Seven Strategies to Put Your Diet on a Plant-based Path

Michelle Washington wrote . . . . . . . . .

A plant-based diet may have seemed extreme years ago, but today it’s all the rage – and for good reason. In many ways the planet and human health are in trouble, and a plant-centric diet is one way to address both issues.

More than 10,000 studies in peer-reviewed medical journals show that a diet based on whole plant foods leads to higher life expectancy and lower rates of cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and most other chronic ailments. “If you eat the standard American diet, you’re going to get the standard American diseases,” says Ocean Robbins, co-founder of the Food Revolution Network and author of 31-Day Food Revolution.

“However, a plant-based diet can add years to your life and life to your years.” When you look more closely at heart disease, the No. 1 killer of American adults, the story becomes even more convincing. “The only diet proven not just to prevent but also reverse heart disease is a plant-based diet,” says Marco A. Borges, exercise physiologist, founder of 22 Days Nutrition and New York Times bestselling author whose latest book is The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World.

In Australia, 4.2 million adults had one or more cardiovascular diseases in 2014-15 and there were 43,477 deaths attributed to it in 2017. But 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable, especially with a shift to a plant-based diet, says Dr. Saray Stancic, a lifestyle medicine physician in Ramsey, New Jersey.

There’s also evidence that the current food system is unsustainable. “Worldwide, animal agriculture provides 18 percent of humanity’s food calories and 37 percent of protein, but uses 83 percent of farmland and one-third of the planet’s fresh water, and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s cars, planes, trucks, ships and trains combined,” Robbins says.

Yet, changing how you’ve always eaten isn’t easy. Where do you start? Experts share seven strategies:

1. Don’t think all or nothing.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you don’t need to shift your diet overnight. “Every step you take toward more whole plant foods is a step toward greater health for you and the planet,” Robbins says. How closely you lean into plants is your choice, but know that in the “Blue Zones” – places around the world where people live the longest and healthiest – diets are focused on whole plant foods with almost no added sugar or processed foods and between zero and 10 percent of calories from animal products. In the United States, however, approximately 54 percent of calories come from processed foods and another 34 percent from animal products, Robbins says. No amount of processed food is healthy, and even if animal products are a small part of your diet, “the Blue Zones show that what’s best is a lot less than most are eating,” he adds.

2. Make plants the star of your plate. If you’re eating like most Americans, animal products comprise most of your plate. An easy fix? “Put plants at the center of your plate, and if you do have any animal products, make them the side dish,” Stancic says. As your taste buds adapt to this new way of eating, gradually push animal products off your plate completely so that you’re following the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Power Plate formula, which divides a meal into four quadrants: whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

3. Add whole plant foods to your environment.

Your environment plays a key role in determining whether you’ll succeed at adopting a new habit, which is why it makes sense to set it up for success. The best strategy? “Bring more whole plant foods into your house and put them out where you can see them,” Borges says. How many times, after all, have you bought fruits or veggies, shoved them into the back of your fridge and later found them spoiled because you forgot about them? Instead, keep fruits and veggies at eye level in the fridge and place bowls of fruit on counters in view. At the same time, keep unhealthy processed foods out of sight as you gradually work on cutting them from your kitchen.

4. Be a planner. Nothing gets done in life without some planning, healthy eating included. Start by shopping from a list, as you’ll stand a better chance of avoiding unhealthy impulse purchases, Robbins says. Then think about your meals for the next week, or just the next day if that’s easier (“plan breakfast before you go to bed,” he adds, suggesting overnight oats or presoaked chia blueberry porridge), so that you don’t end up eating unhealthy food in a pinch.

5. Do batch cooking.

When Borges’ mom switched to a 100 percent plant-based diet, he advised her to pick a day each week to cook foods like whole grains and beans in batches, even making salad dressing for the week. She could then store the foods in the fridge or the freezer and pull them out as needed. “Although it takes time to cook them, it’s a huge time-saver,” he says.

6. Adopt the Meatless Monday habit. This global campaign encourages people to take meat off their plate every Monday, and it’s a good entry point to eating more plants. “Research shows that we have our best intentions for healthy eating on Monday, and Meatless Monday is a great way to dip your toes in the water,” says Sharon Palmer, registered dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life. After seeing how easy it is, you may be encouraged to eat meatless on other days, too.

7. Find support. No matter what change you’re trying to make, going it alone can be challenging. That’s why Stancic asks her patients to bring family members when she speaks to them about adopting a whole food, plant-based diet. “You’re introducing a significant change into your life, and if you don’t have support, that change becomes more difficult,” she says. Even if your family isn’t on board, you can find support in friends, work colleagues and local meetup or Facebook groups. Of course, changing habits can be challenging, and for many, shifting to a plant-based diet is a work in progress. And that’s OK. As Borges says, “Aim for progression, not perfection.”

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Garlic-Caraway Fried Flat Mushrooms on Bread


2 scallions
2 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus extra to garnish
1 pound flat-cap mushrooms
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 slices whole-wheat bread


  1. Slice the scallions into rings. Finely chop the parsley.
  2. Clean the mushrooms, remove the stems, and put the caps upside down into a skillet.
  3. Finely chop the garlic. Pour the oil over the mushrooms, reserving 1 teaspoon, and cook them gently over medium heat.
  4. Sprinkle the scallions, garlic, and parsley over the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining oil on the caraway seeds and chop them, then add them to the skillet.
  5. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet with some of the oil and arrange on the slices of bread, garnished with parsley sprigs. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegatables

How Can Food Companies Ensure Plant-based Protein Growth Is Sustainable?

Ben Cooper wrote . . . . . . . . .

Amid the gathering storm of climate change, environmental catastrophe and food insecurity, the growth in the plant-based protein market over recent years provides a welcome and much needed ray of hope.

The global market for plant-based meat alternatives rose by an average of 8% a year between 2010 and 2017, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, and is forecast by MarketsandMarkets to reach $5.2bn in 2020. Research from GlobalData, meanwhile, suggests 70% of consumers globally are either reducing meat consumption or giving up meat altogether.

At a time when diverse but often interrelated global problems call for coordinated or, at the very least, non-conflicting solutions, the plant-based protein growth trend is a welcome win-win, addressing urgent human health and environment challenges.

The product development that has already been seen shows the food industry’s capacity for innovation as a force for good, while the expansion of this market also stems from an openness on the part of consumers to try and then adopt meat alternatives which will have exceeded the expectations of many industry strategists and policymakers.

So, “what’s not to like?” seems the obvious question. Fundamentally, this is a positive trend but the replacement of meat and dairy products with plant-based and other alternative protein sources on a large scale is uncharted territory for the agri-food sector. There is the possibility that changing market requirements and, in particular, rapidly rising demand for certain crops could itself create sustainability issues.

Avoiding the avoidable

The impact the plant-based boom has had on quinoa farmers in Peru and southern Bolivia provides a cogent and distressing illustration of the risks. Quinoa is a highly nutritious, protein-rich crop, highly suited to changing market requirements in developed countries. The growth has increased demand, with the price farmers are obtaining for both organic and conventional quinoa doubling in the past three years.

However, this has resulted in farming communities selling most of their production for export rather than using their production as the staple food for their families. Reducing or losing quinoa from their diets has resulted in negative nutritional trends in local diets while promoting organic production may well have led to the intensification of quinoa rotations resulting in soil infertility and an increase in pest and diseases.

The extensive planting of quinoa in other countries and the breeding of varieties that can grow in a broader range of locations will mean the currently elevated price will fall. It is a boom and bust scenario for the farmers. Researchers are concerned they will end up with exhausted soil and no long-term benefit from the boom in their primary crop.

Meanwhile, around 80% of global almond production comes from California, which has endured drought conditions for virtually a decade. In that time, agricultural land has been converted to the production of almonds, an extremely water-intensive crop, to meet the rising demand for almond milk. The bad publicity reflects primarily on almond milk but threatens to tarnish the image of plant-based milks in general.

Elsewhere, sustainability issues abound in soy, the most important single crop in the plant-based protein sector, though these relate primarily to deforestation in Brazil and Argentina and GMO, which as yet are not directly impacting the plant-based food sector.

The problems with quinoa and almond milk were foreseeable. Other adverse unintended consequences are, in the terminology of ex-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “unknown unknowns” and far harder or impossible to predict. It is hard to believe Unilever’s identification of palm oil as the ideal replacement for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil was the catalyst for an environmental cataclysm. Making sure as much of the risk as possible is in the known unknowns category is critical.

Following best practice

The recent history of the food industry offers some encouragement. Faced with increasing agriculture-related risk, some food manufacturers have stepped up their sustainable sourcing measures.

Progressive companies offer examples of best practice in relation to water context, investment in agricultural communities and engaging and collaborating with local NGOs. These will be critical to food companies realising the changes required to adapt existing supply chains and develop new ones.

Greet Vanderheyden, senior sustainable development manager at Danone-owned dairy alternatives producer Alpro, points to the steps it has taken to ensure the supply of almonds for its almond milk is fully sustainable. Working closely with farmers, Alpro sources almonds from a region in Spain where they are an indigenous crop. The company obtains 60% of its soy needs from Europe and 40% from Canada.

Vanderheyden believes the measures progressive food companies have been taking with regard to sustainability will offer risk mitigation as plant-based supply chains grow to far greater volumes today but stresses the importance of applying sustainability safeguards at the outset rather than waiting until volume demands create problems. “These [sustainable agriculture] principles should be applicable but we need to start applying that from the beginning,” Vanderheyden says.

As the plant-based protein market grows, environmental credentials will remain key selling points, so it will be more important than ever to distinguish greenwash. Transparency and external verification of sustainability criteria will be more crucial than ever, according to David A. Cleveland, research professor in Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “These things have to be documented and verified,” he stresses.

Kelly Swette, co-founder and CEO of plant-based protein specialists Sweet Earth, which was acquired by Nestlé last year, also stresses the importance of transparency but believes sustainable sourcing will be a marker of quality for brands seeking to differentiate themselves in a growing market.

“I believe what is happening here in the US is premiumisation. There will be more competition but in higher-quality food. I don’t see it going down the rabbit hole in a negative way. People want high-quality food, they want better food. They are willing to pay more to get high quality and particularly millennials and younger people. That’s where the companies that are going to differentiate themselves are going to gravitate.”

Swette extends her optimistic view of the growth in the plant-based sector to Sweet Earth’s new owner. Nestlé has not only kept Kelly and her husband Brian at the helm of Sweet Earth but has sought their input in developing its own Garden Gourmet plant-based range. Swette speaks of a “dynamic discussion” with Nestlé. “They are absolutely inspired and interested in how we think about food,” Swette says, stressing Nestlé’s commitment to continuing Sweet Earth’s “no compromise agenda”.

While Swette’s positive outlook and views on the inspiring role plant-based brands can play in the food market would be echoed by many in the vegan food movement, fewer would be so positive about the expanding presence of mainstream food manufacturers. Sustainable sourcing would be a prime area of concern.

Mainstream development impact on sourcing

Earlier this month, US food group Conagra Brands confirmed its aim to build a strong position in the plant-based category. With its Gardein brand, Conagra is “very well positioned to capitalise on the explosive growth in this exciting space”, the company said earlier this month as it announced its full-year results.

The language underlines plant-based is no longer a “movement”, driven by zealous producers and motivated consumers, it is a major growth opportunity to be exploited.

Indeed, the preferred use by marketers of the term plant-based speaks to the mainstreaming of what would previously have been vegan food choices. While GlobalData research showed the proportion of consumers globally identifying as vegan rose by 61% between 2014 and 2017 to 1.6%, the growth in plant-based protein foods is being driven by the swelling ranks of consumers following “flexitarian” or “reducetarian” diets, who are seeking out meat-free choices but would not identify as vegans.

Prof. Cleveland is pessimistic about the high sustainability standards relating to sourcing that have characterised the development in plant-based protein so far withstanding the expansion of the market. “Given the way our economy works is that the economy more or less dictates morality rather than the other way around, I don’t see much chance this explosion in growth can accommodate the motivating concerns in terms of the environment, social equity or human nutrition,” he says.

Soy sustainability is emblematic and substantive issue

The huge sustainability problems relating to soy stem from deforestation in Brazil and Argentina. Currently, the vast majority of this soy is destined for the cattle feed market and this is likely to be the case for some time to come. This soy is mostly made up of varieties not suited to the human food market.

For now, European food companies can source sustainable non-GMO soy for plant-based products closer to home with production expanding in Europe to meet growing demand. In the US, non-GMO and organic soy are in shorter supply and are expensive.

As the demand for soy in human food increases and a true mass market for plant-based protein begins to take shape, there is a risk soy from the least sustainable sources in Brazil and Argentina will make its way into the supply chains for plant-based meat alternatives. While some play down this risk, Lieven Callewaert, vice president for the industry, trade and finance constituency within the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) believes this is likely to happen as the plant-based market becomes larger and price-competitive.

With this in mind, the long-term sustainability of the plant-based protein market may become more closely tied to progress in addressing the sustainability in soy production at large. While the associations of soy with unsustainable agriculture may be problematic for the plant-based protein companies, it may spur engagement on soy by food companies which will have added reason to clean up soy’s image.

Callewaert, who formed Alliance4SOY two years ago to represent the interests of eight companies, including Unilever, Arla Foods, FrieslandCampina, Mars and Vion, on the RTRS executive board, says only branded manufacturers and retailers will drive the changes that are necessary. “Traders will never be drivers; they only follow demand,” he says.

The recent entry of major meat protein companies such as Tyson Foods into the plant-based sector is a significant catalyst for growth and will also have an impact on how the sector as a whole looks from a sustainable sourcing point of view.

In launching its Raised & Rooted brand of combined meat and plant protein products, Tyson announced its intention to become “a market leader in alternative protein, which is experiencing double-digit growth and could someday be a billion-dollar business for our company”.

Asked by just-food whether its entry into the plant-based protein sector will disrupt current norms relating to the sustainable sourcing of ingredients, Tyson stresses it will be consumer-led. “The primary reason we’re entering the alternative protein segment is to meet the changing needs of today’s consumers. Our goal is to sustainably feed the world, and we are focused on creating the most efficient food supply chain across all of our products.”

Conagra is sourcing soy only from the US and says its approach to plant-based sourcing will evolve as the market develops. “Our sourcing approach for plant-based proteins continues to evolve as we evaluate this growing market,” the Conagra spokesperson adds. “Our primary source for plant-based protein is currently soy, which we source in the United States. We publicly share information about our soy supply chain through our annual CDP Forests disclosure and we also regularly review our agricultural ingredients for sourcing risks and impacts.”

In addition to soy, Conagra is among the many companies to identify pea protein as a key ingredient for its plant-based range. In contrast to soy, pea combines suitable nutritional and taste attributes with strong sustainability advantages. Indeed, legumes in general are suited to the production of plant-based meat alternatives because of their high protein content and other nutritional, taste and texture properties. Peanuts and chickpeas are other crops that offer excellent potential for sustainable expansion.

Swette also emphasises the importance of diversity in sourcing ingredients for plant-based products. “One of the foundations for us is plant diversity,” she says, adding that this brings both environmental benefits in sourcing and nutritional benefits in formulations.

Demand for plant-based food is rising, in part due to environmental concerns. As the market grows, industry should be looking to mitigate the new environmental pressures that could emerge.

Source: just-food

Menu Labelling Linked to Less Fat and Salt in Food at Major UK Restaurant Chains

Food sold at restaurants whose menus display energy information are lower in fat and salt than that of their competitors, according to new research from CEDAR.

The researchers behind the study argue that if government policy made menu labelling mandatory, it could encourage restaurants to produce healthier options, leading to public health benefits.

Obesity levels worldwide have almost tripled since 1975, making it one of the most pressing public health challenges today. Poor diet is a leading contributor to obesity as well as to diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Food from restaurants and fast food takeaways tends to be high in energy, fat, sugar and salt compared to food prepared at home. Some health campaigners have called for restaurants to improve the nutritional information available to customers. Mandatory menu labelling for large restaurant chains was introduced in the US in May 2018. In the UK, the government included voluntary menu labelling in its Public Health Responsibility Deal in 2011. A proposal for compulsory menu labelling was included in last year’s Childhood Obesity Plan and a public consultation closed last December, but no announcement on a final policy has been made so far.

The assumption behind such measures is that providing customers with clearer information on the energy content of food served will allow them to make more informed, and hence ‘better’, choices. But it is also possible that menu labelling could change what outlets serve, as nutritionally-poor food could lead to bad publicity.

Researchers at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), University of Cambridge, set out to determine whether there were differences in the energy and nutritional content of menu items served by popular UK chain restaurants with ,versus without, voluntary menu labelling in their stores. Their results are published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The team first looked at energy and nutritional information on the websites of the most popular 100 UK restaurant chains during March and April 2018. Of these 100 restaurants, 42 provided some form of energy and nutritional information online, but only 13 provided menu labelling in stores.

Items from restaurants with in-store menu labelling had on average 45% less fat and 60% less salt than items from other restaurants.

Dolly Theis from CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge said:

“This is the first study to look at differences in nutritional content of food from restaurants with and without menu labelling in the UK. It suggests that on the whole, restaurants that provide information on calories on menus also serve healthier food, in terms of fat and salt levels. As well as providing useful information for customers, mandatory menu labelling could also encourage restaurants to improve the nutritional quality of their menus.”

The researchers say that it is possible that menu labelling encourages restaurants to change the content of their food and also that those chains with ‘healthier’ offerings are more likely to label their menus. Twelve of the 14 restaurants that provided voluntary menu labelling were in the top 50 restaurants by sales – larger chains may come under more scrutiny from governments, the media, campaign groups and the public to provide both menu labelling and healthier options.

Across all menu categories, at least three-quarters of individual menu items were below the daily maximum recommended intake for energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. However, some individual items contained more than twice the daily recommended amount for energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt. In one case, an individual dish contained 5,961Kcal – almost three times the daily recommended maximum for an average adult woman.

Dr Jean Adams added:

“We found some restaurant items that hugely exceeded the daily recommended intake for energy, fats, sugar and salt. More than a quarter of UK adults eat meals out at least once a week, so such large or nutritionally-imbalanced portions could contribute to poor dietary intake at a population level.”

Source: University of Cambridge

Current and Ex-smokers May Lower Lung Cancer Risk with Exercise

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Men who are current or former smokers may be less likely to develop or die from lung cancer when they’re more physically fit, a recent study suggests.

Researchers gave treadmill tests to 2,979 men – 1,602 who were former smokers and 1,377 who were current smokers – to assess their “cardiorespiratory” fitness, or how easily the circulatory and respiratory systems can supply oxygen to muscles during physical exertion. They assessed exercise capacity using a standard measurement known as metabolic equivalents (METs) which reflects how much oxygen is consumed during physical activity.

Researchers followed the men for an average of 11.6 years; during this period, 99 participants were diagnosed with lung cancer and 79 of these people died from cancer.

Among former smokers, each 1-MET increase during treadmill tests was associated with a 13% lower risk of developing lung cancer. Moderate to high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a 51% to 77% lower risk of developing lung malignancies, the study found.

And among current smokers who were later diagnosed with lung cancer, each 1-met increase during treadmill tests was associated with an 18% lower risk of dying from cancer. Moderate to high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were linked to an 84% to 85% lower risk of dying from cancer.

“Both former and current smokers can significantly reduce their risk of developing and dying from lung cancer by achieving higher cardiorespiratory fitness,” said lead study author Baruch Vainshelboim of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“Aerobic exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity such walking, jogging, running, biking, or elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes three to five times a week can improve cardiorespiratory fitness,” Vainshelboim said by email.

Lung cancer remains the most common cancer worldwide, with more than 2 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths a year, researchers note in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Tobacco is the single most important risk factor for developing and dying from lung cancer, accounting for up to 90% of diagnoses and more than 80% of deaths, researchers note.

Eliminating low cardiorespiratory fitness as a risk factor could prevent about 11% of lung cancer diagnoses in former smokers and roughly 22% of cancer deaths in current smokers who develop lung cancer, the study authors estimated.

While the study can’t prove whether or how improving aerobic fitness might directly reduce the odds of developing or dying from lung cancer, the results still point to one modifiable risk factor that current and former smokers might be able to control to reduce their risk, researchers conclude.

It’s possible that being more fit helps limit exposure to toxins from cigarettes in the lungs, said Trude Eid Robsahm, a researcher at the Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute of Population-based Cancer Research, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“In addition, physical activity improves activity in immune cells and produces a cancer-inhibiting environment in the tissue,” Robsahm said by email.

Getting recommended levels of exercise will help, said Dr. Sudhir Kurl, a researcher at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio.

“The consensus public health guideline to perform 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging will move most of individuals out of the low-fitness category,” Karl, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It also may help smokers to quit smoking.”

Source: Reuters

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