As people become more aware of the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, there is a growing global trend towards plant-based diets. In the past, identifying as vegan or vegetarian was often viewed as extreme or just weird, but now all that is changing as it becomes more popular and mainstream. Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world, and it seems this global shift could be here to stay.
A plant-based diet is one that features mostly plants, most of the time, and so it takes away the ‘all or nothing’ thinking and potential stigma that people can associate with a vegan diet. With more healthy options available than ever before, it seems plant-based eating could be the way forward.
But there are still things not everyone knows when it comes to starting out, and so as someone who faced these challenges way back when only hippies were vegan, here are five things that most people don’t know about becoming plant-based:
1. Other people find it a bigger deal than you do: So, you have finally come to the point where you are ready to become plant-based, or you may just be trying it out for a month. Don’t expect everyone around you to be thrilled, in fact the opposite can happen, and friends and family can find it challenging to their own beliefs and way of eating. This can manifest in a lot of questions, plenty of advice or teasing and them trying to dissuade you. Don’t feel you need to discuss your food choices with everyone, and know that in time, they will get used to it. My sheep farmer Dad has been very patient and supportive over the years, right from when I announced as a teenager that I was becoming vegetarian. If he can handle it, then I’m sure others can cope in time too.
2. You will get enough protein in your diet (but you will get asked about it… A LOT): Try telling someone you are thinking of becoming vegetarian, and the first question will invariably be… “But where will you get your protein? Especially as an athlete, don’t you need more than regular people?” The short answer is, it’s simple to get enough. By including a small amount of protein from a variety of sources at each meal and it really is easy. Think hummus and crackers for a snack, adding beans to your pasta and throw some nuts and seed into your salad. Add some Bindi protein powder to your morning smoothie and you will consume a wide range of protein throughout your day, and plenty of it.
3. You won’t miraculously lose weight: Research shows us that people following a typical vegetarian diet consume, on average, around 500 fewer calories daily than meat eaters. There is a good chance that you will lose weight, however this is not a given, as it still takes a well planned out and balanced meal plan. Replacing meat with ‘junk’ vegetarian foods can still load you up on calories and you may find the scales won’t budge.
4. You may reduce your chance of chronic illness: Research comparing the intake of plant-based protein over time with animal-based protein shows it can decrease your risk of coronary artery disease. Plant proteins may help to lower blood pressure and are less likely to cause inflammation in the body, whereas animal proteins have shown to play a potential role in the development of some cancers. All this just through a plant-based diet and no medications involved? That’s a win for your health I’d say.
5. Vegetarian food is not bland or boring: Gone are the days when plant-based means you’re eating ‘rabbit food’ all day long and simply cutting out meat. Vegetarian meals can be delicious, satisfying and interesting. If you want some great recipe books to kick-start you, check out my three favourites on high rotation in the Bindi kitchen here
As the trend towards plant-based eating continues you might find that understanding some of these common challenges can help you decide if you would like to try it out… or it may just help you be more tolerant of your plant-based friends and their food choices!
If you want to see the difference a vegan protein can make to your energy levels and recovery, jump over and grab a sample pack to try out our flavours (gone are the days of horrible tasting powders – they actually taste awesome too!).