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Plant based foods

Plant-based Eating

Plant-based diets have become increasingly popular over the last few years and Veganism is one of the fastest-growing food ‘trends’ in North America at the moment. People choose to become more plant-based in their eating for many reasons, some do it for ethical and environmental reasons and some for health reasons. Whatever the reason, if you are considering moving towards a more plant-based diet it is worth finding out some nutritional facts about what this way of eating could mean for your nutrient intake. The most common question I get asked on this subject is whether someone can get enough protein when following a plant-based diet. Read on for more information!

Plant Protein vs Animal-Based Protein:

Many people worry about whether they will get enough good quality protein if they decide to become vegan. Protein is an essential macronutrient, we break it down to form amino acids which are used as building blocks for all sorts of processes in the body, producing hormones, neurotransmitters in our brains and of course building and repairing tissue. Looking at the science, animal proteins are easier for our bodies to digest simply because we are more similar to animals than we are to plants. When you eat meat, fish or eggs your body knows exactly how to digest and use these proteins. Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, are a bit less digestible by humans and don’t always contain all the essential amino acids that humans need to thrive. However, that does not mean plant-based proteins are inferior, we just need to prepare them properly and eat the correct mix of them to get all the essential proteins we need. Plant foods also contain a whole list of other beneficial nutrients such as fiber, which you won’t find in an animal-based protein.

Top Plant-Based Protein Foods:

  • Quinoa – this superfood contains all the essential amino acids and is the perfect base for a plant-based meal. Simply serve with a load of your favourite roasted veggies and drizzle with a balsamic and olive oil dressing for a complete, nutritious meal.
  • Tempeh – this is a fermented soybean product; the fermentation process helps break down the lectins found in soy which can often make plant food less digestible.
  • Hemp seeds – these little powerhouses contain 9g of protein per serving and can easily be sprinkled onto your morning oatmeal or into veggie stews for a protein boost! A further bonus is that like quinoa, they also contain all the essential amino acids we need.
  • Lentils – they are legumes and offer around 18g of protein per serving. One of the best ways of enjoying these plant-based beauties is in a warming soup with carrot, ginger, and turmeric.
  • Black beans – ensure you soak them well before cooking or buy a canned brand that does this for you. Black beans contain two of the essential amino acids rarely found in plant foods so are a super addition to your plant-based eating plan. They work well cooked and served cold in a Mexican style salad or hot and spicy in veggie tacos.

Nutrients to Watch for while Plant-based:

  • Plant-based proteins almost never contain Vitamin B12, so it is really important for people eating vegan to take a high-quality B12 or B complex supplement. Vegetarians should also have their B12 status checked regularly and supplement if necessary. Nutritional yeast is an exception in that it is usually fortified with B12 but is also only usually consumed in small doses as a condiment so it won’t provide sufficient amounts.
  • Plant-based eaters are also likely to be missing out on the essential fats DHA and EPA found in oily fish. Some vegetarians are happy to take a fish oil supplement but if someone is strictly vegan then the options are more limited. There are supplements on the market that are made from algae and they provide small amounts of these fats but will not provide the same amount a fish oil would.

Whether we call ourselves plant-based vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian or omnivore, we should all be aiming to eat more plants in general. The largest part of any meal should be the vegetable section and we should include fruits and veggies every time we eat. The most important point to think about when considering whether to become more plant-based is whether it suits you and your body. Many people thrive on a vegan diet, others feel Paleo is a better fit. Your diet should be personal to you so take time to try new ways of eating and see what fits for you.

If you are curious to learn more, come and talk to us at RHC, as nutritionists, we are always happy to talk food!

All content found on this website was created for informational and general educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your primary care provider or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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