Is plant-based better?

One of the main misconceptions about a plant-based diet is that it involves completely giving up meat or animal products. In reality, it focuses on eating mostly plants. This type of diet is good for both your body and the environment, and there are many different types of plant-based diets. For example, plant-based eaters eat mostly (around 90 per cent) plants but may also include dairy, eggs, meat and seafood. Vegetarians eat plants, dairy and eggs but no meat, poultry or seafood. Lacto-vegetarians eat only plants and dairy. Ovo-vegetarians eat only plants and eggs; pescatarians eat plants and seafood. Vegans only eat plants and no animal products.

Evidence shows that the health benefits of a plant-based diet outweigh those of a meat-based diet. Even just reducing your meat intake can help you receive these benefits, so you don’t have to eliminate all seafood, poultry and meat from your diet if you don’t want to.

Some of the health benefits of plant-based eating include lowering the risks of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes; boosting your heart health; improving athletic performance; reducing cravings for junk food; and even reducing the levels of greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Many of these health benefits are due to the balance of macromolecules in a plant-based diet, namely carbohydrates (unrefined versus refined), fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated versus saturated and trans) and proteins (plant versus animal). Whole plant foods are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote gut and brain health.

However, not all plant-based foods are healthy. Eating nothing but potato chips is not the ideal way to fuel your body. Unhealthy plant-based foods, such as sugary fruit juices or deep-fried anything, can actually increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. A balanced plant-based diet can require vitamin B12 supplements (as it is not naturally found in any plant products) and iron from fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits or beans.

Students can be deterred from plant-based eating due to potentially higher price tags but that doesn’t have to be the case. Things like dried beans, lentils, quinoa and even spinach and kale can be bought in bulk. In the long run, this type of diet can actually save you money compared to a meat-heavy diet.

If you have any questions, would like to learn more or want to let me know what you want to see discussed in this column next week, feel free to email me at healthintern@mta.ca. You can also email wellness@mta.ca to book any appointments at the Wellness Centre. Be sure to download the Campus WELL app for more interesting articles like this and the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! As always, stay happy and healthy!

Rachel McDougall
Rachel McDougall is a contributor to the Argosy.