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The power of a plant-based diet

by Tradeling editorial team

One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health is to incorporate more plant-based food into your daily diet. Here’s a guide to meat-free products that are packed with protein and nutrients. And, if you are considering ditching meat in favour of a plant-based approach, there are other factors worth considering that go way beyond health benefits. 

Why have plant-based diets become so popular?

Plant-based food has been increasingly gaining popularity in recent years, and more so in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. As the world becomes more conscious of the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet, there is an increased demand for meat-free options that are rich in protein and other nutrients. 

Following a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes helps maintain a healthy lifestyle as it is full of fibre, packed with vitamins and minerals, free from cholesterol and low in calories and saturated fat. 

If that is not enough to convince you, research has long shown that plant-based diets lower rates of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Fruits and vegetables add nutrients to your diet that help protect you from heart disease, stroke and some cancers. In addition, choosing vegetables, fruits, nuts and other produce over high-calorie foods can help you manage your weight.”

Vegan, vegetarian, pescaterian… What’s in a name? 

People that follow vegan or vegetarian diets tend to have lower blood pressure than non-vegetarian. But, before you start scratching your head about how to go about it, there are a few things to take into consideration. First, how do you label your new diet? There are various types of plant-based diets, depending on your personal preference. 

A vegetarian diet includes no meat. The majority of vegetarians eat lacto-ovo diet, meaning they eat animal by-products like eggs and dairy. A pescatarian diet includes fish, while a vegan diet excludes meat and all animal products. You can also opt to be a flexitarian diet, which includes dairy and eggs, and even allows you to throw in the occasional bit of meat, poultry, fish and seafood. The choice is yours.  

What products are good alternatives to meat and what is their
nutritional value?

The most important thing is to ensure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs. For those worried about their protein intake, there are many plant-based foods that are packed with nutrients. 

These products are good alternatives to meat.

-Quinoa 
(contains all the nine essential amino acids that humans need)

-Lentils 
(a good source of protein, fibre, iron, potassium)

-Chickpeas
(boast high levels of iron, zinc, folate, phosphorous and B vitamins)

-Peas
(contains vitamin A, C, K, folate, iron)

-Kidney beans
(can help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and therefore reduce blood sugar levels) 

-Peanuts
(rich in monounsaturated fat content, vitamin E, protein and folate) 

-Almonds
(a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and potassium)

-Chia seeds
(packed with nutrients including Omega-3 fatty acids, and loaded with antioxidants)

-Beans and legumes
(excellent source of dietary fibre, minerals and B vitamins)

-Spirulina 
(loaded with vitamin A, C, E and B vitamins as well as calcium, zinc, magnesium, zinc and selenium)

Protein-rich vegetables

-Broccoli
(contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium and magnesium as well as vitamins A, C, E, K and folic acid)

-Kale
(full of antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, contains vitamin C and K)

-Spinach 
(high in vitamin A, C, K, calcium, magnesium, potassium and folate)

-Asparagus 
(a good source of antioxidants loaded with vitamin A, C, K, folate, zin)

Soy products

-Tofu
(a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids)

-Edamame

(a good source of protein, fibre, antioxidants and vitamin K)

-Tempeh
(protein-rich, high in B12 and contains all nine essential amino acids)

In recent years, plant-based food manufacturers have been making significant headway in making their products look and taste like meat. Beyond Burger, for example, looks and feels like a traditional beef burger yet it contains zero meat, eggs, dairy or animal by-products. It looks like a burger, tastes like a burger and is packed full of protein.  What’s more, it is gluten free, contains no nuts and is GMO-free. 

The Environmental Factor, an impact to consider 

Switching to a plant-based approach has other advantages too. Opting for a meat-free diet based on fruit, vegetables and grains is good for the environment. It reduces water and land use, lowers pollution and slows deforestation. So, not only are you helping your body, you are helping protect the environment. 

The agricultural industry accounts for a staggering 70 per cent of fresh water. And in a world where water scarcity is a growing concern, the human race needs to act quick. According to the United Nations, water scarcity affects every continent in the world with more than 1.2 billion people living in areas of physical scarcity.  In a 2019 report, the UN says that if more people reduce their animal intake and shift towards a plant-based diet then it could significantly boost the world’s ability to combat climate change. “Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission system, present major opportunities for adaption to and limiting climate change,” says Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group 

So why not kill two birds with one stone? That way, you can help lower your BMI, live a healthier life and help save the world at the same time. 

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