In today’s world, health and wellness have taken center stage and diet has become one of the most buzzworthy topics in the media. One particular diet and lifestyle choice has gained significant attention and traction, leading many to question and evaluate their current lifestyle choices; the plant-based diet or what some may call “veganism”.
After the release of Netflix’s latest docuseries “You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment”, many viewers are left reflecting on their style of eating and how it may be impacting their health, longevity, and the environment. This documentary highlights the differences between the omnivore diet versus the vegan diet by comparing health outcomes of two people (twins) with identical genetic profiles. As the general public gains more insight and exposure to health information through research study findings, social media platforms, literature and our education system, there has been a significant climb in the interest level about food and nutrition. As a dietitian, I am frequently asked about the nutritional quality of a vegan diet, if it's a sustainable lifestyle choice, if it's affordable and mainly, if it's just a trend or a “fad”.
Let’s unpack the questions surrounding the vegan diet.
Unveiling the Plant-Based Lifestyle
A plant-based diet revolves around consuming foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, while excluding or minimizing the intake of animal products. Veganism, a more stringent form of plant-based living, excludes all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and even honey.
Is Veganism Healthy?
The debate surrounding the health benefits of a vegan diet has been ongoing, with proponents highlighting its positive impact on various health markers. Numerous studies have suggested that adopting a plant-based diet or even eating more plant-forward can contribute to lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Moreover, a diet that is well-balanced and executed mindfully tends to be rich in essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, promoting overall health.
The Stanford Medicine-led trial featured in the Netflix documentary “You Are What You Eat” highlights the cardiometabolic effects of a vegan diet versus an omnivore diet. Researchers gained valuable insight on how a plant-based diet can improve cardiovascular health by following the lives of identical twins who adhered to strict guidelines laid out by the investigators of the experiment. Each twin was randomly assigned either an omnivore diet or vegan diet, and was instructed to carefully follow a meal plan for 8 weeks that aligned with their diet assignment. During this 8 week period, the participants were strongly encouraged to follow a workout regimen, meticulously planned by a professional fitness trainer.
The investigators concluded that participants following the vegan diet plan had significant decreases in their LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) levels, insulin and body weight, all of which have been linked to improved heart health and longevity.
Although the “You Are What You Eat” documentary presents a strong bias in the plant-based direction with subtle but loud promotion of veganism, viewers can take away educational nuggets of how increasing intake of plant foods can positively impact health, well-being, and the environment, without having to sacrifice the cultural, emotional, and physical enjoyment of food and nutrition.
Embracing the Benefits
In honor of further illuminating the positive aspects of a plant-based diet, read below for the top advantages of incorporating more plant-based foods into your current diet:
- Heart health: Plant-based diets are linked to lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Weight management: A plant-based diet, rich in fiber and lower in high-calorie, high saturated fat foods, may contribute to better weight management over time.
- Diabetes prevention: Some studies suggest that a plant-based diet may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
- Cancer risk reduction: Certain plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Digestive health: The fiber content in plant-based foods supports healthy digestion and can reduce the risk of digestive issues like constipation.
- Improved nutrient intake: Plant-based diets can provide essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, promoting overall health.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Plant-based diets generally have a lower carbon footprint, as the production of plant foods tends to generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal agriculture.
- Conservation of resources: Producing plant-based foods requires less land, water, and energy compared to raising animals for meat, contributing to the conservation of natural resources.
- Biodiversity preservation: Plant-based agriculture often has a smaller impact on ecosystems, helping to preserve biodiversity and reduce habitat destruction.
- Water conservation: Plant-based diets typically use less water, as the production of plant foods generally requires fewer resources compared to raising livestock.
- Reduced pollution: Animal agriculture can contribute to water and air pollution. Choosing plant-based options helps reduce the environmental impact associated with agricultural runoff and waste.
- Land use efficiency: Plant-based diets allow for more efficient use of land, as plant foods can be produced with a smaller ecological footprint compared to grazing areas for livestock.
Nourishing Body and Soul at Café Gratitude
For those looking to embark on a plant-based journey living in or visiting Southern California, Café Gratitude stands out as the mecca for wholesome and nutritious dining. Known for our vibrant and health conscious menu crafted from locally sourced, organic ingredients, our plant-based cafe offers a delightful array of dishes that cater to various dietary preferences and support your well-being.
How Café Gratitude Supports Your Health Goals
- Nutrient-rich offerings: Café Gratitude’s menu is designed to provide a diverse range of nutrients, ensuring that your body receives the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.
- Deliciously wholesome options: From hearty salads to nourishing grain bowls to flavorful smoothies, every menu item at Café Gratitude is a celebration of plant-based goodness, making it easier and more enjoyable to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.
- Community and connection: Beyond the food, Café Gratitude fosters a sense of community and connection. Sharing a meal with like-minded individuals can be a motivating factor on your journey toward better health.
As the world continues to embrace the enlightening ideas and messages behind “You Are What You Eat”, a plant-based diet emerges as a powerful choice for those seeking a healthy lifestyle focused on chronic disease prevention and longevity. With statistical data supporting the positive impact of veganism on health, and plant-based establishments like Café Gratitude providing delectable options, the path to well-being has never been more accessible.
Jayne Pinsky, Café Gratitude's Resident Dietitian, RD
- News Center, E. M. (2023, November 30). Twin Research indicates that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2023/11/twin-diet-vegan-cardiovascular.html
- Landry MJ, Ward CP, Cunanan KM, et al. Cardiometabolic Effects of Omnivorous vs Vegan Diets in Identical Twins: A Randomized Clinical Trial [published correction appears in JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Dec 1;6(12):e2350422]. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(11):e2344457. Published 2023 Nov 1. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.44457
- IMDb.com. (2024, January 1). You are what you eat: A twin experiment. IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt30386970/