Interested in lowering your blood pressure, improving your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease? Of course, you are, right? In a world where there’s no shortage of traffic jams, deadlines and vending machines, many of us have fallen for just about any diet program or quick-fix workout. Yet, as with anything, we live and learn. We realize these empty promises usually lead to binges on empty calories disguised as donuts, coffee cake and cookies. We are left feeling unfulfilled, frustrated and discouraged.
When we continue to read headlines about the benefits of a plant-based diet, we cannot help but notice all of the veggie bowls and meatless meals appearing in our Instagram feeds. You may wonder, Are my friends on to something? Why should I sacrifice my burger in favor of bulgur?
One of the first steps to take when considering a plant-based diet is to demystify all of the misconceptions. Here are three of our favorite plant-based myth busters that will provide you with the resources you need to make an educated decision.
Myth #1: I will lose all of my hard-earned muscle mass.
One of the most common questions vegetarians hear is, “How do you get your protein?” Most people are surprised to learn that protein intake is not an issue as long as your diet is not built solely around fruits and grains. It’s also important not to restrict overall food intake. If you choose not to consume eggs, dairy or protein powder, be sure to consume at least 1 1/2 cups of beans and legumes. Some of the best sources of plant-based protein include peas, brown rice and chickpeas.
Myth #2: A plant-based diet doesn’t provide enough vitamins and minerals.
Unless you choose to omit eggs and dairy, a plant-based diet will typically provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. However, if you are eating a 100% plant-based diet, you may consider supplementing with Vitamin B, Vitamin D and Iron, which can be challenging to get through diet alone. Vitamin B helps keep nerve blood cells healthy, preventing fatigue as well. Eggs, milk and cheese are great sources of B. Most adults need 2.4 mcg per day. It is possible to get enough Vitamin D from sunlight, but if you’re relying solely on food sources, it can be tough to get the recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU. Iron intake can be a concern for women who are menstruating and for men or women who donate blood. Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Quinoa and spinach are two plant-based sources of iron. Men should aim for 8 milligrams per day and women should consume 18 milligrams per day.
Myth #3: It’s boring.
When you think of a meatless meal, what do you envision? Rice and beans? Rabbit food? Bread and water? As more attention is drawn toward plant-based diets, restaurants and food companies are also jumping on board with this lifestyle. As you expand your options to include more plant-based foods, you may also notice restaurant menu options have expanded as well. Another way to add variety to your meals and prevent boredom is to invest in kitchen gadgets such as a food processor or spiralizer. There are countless recipes incorporating these tools that will turn your zucchini into “zoodles” or your avocado and cocoa into a decadent chocolate pudding.
When you choose to go plant-based, it’s important to understand the benefits and the risks. While you need to be aware of your protein and vitamin intake, it is not impossible to continue living an active and healthy lifestyle.