EVIDENCE BASED NUTRITION

Written by Henry Lau 
Qualified Nutritionist and ISAK Accredited Anthropometrist

EVIDENCE BASED NUTRITION

Written by Henry Lau 
Qualified Nutritionist and ISAK Accredited Anthropometrist

Top 3 Problems With A Plant Based Diet & How To Overcome Them

Every single type of diet comes with it’s advantages as well disadvantages.

There is compelling evidence that support health benefits of increased consumption of plant derived foods, and a reduction of red  and/or processed meats.

Aside from limited evidence suggesting a decrease in HDL cholesterol (the good type) in more vegan style plant based diets, there is very little compelling evidence that demonstrates a negative effect.

However, there are still some major drawbacks of a plant based diet, including: choosing low quality plant based foods, inadequately consuming the right protein and low iron availability.

In this article, we’ll discuss the implications and how to overcome these inevitable problems.

Avoid Unhealthy Plant Based Foods

There is an abundance of foods that fit into the plant base category, but they aren’t all equal.

Low quality plant derived foods are ultra-processed and low in nutrient bioavailability.

Components of these foods are more easily absorbed in the small intestine, depriving the colon of important nutrients.

In turn, this may alter the composition of the gut ecosystem which have many health impacts which is outlined in detail in our article Top Health Benefits Of A Plant Base Diet: What we know, What we don’t know.

Furthermore, low quality plant base foods are generally higher in calories from added sugar, fat and don’t resemble the original food in it’s natural state.

These include vegan or vegetarian meat based products like sausages, mince meat or burger patties. Some “paleo bars” and “health bars” are also very highly processed and have poor bioavailability.

Instead, opt in for high quality plant based foods that are high in fiber, polyphenols and higher in nutrient availability.

As outlined in our article Best Way To Follow A Plant Base Diet: How To Start. the best high quality plant base foods include beans, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, low fat milk and yoghurt.

Here are a list of low quality plant based foods to avoid:

  • Fruit Juices: Are very high in simple sugars.
  • Refined Grains: Has alot of the fibre and nutrients stripped.
  • Sugar Sweetened Beverages: Are very high in added sugar.
  • Desserts: Contains ultra-processed starches, added sugar, butter and are calorie dense.
  • Chocolate: Are very high in sugar, some in saturated fats and are calorie dense.
  • Unhealthy Sauces: These often are high in fat content or added sugar.

Summary:

Low quality plant derived foods are ultra-processed and low in nutrient bio-availability. Instead, choose high quality plant based foods that are high in fiber, polyphenols and nutrient bio-availability.

Consume Complete Proteins And Maintain Weight Loss

One of the biggest concerns with a plant based diet is getting enough high quality (or complete) protein.

Animal sources provide a complete source of protein (i.e. contains all the essential amino acids), whereas vegetable sources generally lack the complete set.

Traditionally, complete sources of protein in our diet comes mainly from animal (meat and dairy) and very few from a vegetable origin.This could pose potential health concerns due to the relatively high saturated fat content.

In most cases, having a mix of plant base sources of protein through out the day is sufficient. The few existing complete plant base protein sources includes: tofu (soybeans), quinoa, buckwheat, hemp and chia seed.

Incomplete sources of protein includes: nuts, seeds, legumes, grains & vegetables.

Some individuals may even go as far as combining two incomplete sources such as: rice & beans or hummus and whole-grain pitas.

Here are a list of complete protein sources:

  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Hemp
  • Chia seed

Summary

Incomplete protein sources do not contain all the essential amino acids. Instead, have a variety of plant based sources.

Low Iron Status & Intake

Iron is an essential micronutrient for human health, and a low iron status in adults is associated with lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and poor immune function.

Dietary iron is present in two forms, haem iron and non-haem iron.

Haem iron (the easy form of iron to absorb) is found in animal derived foods such as meat, poultry, and fish.

It typically makes up 10-15% of our dietary iron intake but contributes to 40% or more of the total iron absorbed by the body.

In contrast, Non-Haem iron has a lower absorptive capacity and is found in non-animal products such as legumes, vegetables and  in fortified cereals and bread.

Currently, there’s an estimated 2 billion in the world suffering from anemia, mostly due to an iron deficiency. It’s particularly more common among women and teenage girls.

Therefore, if you choose to significantly reduce your meat intake you need to consider iron requirements.

Here’s a list of the top plant based foods rich in iron:

  • Fortified Cereals
  • Spinach
  • Fortified Bread
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Dried Fruit
  • Shellfish (for those who consume fish)
  • Brocolli
  • Tofu
  • Dark Chocolate

Summary

There are two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Non-haem iron is more difficult to absorb is predominantly found in plant derived foods.

Individuals may need to consider fortified food or iron supplementation when going plant based.

The Bottom Line

Have less low quality plant derived foods that are ultra processed and low in nutrient bio-availability.

Instead have high quality plant based foods that are high in fibre, polyphenols and nutrient bio-availability.

To ensure that you preserve lean body mass during exercise and a weight loss diet, consume a variety complete protein sources.

Lastly, majority of the iron absorbed in our body comes from animal sources. Consume a variety of high iron sources.

DISCOVER WHAT FOOD IS RIGHT FOR YOU

A custom built quiz designed to help you find out what foods you should be eating.

Discover What Food Is Right For You With This Simple Quiz

Everyone is different…

… we’re different in height, weight, gender, ethnicity, body shape, size, food preference, in our situation, goals, motivation, time & food cravings.

There is an endless amount of different types of diets and it makes it very difficult to decide what is right for you.

That’s why I developed this simple 30 Second Quiz, designed to help you discover EXACTLY what food is right for you…

… and the best part is, you can get started right here, right now.

Take The Free Quiz Here

Henry Lau – Qualified Nutritionist

How To Discover What Food Is Right For You

Everyone is different…

… we’re different in height, weight, gender, ethnicity, body shape, size, food preference, in our situation, goals, motivation, time & food cravings.

There is an endless amount of different types of diets and it makes it very difficult to decide what is right for you.

That’s why I developed this simple 30 Second Quiz, designed to help you discover EXACTLY what food is right for you…

… and the best part is, you can get started right here, right now.

Take The Free Quiz

[ EVIDENCE BASED ] Discover What Food Is Right For You With This Simple 30 Second Quiz

Henry Lau – Qualified Nutritionist

Discover What Food Is Right For You

Everyone is different…

… we’re different in height, weight, gender, ethnicity, body shape, size, food preference, in our situation, goals, motivation, time & food cravings.

There is an endless amount of different types of diets and it makes it very difficult to decide what is right for you.

That’s why I developed this simple 30 Second Quiz, designed to help you discover EXACTLY what food is right for you…

… and the best part is, you can get started right here, right now.

Take The Free Quiz

[ EVIDENCE BASED ] Discover What Food Is Right For You With This Simple Quiz

Read Next:

The Ultimate 2020 Guide To A Plant Based Diet

Top Health Benefits Of A Plant Based Diet: What We Know, What We Don't Know.

Best Way To Follow A Plant Based Diet: How to start.

The Ultimate 2020 Guide To A Plant Based Diet

Top Health Benefits Of A Plant Based Diet: What We Know, What We Don't Know.

Best Way To Follow A Plant Based Diet: How to start.