The Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet: 3 Essential Nutrients To Consume Regularly

  • General Health
  • dietitian - eating healthy - longevity
  • August 28, 2023

People opting for plant-based diets need to get enough nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans should focus on these 3 options for optimal health.

Meatless Diets And Nutritional Balance

Whether vegan or vegetarian, many people prefer not to eat meat or animal by-products. Some individuals go plant-based for health reasons, while other groups cite ethical reasons. Whichever camp a person belongs to, the responsibility remains to get enough essential nutrients to maintain proper health and avoid having a vitamin or mineral deficiency.


Benefits of plant-based diets

Trends aside, a plant-based diet can be smart for overall health. In particular, people at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure (BP), and diabetes often see improvements when switching to vegetarian or vegan meal plans. In particular, reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol is a common benefit of consuming a plant-based diet. Likewise, such a diet can aid in weight loss if a reduced-calorie meal plan is introduced along with cutting out meat.

Unexpected risks

Although there are many benefits to going veggie, negative side effects can happen when a person embarks on a plant-based diet. Not getting enough protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are commonly cited concerns. Likewise, a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn’t automatically mean a person is eating healthier. Avoiding meat only to then consume plenty of processed grain-based foods doesn’t translate to a better, more balanced diet. With these concerns in mind, people opting for a plant-based diet should prioritize the following key nutrients.

1. Protein

Yes, meats are the main source of protein. However, plant-based diets can still be protein-rich if the right foods are selected. For vegetarians, dairy products and eggs are excellent sources of the nutrient. Meanwhile, vegans should look to legumes, whole grains, nuts and nut butter, and soy products to get the daily recommended amount of protein.

2. Vitamin B12

Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, is a critical nutrient that influences bodily functions, aids in metabolizing protein, and even supports the formation of red blood cells. The vitamin is naturally found in many foods, including plant options. However, research suggests that B12-fortified foods are the best way to reach daily recommended amounts. To achieve this goal, consider plant milk, soy products, nutritional yeast, and breakfast cereals. Alternatively, taking a vitamin B12 supplement can be a good idea for some vegetarians and vegans.

3. Omega 3s

Like protein, omega-3 fatty acids tend to be more abundant in oily fish, a no-go option for vegans and vegetarians. The nutrient is linked to brain and eye function and prevents the onset of cancer and other conditions. However, several plant-based foods contain omega-3s, such as flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, and chia seeds. Similar to vitamin B12, supplementation can be an option for plant-based eaters.

Balanced is best

Choosing to eat a plant-based diet doesn’t mean a person has to automatically struggle with vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. Conversely, not eating meat also doesn’t mean an individual is naturally healthier than a meat eater. Both vegans and vegetarians are restricting a large segment of food options, which can increase the risk of a dietary imbalance. Consider speaking with a registered dietician (RD) to create an optimal meal plan that supports nutritional needs.

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