Plant Based Diets: Separating Fact from Fiction

Let’s face it.

Our world is saturated with different diet plans and eating patterns. For every voice on the matter of nutrition, we hear different opinions about what is and what is not. There is a lot of noise about why you should try this diet and avoid that one over there, and there’s also a lot of conjecture flying around with the best of intentions that’s not necessarily true.

So, let’s separate some fact from fiction on Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diets.

I won’t get enough complete protein.

The reason getting complete protein is important is because “complete protein” delivers all 9 essential amino acids. After protein is digested it leaves behind amino acids.

There are basically three types:

  • Essential- which your body cannot produce so these must come from your diet.
  • Non-Essential which your body can produce
  • Conditional which your body doesn’t need daily but will need in times of stress and illness.

Your 9 essential amino acids are Histidine. Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine. These 9 amino acids do things like work to breakdown food, help you grow, repair body tissue, and support your immune system.

Technically speaking, Buckwheat, Amaranth, and Hemp Seed are considered complete proteins. However, there’s this thing called the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).

Basically, if a food has a PDCAAS score of 1.0 or higher, then when the food digests in the human body, it delivers its full payload of available amino acids. Buckwheat, Amaranth, and Hemp Seed don’t quite meet that score.

However, soy does. Also, keep in mind that a WFPB diet is marked by what it includes not excludes which leads into the next fact vs. fiction.

I have to be a Vegetarian or Vegan.

No. You don’t.

Whole-Food Plant-Based diet patterns include foods into your diet. They don’t exclude them. The vegan and vegetarian diets exclude meats and meat based products. WFPB diets incorporate plant based and whole foods into your diet.

Also, think about it like this. Your diet is:

  • Whole-Food
  • Plant-Based

Nowhere in that descriptor do you see the words vegan, vegetarian, meat restrictive, meat free zones, etc.

You can eat eggs which are complete proteins with a PDCAAS score of 1.0 or higher. The point of any WFPB eating pattern is to start with whole foods, and plant based foods. Chicken breasts and thighs are whole, and unprocessed foods. Maybe they’re not plant-based, but they’re whole sources of all 9 amino acids.

WFPB diets are High in Carbs

Yes, generally they are. However, carbohydrates aren’t necessarily an enemy of the state. They’re certainly not public enemy number one.

Your body has 2 main fuel sources:

  • Glucose
  • Ketones

Your body will turn body and dietary fat into ketones for fuel. It will also convert every carbohydrate you eat into glucose for fuel. Protein, your third macro, can be used to aid in either process which is a much longer story: Google or Bing “Gluconeogenesis.”

The simple point is this: Carbohydrates are not your enemy. They are one of your body’s main fuel sources. Some of you burn protein/fat efficient which means your body works better when you burn ketones instead of glucose. In some cases, burning ketones has even worked wonders for modern medicine in children with epilepsy or women with PCOS and the subsequent Insulin Resistance.

However, many of you burn glucose better and your bodies prefer to use it as a fuel source. Either is okay because there’s nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates and burning glucose as long as you stick to complex carbs which is what your body needs for fuel. However, do stay away from simple sugars which will cause your blood sugar to spike and then cause you to crash and burn.