Plant-Based Diet Trends: Digging Down And Grabbing The Hype By Its Roots
What do Mike Tyson, Bill Ford (of THE automotive company), Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts, Russell Simmons, and former Plant-Based Products president Bill Clinton all have in common? Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? Well, if you guessed they all eat and rally for the benefits of a plant-based diet, you’d be right.
(If you didn’t guess that, don’t worry, you don’t lose any points here…)
Surely, you’ve noticed that diets like this are currently all the rave and how celebrities seem to be jumping on the bandwagon left and right. But what is all the buzz really about? Is there anything behind the hype, or is it just a fad diet restricted to the world’s élite? More importantly, what can this type of diet do for our weight loss goals as well as our overall health and well-being?
A Look At “The Meat” Of A Plant-Based Diet
Just like it sounds, the term “plant-based diet” refers to any kind of diet based largely on plant foods (typically of the fresh variety but sometimes processed plant foods are included as well) and includes cutting back hard on animal products.
But there are a broad range of “plant eaters” out there foraging our supermarkets, and all these herbivore characters eat according to different principles, depending on their health goals and/or eating philosophies.
For instance, veganism is a strict version of this type of diet in which zero animal products are allowed, including dairy. Vegetarians, on the other hand, cut out meat but often happily gobble up milk based products, like cheese, and possibly even feast on a regular helping of eggs.
Then you get the occasional “vegetarian” who makes allowances for small amounts of seafood here and there.
I know a woman who claims to be a vegetarian but eats fish and bacon (if that makes any sense). There’s even a term for her unique brand of vegetarianism: Wikipedia defines her as a “semi-vegetarian.”
The point, however, is that a plant-based diet is somewhat vague in actual definition and covers a wide range of different eating practices – there are no real hard fast rules besides the general inclusion of lots of plants and avoidance of meat.
Whatever camp of vegetarianism a person chooses to follow, no one can deny that it takes the typical person a certain level of self-discipline to take it up in any of its various forms. Not only because it means no more fat, juicy steaks but also because it requires is a hard charge against the grain in modern society, and it creates quite an inconvenience when shopping, dining out, or eating at the table of a friend.
So why do Mr. Clinton and all these other social superstars even bother? Is it worth the sacrifices, and are the health benefits remarkable enough to make up for the total life makeover it demands?
Let’s have a peek.
What’s So Good About “Eatin’ Your Veggies?”
The plant-based dieting trend as it exists today stems from a growing pool of experts observing something inherently wrong with the Western diet. Study after study notes a plague-like epidemic of chronic diseases in the western world and points out how the rise of these diseases counter-intuitively corresponded with technological advancement (particularly in agriculture).
Others point out how regions of the world where the Western diet hasn’t yet caught on, a diet largely associated with economic development, don’t suffer the same alarming rates of these diseases. In fact, these diseases (which include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer) are often referred to in popular text as “Western diseases.”
- Colin Campbell, co-author of the groundbreaking (and sometimes controversial) book on the subject, “The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health,” goes as far as to claim that “cancer is a geographically localized disease.” He maintains that if you look at a world map, the areas of the world with the highest cancer rates clearly correlate with the areas of the world where protein is a large part of the local diet.