Are Plant-Based Diets Sustainable?

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Plant-Based Diets

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you are probably somewhat familiar with the plant-based movement.  Sometimes referred to as veganism, a plant-based diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and legumes, with the absence of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.  While plant-based diets are typically considered one of the more healthy diets out there, many people argue that this way of eating is not easily sustainable.

The biggest argument when it comes to whether or not a plant-based diet is sustainable is that people following this diet do not get many of the same nutrients that non-vegans get.  Vitamin B12, which is crucial to the body’s production of red blood cells, is typically not found in plant-based foods.  A B12 deficiency can lead to a number of health concerns, including shortness of breath, fatigue, and even memory loss.  Because of this, people following a plant-based diet should regularly take a B12 supplement and eat foods that are fortified with B12, such as certain kinds of bread and cereal.

Another concern that many people have about plant-based diets is that people following this diet aren’t getting enough protein.  In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions vegans get is “how do you get your protein?”  What many people don’t know, however, is that getting protein while on a plant-based diet is actually incredibly easy.  Protein can be found in veg-friendly foods like spinach, nut milk, tofu, beans, and lentils, making it easy and accessible to get all of the protein you need each day.  All of these different protein options can make cooking fun and exciting, as it allows you to get creative in the kitchen and think of new ways to pack your meals with protein.

Aside from protein and B12 concerns, many people believe that those on a plant-based diet are also lacking other essential vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, iron, and vitamin D.  The good news, however, is that these can all be found in certain foods and supplements, as long as plant-based folks are mindful about what they need.  For example, calcium can be found in tofu, as well as green vegetables like bok choy, swiss chard, and kale.  Iron can also be found in dark, leafy greens, as well as nuts, beans, and whole grains.  Vitamin D is probably the easiest vitamin to access, as you can absorb it through natural sunlight.  Vitamin D can also be obtained through orange juice, fortified nut milks, and vitamin D supplements.

The plant-based movement has sparked many restaurants to start including vegan options on their menus, and more and more vegan snacks are appearing in grocery stores everywhere.  Many employers have even started supplying healthy snacks for work, as a way to encourage employees to eat healthier during the day.  Vegan food is now more accessible than ever, making switching to a plant-based lifestyle seamless and easy.  If you remain skeptical of plant-based diets, try doing it for a week and then assess how you feel.  There are vegan alternatives for virtually anything and everything, and you may just end up liking the switch!

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Alisa Wu
Alisa Wu is a health and fitness writer and works at Cusabio, a biotech company that serves the field of life sciences research and offers protein production service. She shares articles on how to live healthier.

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