What Exactly Is A Plant-based Diet, And Why Is Eating Plant-based So Beneficial?


Vegan Meal: Hasselback Japanese Sweet Potato, Chimichurri Brussels Sprouts, Quinoa + Sweet Potato, Green Salad
Vegan Meal: Hasselback Japanese Sweet Potato, Chimichurri Brussels Sprouts, Quinoa + Sweet Potato, Green Salad

Shifting to a plant-based or more plant-rich diet is growing in popularity in the mainstream for a variety of reasons. Retail sales of plant-based foods in the U.S. grew 6.2% in 2021 over a booming year of growth in 2020. Currently, the plant-based market value is $7.4 billion - an all-time high!


But what, exactly, is a plant-based diet? And why is eating plant-based so beneficial? Let’s explore that. If you're curious about making the switch to a plant-based diet, this post is a great place to start! These questions will be answered:

  • Why are more people switching to a plant-based diet?

  • What is a plant-based diet versus a plant-rich diet and veganism?

  • What are the benefits of a plant-based diet?

  • What can you eat on a plant-based diet?

  • How can I make the switch to a plant-based diet?

Let's begin shall we.


Why are more people switching to a plant-based diet?


It’s an exciting time where plants are popular! There are many reasons why more people are switching to a plant-based diet. Here are some common reasons.


Climate crisis and the environment

As the climate crisis worsens and ecosystems are in a state of collapse, more and more people are becoming conscious of how their diet and food choices have an impact on climate change and the environment.


According to the FAO, total emissions from global livestock represents 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.


Slaughterhouses are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S. In 2019, more than 28 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus from slaughterhouses was released into our country's streams and rivers. One of the results of this water pollution is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico near the foot of the Mississippi river that's the size of the state of New Jersey.


Beef by far has the largest carbon footprint of all foods with emissions equivalent to coal, and is a leading cause of deforestation, water usage, water and air pollution, species extinction, and combined with other meats is contributing to antibiotic resistance which WHO has declared one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.


Chart Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Food Across the Supply Chain

Healthiness

For some, making the switch to a plant-based diet is about improving their health.

Plant-based diets are associated with lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Consuming a diversity of plants also helps your gut microbiome be strong and healthy.


Plant-based foods high in protein have no cholesterol, and contain fiber which meats do not have. Fewer than 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. are consuming the daily recommendations for fiber intake. Eating a plant-based diet easily fixes this issue.


Ethical

For still others, moving to a plant-based diet is about ethical reasons concerning the treatment of animals recognizing that animals are fellow sentient beings as well.


Those who switch to a plant-based diet for ethical reasons no longer want to contribute to the suffering and exploitation of animals. Choosing a plant-based diet supports animal welfare and justice.


Justice for All

Personally, I went vegan for justice for all: social, racial, economic, environmental, and animal justice. When you go plant-based, there is an intersection of issues you no longer contribute to with this one change.


What drove the decision for me to go vegan not just plant-based was the eye opening experience of learning more about the factory farm system, and what I was contributing to through my consumption and purchasing of animal-based foods.


Some issues I had not been aware of included environmental racism, and the lives of slaughterhouse and meatpacking workers who are predominately people of color and the level of exploitation and horrors they experience in their job. "Racism is the meat industry’s primary source of wealth and power" - a quote from this article written by Jamie Berger, a farmed animal protection advocate. Please read this incredibly eye opening piece.


To top it off, there is the greed of the meat oligarchy and the amount of money Big Meat spends on lobbying influencing politicians and policy to maximize their profits and maintain virtual monopolies destroying small family farms. Four corporations control the entire U.S. meat industry.


Whatever the reason, climate change and the environment, healthiness, ethical, or justice for all, there are plenty of benefits to be gained from eating more plants!


What is a plant-based diet versus a plant-rich diet and veganism?


Meal: Mushroom Asparagus Tart, Vegan Ham, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Kale + Spinach Laing, Christmas Beans
Meal: Mushroom Asparagus Tart, Vegan Ham, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Kale + Spinach Laing, Christmas Beans

A plant-based diet consists of foods derived from plants.


Unlike omnivorous diets, which include meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and honey, or a vegetarian diet which excludes meat and seafood but includes eggs, dairy products, and honey, a plant-based diet excludes all animal-derived foods.


A plant-rich diet consists primarily of foods derived from plants with occasional or minimal eating of meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and honey, sometimes excluding some of these foods. The emphasis is eating predominately plants. Examples of plant-rich diets include flexitarian, vegetarian, pescatarian, the Blue Zone diet, and the Mediterranean diet.


Veganism is not a diet, but a worldview and lifestyle based on the ethical belief that animals are fellow sentient beings not to be harmed or exploited by humans.


Vegans do eat a plant-based diet but go further and abstain from all products or services where animals are used which includes makeup, fashion, accessories, furniture, home goods, vehicles with leather interiors, zoos, circus, water parks, rodeos, or any product or service where testing is done on animals or animals are being exploited.


What are the benefits of a plant-based diet?


Plant-based diets offer a wealth of benefits that extend far beyond the plate. With one change, you reap benefits on multiple levels.


From minimizing your carbon and eco footprint to protecting the environment, a plant-based diet is a delicious and impactful way way to live in harmony with the planet and fellow non-human sentient beings while having a profound impact on your health. Animals get to live, and simultaneously we end the exploitation of workers who do the horrifying jobs of slaughtering and processing millions of killed animals per year.


Research has shown that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer helping us live longer and healthier lives. There is no cholesterol in plant-based foods, and a plant-based diet is lower in saturated fat than animal-based diets, making them both a healthier and more sustainable option.


With so many advantages to plant-based eating, it's no wonder more and more people are making the switch!


What can you eat on a plant-based diet?


Vegan Filipino Meal on Plate: Adobo Jackfruit, Veggie Pancit, Veggie Lumpia, Garlic Rice
Vegan Filipino Meal: Adobo Jackfruit, Veggie Pancit, Veggie Lumpia, Garlic Rice

A plant-based diet consists of consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Avoid the mistake I made underestimating the possibilities of plants. The variety available is vast!


Pre-vegan, I was concerned about missing out, especially some of my favorite Filipino foods made by my mom and titas. Thankfully, I discovered that I had more food options not less. Trying new foods was fun and became an enjoyable adventure. It still is years after I went vegan in June of 2018.


The innovation in plant-based foods has gotten to the point where almost all animal-based foods like meat, seafood, dairy products and honey have a plant-based version on the market now with new food products coming out quarterly. No need to worry of FOMO.


Here's a delicious example. OmniFoods has a plant-based OmniPork luncheon meat that tastes so much like SPAM that when I had my Filipino immigrant parents try it, they both legit thought it was SPAM.


Vegan Filipino Spamsilog breakfast With Tofu scramble, garlic fried rice and fried plant-based SPAM
Vegan Filipino Spamsilog With Tofu scramble, garlic fried rice and fried plant-based SPAM-like luncheon meat

It's now possible for me to create a plant-based version of a Filipino Spamsilog breakfast which consists of a tofu "egg" scramble, garlic fried rice, and fried SPAM-like plant-based luncheon meat with the benefit of no cholesterol, lower saturated fat, and lower sodium with a carbon and eco footprint much lower than pork.


For the egg scramble, instead of tofu, there are plant-based liquid egg products to make scrambles like Just Egg, Simply Eggless Egg and Nabati Plant Eggz.


For optimal healthiness, eat mostly whole, plant-based foods like this meal packed with protein and fiber consisting of red Pinquito beans with tempeh bacon, grilled Shishito peppers, dirty rice, and a chopped kale and carrot salad.


Meal: Pinquito beans with tempeh bacon, Shishito peppers, dirty rice, kale + carrot salad
Meal: Pinquito beans with tempeh bacon, Shishito peppers, dirty rice, kale + carrot salad

Personally, my diet is about 80% whole foods, and 20% whatever I want to eat which typically includes plant-based meats like the vegan OmniFoods luncheon meat, vegan cheese, and yes junk foods. I don’t do deprivation. The junk foods like donuts, chips, ice cream, cookies are kept to a minimum and occasionally.


Vegan Ube Cinnamon Twist Bread Slice
Vegan Ube Cinnamon Twist Bread

Vegan desserts are amazing and should be enjoyed! This vegan Ube Cinnamon Twist Bread is one of the most popular desserts with my family. No one has any idea it's vegan nor do they care. All they know is that this sweet bread is very delicious and they look forward to the next time I make it.