Is a plant-based diet the key to being healthier?
The Northern Bootcamp team have recently followed the masses and watched the documentary “The Game Changer” on Netflix. As a result of this, we felt compelled to share some thoughts around the pros and cons of following a plant- based diet.
Firstly, I want to share my views on The Game Changer.
As a first opinion it is an example of explicit propaganda. Most of the program (I am not comfortable calling it a documentary) relies on speculative, anecdotal evidence that is not statistically significant and does not highlight any new evidence that we did not know about meat eating diets already. I was disappointed by this. At Northern bootcamp we have introduced at least one plant based (Vegan) meal per week for all campers, I must stress this is not as a result of “The Game Changer”
The interest in vegan and vegetarian lifestyle choices has increased over the last 5 years as shown by a graph taken from a literary review article found on the www.nature.com The graph utilises google trends to analyse the interest:
Northern Bootcamp prides itself in monitoring evidence and trends in nutrition regularly and is very open to change in the weekly menu, or ingredients used, when scientific evidence supports this. Northern Bootcamp is also mindful of making good choices in suppliers, products and menus to minimise impact on the long term environmental damage where possible.
The increased interest in plant based that we have witnessed from the hundreds of people that join us on a bootcamp, has resulted in further research into the science behind this.
Many studies have suggested a direct link between a plant-based diet and health improvements, including obesity related metabolic dysfunction, type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation. They have also suggested a link between mental health and cognitive functions. All documented evidence to date is speculative with no solid research to show a statistically significant impact that eating plant-based foods alone improves health.
However, like many other nutritional research topics, hard evidence is hard to come by, simply because when a person changes their diet, their lifestyle will usually change also. It will not be only one aspect of their diet that changes but is likely to be several other factors too.
This is the major flaw that I found in “The Game Changer”, they did not compare like for like. All of the comparisons of plant-based examples used clean, unprocessed food which was compared to highly processed meat products e.g. hamburgers.
Everyone already knows swapping vegetables and pulses for a hamburger is a far far healthier choice. However, there were no references or comparisons to clean food choices in a meat/fish eating diet. All meat eaters were assumed to eat processed products, therefore anyone who changes from this, is of course going to feel better with much higher energy levels.
For Northern Bootcamp, it is all about balance. Those that jump on the plant-based diet bandwagon hoping for an easier route to weight loss are misguided. Food choice is everything, choosing plant based and then incorporating many processed products in your diet including, pasta, bread, vegan substitutes eg sausages, burgers will not necessarily benefit from all the positives that have been suggested.
By all means, choose a plant-based diet and with careful planning and good food choices, I completely believe it is possible to achieve a good balance of macro nutrients that will leave you feeling fantastic. Our head chef (Annie) at bootcamp is a vegetarian and is healthy as can be, it does not mean to say she would be unhealthy if she ate meat. It is also possible to achieve this by eating meat and fish. Making clean (unprocessed) choices, incorporating a wide selection of fruit, vegetables and legumes will have the exact same impact on your body and mind as the plant-based advocates proclaim.
Therefore, in summary if you do decide to follow a plant-based diet, do it for the right reasons. Make it an ethical choice, or a choice for enjoyment, incorporate more plant-based meals to help you achieve the variety that is needed in your diet. Please don’t assume that this is the answer to improved health. There are bigger influences on health to be had. Balance, unprocessed food and exercise. It does seem obvious; however, I think far too many people are looking for the easy fix, in my humble opinion plant-based eating is not the answer to this.
STUFF THE FADS INSTEAD OF THE TURKEY
DON’T GO WILD, DAMAGE LIMITATION
ASPIRE FOR BALANCE. TRAIN HARD, PLAY HARD
JUMP STRAIGHT BACK ON THAT WAGON THE MINUTE IT STANDS STILL
OH… AND HAVE AN AWESOME CHRISTMAS XXXX