From Burger King to your local bistro, plant-based meats are slowly being added to menus across the country. With strong evidence of red meat’s negative impact on the body, it’s no wonder foodies and families alike are turning to plant-based diets. But it’s not just about fruits and veggies. It’s about food replacements as much as dietary additions, and it’s more than just veganism or vegetarianism. The switch to plant-based meats has been heralded as a move away from factory-farmed meats and animal cruelty and, among non-advocates, a dietary pilgrimage away from fatty red meats and processed foods. But what does the future of plant-based diets look like for our bodies, our kitchens, and our grocery stores?
For the world of supplement manufacturing, the plant-based food trend could mean a rise in nutrient supplements for vitamins and minerals commonly found in meats, such as B-complex vitamins. It should come as no surprise that when the diet of the masses changes, so do the food and nutrition industries. And while the transition may be slow at first, it’s expected that nearly 60% of the globe will be eating plant-based diets by 2040. On the whole, the trend toward plant-based diets is not only good for the food and supplement industry, but it’s good for the planet as well, offering a major boost to sustainability efforts.
More importantly, the shift to plant-based diets comes with the hope of improved health and fewer health-related risks, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In many cases, doctors are recommending marginal changes to start. For instance, limiting the number of servings of meat, or simply eating oatmeal rather than cereal. The general expectation is that higher quality nutrients will replace the higher risk foods, assuming those replacements are whole foods or mostly unprocessed. In fact, a 2017 study found that eating as little as 3 ounces of unprocessed red meat, 3 days per week, did not worsen blood pressure or total cholesterol levels. While plant-based foods offer less debate about processed vs unprocessed, they are still being consumed more frequently, begging the question: what does a plant-based diet do to the body?
One of the biggest benefits of a plant-based diet is the effect it has on your body. According to the MD Anderson Center, the essential nutrients in plant foods play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body, boosting your immune system, and clearing your body of harmful toxins. Inflammation in the body damages cells and tissue over time, but a plant-based diet removes the inflammatory triggers for certain diseases and types of cancer. Additionally, plant nutrients can clean up your gut and allow your body to absorb more vitamins and minerals from your food, supporting other bodily functions.
Nutrition comes in all sorts of packages, whether directly from whole foods or from a supplement. If you decide a plant-based diet is right for you, keep a close eye on your vitamin intake and be sure to supplement any nutrients you may not be able to get from your usual diet.