diet can help reduce measures of inflammation. True! As has been noted, by 29% actually in just 3 weeks. Ref[11]: Complement Ther Med, 23(1) 32-7.

  • Iceberg lettuce had more antioxidants than salmon or eggs. True! Ref[12]: Nutr J, 9:3.

  • People who consume all of their protein from plants, reduce their risk of heart disease by 55%. True! Ref[13]: Nutrients. 6(6): 2131-47. Human beings cannot make Vitamin C which is derived from plants. True! Ref: Dr. Christina Warner, Archaeological Geneticist, Max Planck Institute

Plant-Based Eating: How Did We Come Away From It?

In the 1800s, a hypothesis by German chemist Justus Von Liebig that muscular energy came from animal protein and that vegetarians were incapable of prolonged exercise was so widely accepted the USDA based its protein recommendation on this idea. Unfortunately, by the time the theory was proven false and it was proven that hard-working muscles primarily function on carbohydrates derived from plants, the masses had already adopted the idea as fact.

Comparatively, when considering plant protein versus animal protein, which package is going to help the body overcome inflammation and help the body to recover? You guessed it! Plant based protein. Packaged with antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins it reduces inflammation, optimizes the microbiome, blood supply, and optimizes the body’s performance. Ref[8]: Dr. Scott Stoll, USA Bobsled Federation, former Olympian and Team Physician for USA Olympic Team

Other Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

healthy-salad

According to Dr. Scott Stoll, USA Bobsled Federation, former Olympian and Team Physician for USA Olympic Team, a whole food plant based diet will optimize the growth of blood vessels into damaged tissue, help produce new tissue in tendons and muscles and stimulate the immune system. Additionally, research by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr, Director, Heart Disease Reversal Program, Cleveland Clinic found that in western civilization, the food people eat daily makes coronary artery heart disease the most common.

The biological mechanisms that affect performance, such as chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial function, also affect our health. Uniquely, a plant-based diet has been shown to reverse heart disease.

As can be seen, what we eat has a major impact on our health and wellbeing in every measurable way. A diet high in animal protein increases the risk of premature death from all causes and a significant increase in the risk of death from most forms of cancer as well as Type II diabetes. Ref: Dr. Dean Ornish, Founder Preventative Medicine Research Institute

Fun Facts:

Are you thinking meat must be a part of your diet for strength and endurance? Think again!

Athletes on plant-based diets that might surprise you:

1908 Emil Voigt, Olympic Gold Medal – 5 Mile Race

1920-1928 Pavo Nurmi, 9 Olympic Gold Medals

1956-1960 Murray Rose, 4 Olympic Gold Medals

1976-1984, Edwin Moses, 2 Olympic Gold Medals

1984-1996 Carl Lewis, 9 Olympic Gold Medals

2012 Dotsie Baush, 8 time USA National cycling champion, 2 time Pan-American Gold Medalist

2012 & 2016 Olympic Games, Kendrick James Ferris Pan-Am game-winner

Patrik Baboumian, World-Record Holding Strong Man (Guinness World Records)

2016 Nate Diaz, UFC Welterweight Champion

2016 Morgan Mitchell, 2-time Australian 400-meter champion

Bryant Jennings, Boxing Heavyweight Title Contender (HBO Boxing)

Lucious Smith, Former Cornerback, NFL & Strength and Conditioning Coach

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bodybuilder/Actor/Governor

Nimai Delgado, Natural Pro Body Builder

Mischa Janiec, Natural Pro Body Builder

Film Citation for the following: Ref: Cameron, J., Schwarzenegger, A., Chan, J., Hamilton, L., Djokovic, N., & Paul, C. (Producers), Psihoyos, L. (Director), 2018. The Game Changers. USA.

Dr. Fabian Kanz, Forensic Pathologist, Medical University of Vienna

Max Planck Institute

Dr. James Loomis, Former Team Physician, St. Louis Rams/Cardinals

Dr. Christina Warner, Archaeological Geneticist, Max Planck Institute 

Robert Vogel, MD – Co Chair NFL Cardiovascular Health Subcommittee

Dr. Richard Wrangham, Chair of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The content on our website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or therapy. You should NEVER disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment due to something you have read on our website and we will not be held responsible for any adverse health condition or injury that occurs as a result of doing so.
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Jo Leon

Health & Wellness Writer

Jo Leon Health & Wellness Writer, Blogger Jo Leon is a writer, health & wellness blogger @thejoleon.co...

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