Plant-Based Vs Omnivore
This is the first of a 3-post series on plant-based “diets” and the diet industry. The remaining two will be online in the next 7 days and should give you a greater understanding of the diet, health, and wellness industry. This, in turn, will allow you to sort the relevant, authentic information from the irrelevant, generic messages underpinned by commercial intent.
The previous post outlined the difference between a plant-based diet in comparison to Veganism and a “vegan diet”, and how the confusion between the two allows wiggle room for heavily processed unhealthy products to appear under the plant-based or vegan banner as healthy. This post will outline the detail of what exactly the components of plant-based foods are that make it superior to animal-based and/or processed foods. After reading this, you should hopefully have a greater understanding of what makes whole plant foods the optimal human food and result in a positive influence on your dietary choices.
5 Key Components of Plant based foods
1. Macro Nutrients: Carbs, Protein, Fats
Macro nutrients are the three main nutritional components of a diet which are consumed in relatively large amounts (relative to the other components of a diet). A plant-based diet is naturally higher in carbohydrates, contains protein and lower amounts of fat, virtually all of which is unsaturated. The World Health Organisation, the largest, non-commercial health entity in existence, recommends a diet in the same macro – ratio: 55%-75% of calories from carbohydrates, 10%-15% of calories from Protein, and the remaining 10% from fat. The problem with this is that it directly contradicts the inaccurate popular dietary view of high protein or high fat and low carbohydrate view of diets. Animal products contain no carbohydrates and high levels of harmful saturated fat. People have also been led to believe that plant protein is inferior, and carbohydrates cause weight gain. These notions are not accurate and will be addressed in their own posts.
2. Micro Nutrients: Vitamins and Minerals
These are needed in relatively small amounts as the name suggests, but play a key role in the body producing enzymes, hormones and other substances important in overall health. Animal and processed products may contain some minerals such as iron or iodine but contain little or no vitamins. Some products are fortified after production with certain vitamins, but it is always best to consume these from a natural source.
Phytonutrients get their name from the Greek word for plant, Phyto. There is over 100,000 disease-preventing phytonutrients contained in plants (see video from nutritionfacts.org). Animal foods contain no phytonutrients, as they are utilised by the animal’s body the same way they would be utilised in a human body. Processed foods contain no phytonutrients, as they are destroyed in the processing of foods.
Your body is 70% water. Every organ, cell and tissue in your body needs water to function correctly. Water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, eliminates toxins through urine and lubricates bowel movements. Consuming fresh, ripe, high water content fruits in a raw uncooked state will also count towards your water consumption and will help to keep you hydrated. Animal products have virtually zero water content and can dehydrate your body as they are moved through the bowel.
Fibre is vegetable cell tissue. It has both soluble and insoluble elements. Insoluble fibre cannot be digested by the body, and so it passes through the digestive system intact, regulating bowel movements. It also helps one to feel full. Animal and processed foods contain NO Fibre at all. It is only found in plant foods.
Whole is greater than the Sum of its parts
The 5 key elements of plant-based foods above all carry equal importance, despite societies obsession over individual specifics, such as protein. However, it is not just a checklist of ingredients to qualify as a health food or not. If you gathered these elements together yourself in the form of supplements, filtered water, and fibre left over from making juice, you could not recreate the synergistic effects of these elements working together within your body in a countless number of biochemical reactions. It is the “highly integrated, interactive, even symphonic effect produced by countless food chemicals that maintain health and prevent disease.” T. Colin Campbell, 2009.
Any man-made attempt to recreate this integrated, interactive effect will simply be inferior to the complexity of the whole fruit, vegetable, nut, seed or legume. Chemically processed foods only entered the main food supply around 1910 when we began to chemically reproduce flavours; we are far behind the 700 million years plant life has been crafted by evolution on earth.
Key take away:
Whole plant based foods contain macronutrients, micronutrients and phytonutrients, along with water and fibre. These elements, and how they work together within the body to promote health and fight disease are all vital for human beings. Whole plant foods contain all the equally important elements above in the correct quantities for human health. Animal foods contain no water, fibre, phytonutrients, and only trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. Whole plant foods are therefore superior to animal products as a food source for optimal human health.
The Whole is greater than the Sum of its Parts