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Why switch to a plant-based diet?

A woman drinking a Jake shake after her run

Why switch to a plant-based diet?

As vegetarian diets have become increasingly popular, a vegan diet has also gained much more recognition as a healthy and potentially therapeutic food choice. The number of people who eat vegan every day has been set at 1.5%. With a population size of 17.4 million, there are 261,000 people. This figure is more than 110,000 higher than previous estimates.

What is a plant-based diet?

A vegan diet means that you only eat foods that come from plants. Those who diet avoid all animal products, including meat, dairy products and eggs. Some people also don’t eat honey. For some, being vegan is a food choice, while for others it is a lifestyle choice.
Vegan diets usually contain a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Eating a variety of these foods provides a wide variety of important vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and proteins.

However, people following this diet must ensure that they are getting important nutrients that humans usually consume in animal products. These nutrients include iron, protein, calcium, vitamin b12 and vitamin D.

Vegan diets usually contain more dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron and phytochemicals, and often these diets are lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Vegans generally have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. A vegan diet appears to be more useful for increasing the intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and for minimizing the nutritional factors involved in various chronic diseases.

Health benefits

Vegan diets can provide all the nutrients you need. In addition, they can eliminate some of the potential risks that several studies have associated with negative effects of animal fats. Research has linked the vegan diet to a range of health benefits.

Better heart health

Vegan diets can improve heart health in several ways. In 2019 a large-scale study has linked a higher intake of plant foods and a lower intake of animal foods with a reduced risk of heart disease and death in adults. Animal products, including meat, cheese and butter, are the main dietary sources of saturated fats. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), eating foods containing these fats increases cholesterol levels. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. Plant foods also contain much more fiber, which the AHA has linked to better heart health. Animal products contain little or no fiber. The main sources of fiber are vegetables and grains. In addition, people on a vegan diet often consume fewer calories than people on a standard Western diet. Moderate calorie intake can lead to a lower body mass index (BMI) and a reduced risk of obesity, a major factor in heart disease.

Lower risk of cancer

According to a 2017 review article, eating a vegan diet can reduce the risk of cancer by 15%. This health benefit may be due to the fact that plant foods are rich in fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals (more biologically active compounds in plants that can protect against cancer). Research on the effects of diet on the risk of specific cancers has produced mixed results. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that red meat is “likely to be carcinogenic,” but notes that the research has linked this mainly to colon cancer, but also prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Weight loss

People who follow a vegan diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who follow other diets. The researchers behind a 2015 study reported that vegan diets were more effective for weight loss than omnivores, and semi-vegan diets. In addition, they turned out to be better at delivering the macronutrients. Many animal foods are high in fat and calories, so replacing these with low-calorie plant foods can help people manage their weight. However, it is important to note that eating a lot of processed or high-fat plant foods, which some people call a vegan junk food diet, can lead to unhealthy weight gain.

Lower risk of type 2 diabetes

According to a large review article from 2019, following a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The research linked this effect to eating healthy plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.

Environmental benefits

A global shift to diets less dependent on meat and more on fruits and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, cut greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds and lead to health care savings, Oxford researchers write. Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden worldwide and are also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental impacts were assessed by the researchers using four different nutritional scenarios conceived for the year 2050: a ‘business as usual’ scenario based on predictions of future diets, a scenario based on global dietary guidelines with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits for the amount of red meat, sugar and total calories, and vegetarian and vegan scenarios that both meet the dietary guidelines.

They found that adopting diets in accordance with global dietary guidelines could prevent 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits would come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths). About half of the deaths avoided were due to a reduction in red meat consumption, the other half to a combination of increased fruit and vegetable intake and a reduction in calories, resulting in fewer overweight or obese people.
The study predicts that by 2050, the food-related exclusion of greenhouse gases could make up half of the emissions the world can afford if global warming is limited to less than 2 ° C. Adopting the global dietary guidelines would reduce food-related emissions by 29%, vegetarian diets by 63% and vegan diets by 70%.

Why switch to a plant-based diet?

Several studies show a variety of health benefits for our body. In addition, it can also help a lot in maintaining your current weight or losing weight if you want to. In addition to health effects, a vegan diet also has a very positive effect on the environment. Read more about how meal replacements can help in your diet

Eating vegetables doesn’t have to be difficult, many essential nutrients can be found in vegetables, whole grains and vegetable oils. Do you find it very difficult to prepare nutritious vegan meals? Or you just don’t want to put a lot of effort into it? All Jake products are completely plant-based and can therefore be consumed without feeling guilty about the current status of the climate. In addition, you can be sure that you will always receive a complete meal.

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Organic is (not) better

Organic is (not) better

It’s a common supermarket dilemma: you’re standing in the aisle between a regular product and its organic version. Your instinct and all marketing signs tell you that organic must be better, but your mind is struggling for a rational reason why. The romantic ‘back-to-nature’ appeal of organic food is strong and difficult to outshout, but for the love of facts and rational supermarket decisions, let’s try. Here’s an overview of what organic food really is and how it compares to its non-organic neighbours on the shelf.

Organic food. What's that again?

Organic food is food produced through organic farming. That means without any synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic farming employs techniques like crop rotation and companion planting, which promote biodiversity and long-term soil quality. That’s the black-and-white definition. To keep it balanced, it’s important to clarify a couple of points.

First of all, not using synthetic pesticides doesn’t mean not using pesticides. Organically farmed or not, crops are vulnerable to predators and diseases, and pesticides are required to protect them. Both organic and conventional farming make use of a combination of natural and synthetic pesticides.

Next to that, although organic farming generally prohibits the use of antibiotics on livestock, it can be allowed with limitations when alternative treatments are inappropriate. Last but not least, crop rotation and other soil-enhancing techniques aren’t exclusively used by organic farmers. Conventional producers also make use of them to improve fertility and crop yield.

Both organic and conventional farming have pros and cons. Yet, public opinion is often more positive towards organically produced foods, with many consumers perceiving them as better for the environment, more nutritious, healthier and safer than conventional foods.

Is that so? Let’s see how organic products actually compare to conventional products.

Nutritional value of organic foods

When it comes to macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, there are generally no meaningful differences between organic and non-organic produce. The available data point out only two exceptional cases: organic meat and cow’s milk.

Organic cow’s milk conclusively shows around 50% higher content of total omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Data about organic meat are less consistent with regard to the size of the effect, but they still demonstrate a significantly higher content of omega-3 fatty acids in beef, lamb and pork as compared to their conventionally-bred counterparts.

Toxic metals in organic and conventional foods

Soil and pesticide composition affect not only the nutrient profile of crops, but also the presence of toxic metals in the produce. Current research finds no difference between organic and conventional crops when it comes to lead, mercury and arsenic concentrations. There is some evidence of significantly higher concentrations of cadmium in conventional crops as compared to organic crops. However, due to inconsistencies in the analyses, the size and significance of these difference are yet to be specified.

Antibiotics-resistant bacteria

A clear difference between organic and conventional farming is the use of antibiotics. Conventional farming uses them both as prevention and as treatment. In organic farming, only treatment use in special cases is allowed. It makes a difference, with up to 4 times less antibiotics used in organic cow breeding and up to 15 times less in organic pig farming versus conventional production.

However, the antibiotics themselves aren’t a potential health hazard for us, because products from animals which have been treated with antibiotics can only be used as human food after a withdrawal period has passed. This means that the animal and, hence, the animal product are free of antibiotics residue at that point.

The issue with using antibiotics in farming has to do with antibiotics-resistant bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter. If antibiotics-resistant bacteria cause an infection in humans, treatment can be very difficult. It’s important to note that not all antibiotic treatments can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans. And also, less use of antibiotics in organic farming doesn’t necessarily mean organic meat is free of antibiotic-resistance bacteria. Comprehensive studies on the topic are limited, but data from the Netherlands and the US show that some retail organic meat also contains resistant bacteria, sometimes in comparable levels to conventional meat.

Pesticides

Safety in the context of organic foods is generally assumed based on the absence of synthetic substances in the production process. However, some organic pesticides, like copper sulphate and pyrethrum, have shown to be at least as high in toxicity as the synthetic chlorpyrifos and chlorothalonil. The point of saying this isn’t to scare you off of every kind of food. But a pesticide is a pesticide. And just because it occurs naturally, doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

It’s true that there are pesticide residues in both organic and non-organic foods. It’s also true that organic food has significantly lower levels of pesticide residue than non-organic foods. However, the pesticide levels in both organic and non-organic foods are well below the established guidelines for what is safe. A study in Denmark estimated that the risk of cumulative negative health effects from pesticide residues in food is comparable to that of having a glass of wine every three months. Developing countries, where food regulations aren’t in place or aren’t strictly enforced may have a different level of risk. However, if you’re living in the West, there’s no need to worry about pesticides from food. Organic or not.

The environment

Organic farming has the potential to benefit the environment by enhancing soil quality and promoting biodiversity. However, environmental impact is a much broader topic.

The amount of data available for a comparison between organic and conventional foods isn’t overwhelming. From what we do know, there’s no clear winner. The most conclusive results are in the area of land and energy use. Organic farming requires considerably more land than conventional farming and much less energy, if you account for the energy required to produce synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. When it comes to other environmental factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, the truth is, it really depends on the type of food.

So, if you’re choosing organic primarily to reduce environmental impact, your best strategy wouldn’t be to go organic across the board. If you’d go for organic pulses and fruits, but pick conventional cereals, vegetables and animal products, you’d end up with lower total greenhouse gas emissions than if you only choose conventional or only organic.

Next to that, certain types of food, specifically beef, mutton and pork have a significantly higher environmental impact than dairy, eggs and plant produce. That’s true regardless of how organically they’re produced. Therefore, what food you pick is essentially more meaningful for the environment than how it was produced.

Organic or conventional?

Back to the supermarket aisle. Before you let your instincts or assumptions push you in any direction, decide what’s important for you when making food choices.

If you’re looking to maximise your nutritional benefit and you’re choosing beef, lamb, pork or cow’s milk, you’d better pick organic – it’ll deliver more omega-3 fatty acids. But if you’re trying to avoid antibiotics-resistant bacteria in your food, an organic label cannot guarantee you that. Are you concerned about the environment? You can buy all things organic and still end up with a worse environmental impact than if you’d pick only conventional food. If you want to make the best environmental choices, what food you pick is more important than how it was produced.

The bottom line is that an ‘organic’ label doesn’t mean ‘healthier’, ‘safer’ or ‘better for the environment’. Not across the board, anyway. So, if you want to make rational food choices, set your priorities straight and decide on a case-by-case basis.

Afraid to miss out on essential nutrients your body needs? You can always take our Jake meal replacement shakes or one of our delicious meal replacement bars.