Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Katherine Livingstone, Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University

Plant-based diets are often shown to be good for health. Yet Australians eat a lot of meat and are sometimes reluctant to completely cut meat from their diet. So it’s important to know that eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean becoming a vegetarian.

Plant-based diets are high in vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals, legumes and whole fruits, yet can still contain small amounts of lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products.

A survey of Australians found most (70%) thought a plant-based diet would prevent disease. But what does the literature say? And is meat really bad for you?

Health benefits of plants

Plants are rich sources of many nutrients that are important for good health, including unsaturated fats, vitamins (such as folate), minerals (such as potassium), fibre and protein.

Eating a plant-based diet has been linked to lower risk of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammation and cancer.

A recent study that followed more than 200,000 US adults for more than 20 years found that eating a diet high in plant foods and low in animal foods was associated with a 20% lower risk of diabetes compared with individuals eating a diet low in plant foods.

Well known variations to plant-based diets include the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. These dietary approaches are known as dietary patterns as they focus on the overall diet rather than single foods. Rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and reduced-fat dairy products, these dietary patterns have been linked to lower risk of obesity and chronic disease.

Is the processing of plant foods important?

Processing can remove many of the nutritious benefits of plant foods and can often result in the addition of salt and sugar. For example, whole foods, such as an orange and wholemeal bread, retain more beneficial fibre than processed alternatives, such as fruit juice and white bread.

But not all processing is necessarily bad. For example, frozen and canned vegetables can be useful additions to the diet, just check the labels to see what has been added during processing.

Is meat bad for you?

Meat is a rich source of beneficial nutrients, such as protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. But red meat can also contain high amounts of saturated fat and processed meats can be high in sodium.

Eating red and processed meats, such as burgers and hotdogs, has been linked to higher risk of cancer, heart disease and death. In contrast, white meat intake, such as chicken and fish, has been linked to lower risk.

Cancer: Evidence is convincing for a link between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer. A review of available evidence, known as a meta-analysis, showed that colorectal cancer risk was 14% higher for every 100g of red and processed meat (about a large beef steak) eaten per day.

Heart disease and type 2 diabetes: Evidence mostly points towards higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes with higher processed meat intake.

A meta-analysis showed that each 50g daily serving of processed meat (about one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog) was linked with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.

Early death: Evidence generally points towards higher risk of death with higher red and processed meat intake. A recent study that followed more than 500,000 US adults over 16 years showed that risk of all-cause death was 26% higher with greater processed and unprocessed red meat intake. When red meat was substituted for unprocessed white meat, risk of all-cause death was 25% lower.

image There’s evidence that red and processed meats increase risk of cancer and heart disease. from www.shutterstock.com

What should we be eating?

Eating a variety of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Although high intakes of red and processed meats may increase risk of major diseases, a healthy, balanced, plant-based diet can still include small amounts of lean meat trimmed of visible fat (particularly unprocessed white meat) and reduced-fat dairy products.

Eating a plant-based diet is in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines to promote health and well-being.

Australians are recommended to eat a wide variety of foods from the five core food groups (fruit, vegetables, cereals, lean meat and/or their alternatives and reduced-fat dairy products and/or their alternatives), to choose lean, reduced-fat meats and dairy products and to limit processed meats.

Top five tips for achieving a plant-based diet:

  • try some meat-free meals each week - include alternatives such as eggs, beans and tofu.
  • replace some of the meat with legumes - for example only add half the amount of beef and top up with chickpeas.
  • choose wholegrain cereals more often than white varieties - such as wholemeal bread and pasta.
  • eat a variety of colours of fresh vegetables and fruits and buy fresh produce in season.
  • canned and frozen vegetables are nutritious too - choose options low in salt and sugar.

Authors: Katherine Livingstone, Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-you-should-eat-a-plant-based-diet-but-that-doesnt-mean-being-a-vegetarian-78470

My Fair Lady: Greatest Musical of the 20th Century

arrow_forward

How to Turn 1Z0-931 Exam Preparation into Successful Career

arrow_forward

The Ultimate Guide for Tarps

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?   PRI...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison interview with Neil Mitchell

NEIL MITCHELL: Prime minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, how are you?   MICHELL: I’m okay, a bit to get to I apologise, we haven't spoken for a while and I want to get t...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham

PRIME MINISTER: I've always found that this issue on funerals has been the hardest decision that was taken and the most heartbreaking and of all the letters and, you know, there's been over 100...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

SEO In A Time of COVID-19: A Life-Saver

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a lot of uncertainty for everyone across the world. It has had one of the most devastating impacts on the day-to-day lives of many including business o...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

5 Ways Risk Management Software Can Help Your Business

No business is averse to risks. Nobody can predict the future or even plan what direction a business is going to take with 100% accuracy. For this reason, to avoid issues or minimise risks, some for...

News Company - avatar News Company

5 Ways To Deal With Unemployment and Get Back Into the Workforce

Being unemployed has a number of challenges and they’re not all financial. It can affect you psychologically and sometimes it can be difficult to dig your way out of a rut when you don’t have a job ...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion