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Fact and Fiction of Whole Foods, Plant Based Diets

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There is so much confusion out there about different diets and which one is right for you and your family.  Some of the more popular ones like Paleo and the Mediterranean Diet will claim to be the best but research indicates that a whole foods, plant-based diet is in fact most advantageous for the reduction of heart disease, diabetes and obesity ( Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, Permanete Journal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/).  So let’s clear up some confusion about what a whole foods, plant-based diets entails.

 

Fact or fiction:

  1. Whole food, plant-based diets are the same as a vegan diet. Fiction: Like Whole Food, plant-based diets the vegan diet excludes all animal products, especially meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy products.  However, a vegan diet does not require whole foods or restrict fat or refined sugar.  In other words a vegan diet includes a lot of disease promoting foods.  As my friend Mindy Mylrea likes to say ” Skittles are vegan but we don’t eat those!”  Technically they fall under the umbrella of a vegan diet but certainly one can not make the case that Skittles are health promoting nor are they a whole food.
  2. People who don’t eat meat do not get enough iron: Fiction:  There are many foods that are rich in iron that are plant-based.  These include kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage and tomato juice.
  3. People who follow a plant-based diet may be vulnerable to Vitamin B-12 deficiency.  Fact:  Vitamin B-12 is produced by bacteria not plants or animals.  This can lead to B-12 deficiency so plant-based eaters may need to supplement with B-12 or eat foods that are enriched with B-12.
  4. People who follow a plant-based diet are at a higher risk for fracture because of a lack of calcium and Vitamin D in their diet Fiction:  Studies have shown that fracture risk is similar for vegetarians and nonvegetarians.   The key to bone health is adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake regardless of dietary preference.  Significant sources of calcium include tofu, mustard, turnip greens, Bok choy and kale.  Spinach, although rich in calcium, is bound to oxalate and therefore is poorly absorbed.  Vitamin D can be found in soy milk and fortified cereal grains.

 

As long as you eat a wide variety of plant-based whole foods you should have no trouble getting all the nutrients you need except for Vitamin B-12 which may require supplementation.  Even if you think you could never give up all animal products, what do you have to lose by filling your diet with more whole foods that are plant-based?

 

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