There are food fads and in-trend diets, and then there are food revolutions that change the way people think about nutrition and what they eat. In 2019, there has been a huge rise in the number of people following a plant-based diet, while vegetarianism is on the up too. In the US, vegetarianism has increased by 60% in the last three years, with other countries, including meat-loving Asia, creating the same green-food movement. In recent years, the Bangkok dining and food delivery scene have exploded and in the mix are many clean-food, vegetarian and vegan options. Greater awareness of the power of plants and the negatives of a meaty diet is being shared. Added to this is a wider understanding of the environmental expenses and another big factor, of course, is our own health.
The difference between eating vegetarian and plant-based is, as a vegetarian you don’t eat meat or fish. Following a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean you become vegetarian. Most experts agree that having some meat, fish, or poultry in small amounts is healthy. The goal is having them less often and in smaller portions. “We would all be healthier eating less meat, but less does not necessarily mean none,” says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University in New York.
Here some myths and truths about adopting a plant-based diet.
There’s not enough protein or calcium in your diet without meat. MYTH
The TRUTH is that although meat is a rich source of protein, it’s also high in saturated fats and contains 0-2% of natural, cholesterol-boosting trans fats. With the average adult requiring around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight, there’s enough protein in non-meat produce such as lentils, tofu, nuts and beans. Meanwhile, when many people think of calcium the first foods that come to mind are dairy products. However, leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, oranges, and lentils are calcium-rich too.
Getting enough vitamins and nutrients is an issue? MYTH
The TRUTH is that you can get loads of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients from greens and legumes. For example, leafy greens and legumes are rich in calcium, iron, and zinc, berries are extremely high in vitamin K and tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapples are high in vitamin C. Ultimately, the more variety in your diet, the better — not to mention, expanding your palate is exciting for your taste buds.
It’s tricky to get enough vitamin B12 from a vegetarian diet, add supplements, or include fortified foods to your diet. A plant-based diet might be the better option where you still can have little amounts of the food which contains the most B12.
It’s ‘natural’ to eat meat? MYTH
The TRUTH is that the modern-day meat industry cannot be compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Hormones and antibiotics added to animal feeds and also cooking methods resulting in harmful compounds all point to the negatives of a meat-fueled diet.
Of course, cutting out this food group does require some forethought to create the most beneficial balance. In recent times, the caveman or paleo diet gained a resurgence in popularity.
Plant-based diets are restrictive, boring and expensive? MYTH
The TRUTH is following a plant-based diet isn’t easy to begin with. It takes time and some imagination to discover tasty dishes. One of the biggest hurdles though is the mindset. Start with consuming meat with smaller portions. Let the main part be vegetarian side. And then slowly and bit by bit, goodle up new “vegetarian” recipes and try to skip some days eating meat or fish. There are many tasty and nutritious recipes (online) using vegetables and affordable ingredients that work out not only be healthier but certainly less costly than say imported meat into Thailand.
A plant-based diet is high in carbs? MYTH
The TRUTH is the majority of our consumed carbs are refined, highly processed, and mostly in the form of refined flour and sugar. This is the problem. Avoid these.
However, carbs in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes are okay for us. They are also a good source of protein and fibre. It is important not to increase the amount of white rice and bread in the diet to compensate for the lack of meat.