A plant-based diet has been gaining popularity in recent years, with many people adopting it for various reasons such as health, environmental concerns, and ethical beliefs. But is a plant-based diet really healthy? This is a question that has been debated by nutritionists, dietitians, and health experts for a long time.
On one hand, proponents of a plant-based diet argue that it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. They also claim that it is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than a diet that includes meat and dairy products.
On the other hand, critics argue that a plant-based diet can be lacking in certain nutrients, such as protein, iron, and calcium, if not properly planned. They also point out that some plant-based foods, such as processed foods and refined carbohydrates, can be unhealthy and contribute to weight gain and other health problems.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of a plant-based diet and try to answer the question: is a plant-based diet really healthy? We will examine the evidence from scientific studies and expert opinions to provide a balanced perspective on this controversial topic.
A plant-based diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, has been shown to have numerous health benefits. Studies have found that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It can also help with weight loss and improve overall digestive health. However, it is important to note that a plant-based diet may not be suitable for everyone, and it is important to ensure that you are getting all the necessary nutrients. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine if a plant-based diet is right for you.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
Defining Plant-Based Diets
A plant-based diet is a way of eating that primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It eliminates or significantly reduces the consumption of animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood. This dietary approach is often associated with various health benefits, but its definition and classification can be subject to interpretation.
Key Features of Plant-Based Diets:
- Emphasis on plant-based foods: A plant-based diet focuses on consuming whole, minimally processed plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are typically high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can support overall health.
- Exclusion or reduction of animal products: The primary goal of a plant-based diet is to reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood. This may be due to ethical, environmental, or health reasons.
- Variety of eating patterns: Plant-based diets can encompass a wide range of eating patterns, from a strict vegan diet (which excludes all animal products) to a more flexible vegetarian or flexitarian diet (which may include occasional animal products).
Types of Plant-Based Diets:
- Vegan Diet: A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood. It emphasizes plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Vegans may also consume fortified foods or supplements to ensure they receive adequate nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vegetarian Diet: A vegetarian diet excludes meat but may include dairy products, eggs, or seafood. There are several types of vegetarian diets, including lacto-ovo vegetarian (which includes dairy and eggs), lacto vegetarian (which includes dairy but not eggs), and ovo vegetarian (which includes eggs but not dairy).
- Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian Diet: A flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet is predominantly plant-based but allows for occasional consumption of animal products, such as meat, dairy, or eggs. This approach may be seen as a middle ground between a traditional omnivorous diet and a fully plant-based diet.
Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diets:
Research has suggested that plant-based diets may offer various health benefits, including lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. These diets are often rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can support overall health and well-being. However, it is important to note that the health effects of a plant-based diet may vary depending on the individual’s specific dietary choices and lifestyle factors.
The Vegan Diet
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that excludes all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. This diet is based on the idea that a plant-based diet is more ethical, environmentally friendly, and healthy.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the nutrients necessary for good health, including protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins. Some studies have shown that a vegan diet can help lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.
Challenges of a Vegan Diet
It can be challenging to get enough calories, protein, and other nutrients on a vegan diet, especially for athletes and active individuals. It can also be challenging to find vegan options when eating out or traveling.
Variations of a Vegan Diet
Some people follow a vegan diet for ethical reasons, while others do it for health or environmental reasons. Some people also follow a vegetarian diet, which excludes meat but includes dairy and eggs. Others follow a flexitarian diet, which is mostly plant-based but includes occasional meat and dairy.
The Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet is a type of plant-based diet that excludes meat, poultry, and fish. There are several different types of vegetarian diets, each with its own set of guidelines for what foods can be consumed. These include:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: This is the most common type of vegetarian diet. It excludes meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but allows for the consumption of dairy products and eggs.
- Lacto vegetarians: This type of vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but allows for the consumption of dairy products.
- Ovo vegetarians: This type of vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products, but allows for the consumption of eggs.
- Pescatarians: This type of vegetarian diet excludes meat and poultry, but includes fish and dairy products.
Each type of vegetarian diet offers different health benefits, and it’s important to understand the differences between them when considering a plant-based diet. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, while a pescatarian diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from any cause.
Overall, a vegetarian diet can be a healthy option for those who follow it correctly and make sure to consume a variety of nutrient-rich plant-based foods.
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Improved Heart Health
A plant-based diet has been shown to have numerous health benefits, particularly for the heart. A plant-based diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. This is likely due to the high levels of potassium, magnesium, and fiber found in plant-based foods, which can help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.
- Improved Cholesterol Levels: A plant-based diet can also help improve cholesterol levels by reducing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. This is thought to be due to the high levels of soluble fiber, which can bind to cholesterol and help remove it from the body.
- Reduced Inflammation: Inflammation is a key driver of heart disease, and a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. This is likely due to the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in plant-based foods, such as flavonoids and polyphenols.
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity: A plant-based diet has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. This is likely due to the high levels of fiber and low levels of added sugars found in plant-based diets.
Overall, the evidence suggests that a plant-based diet can have a positive impact on heart health, and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Lower Risk of Cancer
Numerous studies have shown that a plant-based diet can significantly reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer. The link between plant-based diets and lower cancer risk is primarily due to the presence of certain compounds found in plant-based foods, such as antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants are nutrients that help protect the body against damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of cancer. Plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are rich in antioxidants, making them an important component of a cancer-preventive diet.
- Fiber: Consuming adequate amounts of fiber has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, promoting the elimination of potentially harmful substances from the body. High-fiber plant-based foods, such as legumes, whole grains, and leafy greens, are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
- Phytochemicals: Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that have been shown to have potential cancer-preventive properties. Examples of phytochemicals include flavonoids, found in berries and other fruits, and indoles, found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. These compounds may help prevent cancer by reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and promoting apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
In addition to these specific compounds, a plant-based diet also tends to be lower in saturated fat and higher in unsaturated fat, which may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Furthermore, a plant-based diet often leads to a lower overall caloric intake, which can help prevent weight gain and obesity, another well-known risk factor for cancer.
Overall, the evidence supports the notion that a plant-based diet can indeed lower the risk of cancer by providing the body with essential nutrients and beneficial compounds found in plant-based foods.
A plant-based diet has been shown to be effective for weight loss due to its high fiber and low calorie content. This type of diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are low in calories and high in nutrients. Eating a plant-based diet can also help reduce the risk of obesity, as it is typically lower in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to a diet that includes meat and dairy products.
Furthermore, plant-based diets are often high in protein, but the type of protein is different from that found in animal products. Plant-based protein sources such as beans, lentils, and tofu are typically low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making them a healthier choice for those looking to lose weight.
In addition, a plant-based diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is a key factor in weight loss. By eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, individuals can help regulate their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition that is often associated with obesity.
Overall, a plant-based diet can be an effective tool for weight loss due to its high fiber and low calorie content, as well as its ability to reduce the risk of obesity and improve insulin sensitivity.
The Drawbacks of a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet can be a healthy and nutritious choice for many individuals, but it is important to note that it may also come with potential drawbacks. One of the main concerns with a plant-based diet is the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
While a well-planned plant-based diet can provide all the necessary nutrients, it is important to be aware of certain nutrients that may be lacking in a plant-based diet. Here are some of the key nutrients that individuals following a plant-based diet may need to pay attention to:
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system. It is primarily found in animal products, so individuals following a plant-based diet may need to supplement their intake or consume fortified foods.
- Iron: Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. While plant-based sources of iron, such as beans and spinach, are available, they may not be as easily absorbed by the body as iron from animal products. Individuals following a plant-based diet may need to consume more iron-rich plant foods or supplement their intake.
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. While leafy green vegetables and fortified plant-based milk alternatives can provide calcium, individuals following a plant-based diet may need to pay attention to their overall calcium intake and consider supplementing if necessary.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health and brain function. While plant-based sources of omega-3s, such as flaxseed and chia seeds, are available, they may not be as easily converted by the body into the active form of omega-3s found in animal products. Individuals following a plant-based diet may need to consume a variety of plant-based omega-3 sources or consider supplementing with algae-based omega-3s.
It is important to note that nutrient deficiencies can vary depending on the individual and their specific dietary choices. By planning a well-balanced plant-based diet and paying attention to potential nutrient deficiencies, individuals can ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs while reaping the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Limited Protein Sources
One of the primary concerns with a plant-based diet is the limited availability of protein sources. Animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, are rich in high-quality protein, while plant-based sources like legumes, nuts, and seeds may not provide the same amount of protein per serving. This can make it difficult for individuals to meet their daily protein requirements while adhering to a strictly plant-based diet.
Moreover, some plant-based protein sources may not be complete proteins, meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids required by the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and without them, the body cannot effectively utilize the protein from these sources. As a result, individuals following a plant-based diet must carefully plan their meals to ensure they consume a variety of plant-based protein sources to meet their nutritional needs.
It is important to note that protein requirements can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and activity level. Individuals following a plant-based diet should consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure they are meeting their protein and overall nutritional needs.
In conclusion, while a plant-based diet can provide an adequate amount of protein, it may require careful planning and attention to ensure that all essential amino acids are consumed.
Social and Cultural Challenges
While adopting a plant-based diet may seem like a simple solution to improving one’s health, there are several social and cultural challenges that individuals may face when transitioning to this type of diet.
One of the biggest challenges is the perception of plant-based diets in society. Many people view plant-based diets as restrictive and difficult to follow, and may not understand the health benefits associated with them. This can make it difficult for individuals to feel supported in their decision to adopt a plant-based diet, and may lead to feelings of isolation or embarrassment.
Additionally, many social events and gatherings are centered around meat-based dishes, making it difficult for individuals following a plant-based diet to find options that suit their dietary needs. This can lead to feelings of exclusion or pressure to deviate from one’s dietary restrictions.
Furthermore, cultural and religious beliefs may also play a role in the difficulty of adopting a plant-based diet. In some cultures, meat and animal products are seen as central to traditional meals and celebrations, making it challenging for individuals to adopt a plant-based diet without feeling like they are betraying their cultural identity.
In conclusion, the social and cultural challenges associated with adopting a plant-based diet can make it difficult for individuals to fully embrace this lifestyle change. It is important for individuals to consider these challenges and find ways to overcome them in order to fully reap the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Can a Plant-Based Diet be Healthy?
Understanding the Science Behind Plant-Based Diets
When considering the health benefits of a plant-based diet, it is important to understand the science behind it. Numerous studies have shown that plant-based diets can provide a wide range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
One of the main reasons why plant-based diets are so beneficial for health is due to their high nutrient density. Plant-based foods are typically rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which are essential for maintaining good health. Additionally, plant-based diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Another key aspect of plant-based diets is their focus on whole, unprocessed foods. Processed foods are often high in unhealthy ingredients such as added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats, which can increase the risk of chronic diseases. In contrast, whole, unprocessed plant-based foods are nutrient-dense and can provide a range of health benefits.
Moreover, plant-based diets are often associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body, which is a key driver of many chronic diseases. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including a diet high in processed foods and animal products. Plant-based diets, on the other hand, tend to be anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
It is important to note that not all plant-based diets are created equal. For example, a diet that consists mainly of processed foods, such as veggie burgers and french fries, may not provide the same health benefits as a diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
In conclusion, the science behind plant-based diets suggests that they can provide a wide range of health benefits. By focusing on whole, unprocessed plant-based foods, these diets can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote overall health and wellbeing.
Making Informed Choices
A plant-based diet can indeed be healthy, provided that one makes informed choices. Here are some tips for making informed choices:
- Incorporate a variety of plant-based foods: While fruits and vegetables are essential, it is also crucial to include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet. These foods provide a range of nutrients that are essential for good health.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: Even healthy foods can become unhealthy if consumed in excessive amounts. Pay attention to portion sizes and avoid overeating.
- Consider supplements: Some nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, are not readily available in plant-based foods. Consider taking supplements to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need.
- Limit processed foods: While some plant-based processed foods may be healthy, such as fortified plant-based milk and bread, others may be high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar. Limit your intake of processed foods to minimize the risk of negative health effects.
- Consult a healthcare professional: If you are considering a plant-based diet, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. They can help you create a balanced meal plan that meets your individual needs and preferences.
Incorporating Plant-Based Diets into Your Lifestyle
Strategies for a Successful Transition
- Gradual elimination: Instead of abruptly eliminating animal products, gradually reduce their intake to allow your body and taste buds to adjust. This will make the transition smoother and less likely to result in nutrient deficiencies.
- Variety and planning: Ensure that you consume a wide variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This will help you meet your nutritional needs and reduce the risk of monotony or deficiencies.
- Incorporate nutrient-dense foods: Focus on consuming nutrient-dense plant-based foods, such as dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and lean plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, and legumes. These foods provide essential nutrients and can help you feel full and satisfied.
- Consult a professional: Work with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in plant-based diets to ensure that you meet your individual nutritional needs and avoid potential deficiencies.
- Cooking skills: Develop your cooking skills to prepare delicious and healthy plant-based meals. Experiment with new recipes, spices, and cooking techniques to keep meals interesting and enjoyable.
- Read labels: Be mindful of the ingredients in processed foods, as many may contain hidden animal-derived ingredients. Reading labels can help you make informed choices and avoid accidental consumption of animal products.
- Social support: Connect with friends, family, or local communities who share your interest in plant-based diets. This can provide valuable support, shared experiences, and new ideas for meal planning and recipes.
- Track your progress: Regularly monitor your health indicators, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight, to ensure that your plant-based diet is benefiting your health. Celebrate your successes and make adjustments as needed.
By incorporating these strategies into your lifestyle, you can successfully transition to a plant-based diet and enjoy a wide range of nutritious and delicious foods that promote optimal health and well-being.
Plant-Based Diets vs. Other Diets
Comparing Plant-Based Diets to Omnivorous Diets
While a plant-based diet has been gaining popularity as a healthy lifestyle choice, it is essential to compare it to other diets, particularly omnivorous diets, to determine its true health benefits. Here are some key factors to consider when comparing plant-based diets to omnivorous diets:
- Nutrient Content: A well-planned plant-based diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle, including protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins. However, an omnivorous diet can also provide these nutrients, and in some cases, may offer a more diverse range of micronutrients. It is crucial to ensure that a plant-based diet is varied and balanced to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
- Health Benefits: Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. However, an omnivorous diet can also offer health benefits, such as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Ultimately, the health benefits of each diet depend on the individual’s overall dietary choices and lifestyle factors.
- Environmental Impact: A plant-based diet has been shown to have a lower environmental impact than an omnivorous diet, as it requires less land, water, and energy to produce. Additionally, a plant-based diet can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable agriculture practices. On the other hand, an omnivorous diet can contribute to deforestation, habitat loss, and other environmental issues.
- Personal Preferences and Beliefs: Personal preferences and beliefs play a significant role in determining the healthiest diet for an individual. Some people may prefer the taste and texture of animal products, while others may have ethical or religious beliefs that align with a plant-based diet. It is essential to consider personal preferences and beliefs when choosing a diet.
In conclusion, when comparing plant-based diets to omnivorous diets, it is crucial to consider various factors, including nutrient content, health benefits, environmental impact, and personal preferences and beliefs. While a plant-based diet can offer many health benefits, it is essential to ensure that it is varied and balanced to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats such as olive oil. This diet is known for its numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity. The Mediterranean diet is also high in antioxidants, which can help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, this diet encourages moderate consumption of lean protein, dairy, and fish, which provides all the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is a dietary approach that aims to mimic the eating habits of our ancient ancestors. This diet emphasizes consuming whole foods, such as meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, while avoiding processed foods, grains, dairy, and legumes. Proponents of the Paleo Diet argue that it is a healthier alternative to a plant-based diet because it reduces the consumption of processed foods and emphasizes whole foods.
However, critics argue that the Paleo Diet is not based on scientific evidence and can be difficult to follow, as it eliminates many whole food groups, such as legumes and dairy. Additionally, some studies have shown that a diet high in red meat and saturated fats, which are prominent in the Paleo Diet, can increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems.
In conclusion, while the Paleo Diet may have some health benefits, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks and limitations of this dietary approach when comparing it to a plant-based diet.
There are many sources of information available on the topic of plant-based diets and their health benefits or drawbacks. Some useful resources for further reading include:
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II: This book presents evidence from a long-term study in China that suggests a plant-based diet can help prevent and even reverse certain diseases.
- The Vegetarian Society: This organization provides information on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, as well as recipes and meal ideas.
- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: This group of medical professionals advocates for a plant-based diet as a way to prevent and treat various health conditions.
- The Plant-Based Dietitian by Wendy L. Wasserman: This book provides guidance on how to follow a plant-based diet and includes recipes and meal plans.
- The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner: This book explores areas around the world where people tend to live longer and healthier lives, and suggests that a plant-based diet may be a key factor in their longevity.
These resources can provide valuable insights and information for those considering a plant-based diet or looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into their current diet.
1. What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a way of eating that focuses on consuming primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, while minimizing or excluding animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs.
2. Is a plant-based diet healthy?
Yes, a well-planned plant-based diet can be nutritionally adequate and provide numerous health benefits. Plant-based diets are often associated with lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
3. Can you get all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet?
Yes, it is possible to get all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet. Some key nutrients to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12, which can be found in plant-based sources such as legumes, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast.
4. What are some benefits of a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet has been linked to numerous health benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and lower risks of certain types of cancer. Additionally, a plant-based diet can be beneficial for the environment, as it requires fewer resources and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a diet that includes animal products.
5. Are there any drawbacks to a plant-based diet?
While a plant-based diet can be nutritionally adequate, it may be difficult to meet certain nutrient needs, such as vitamin B12, without careful planning. Additionally, some people may have difficulty obtaining enough calories on a plant-based diet, especially if they are not used to consuming a lot of plant-based foods.
6. Can I still get enough protein on a plant-based diet?
Yes, it is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Sources of plant-based protein include legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. It is important to include a variety of protein-rich plant-based foods in your diet to ensure that you get all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
7. Can I still eat out or eat pre-made foods on a plant-based diet?
Yes, it is possible to follow a plant-based diet while eating out or consuming pre-made foods. When eating out, it may be helpful to look for restaurants that offer plant-based options or to ask for modifications to menu items to make them plant-based. When consuming pre-made foods, it may be helpful to read labels carefully to ensure that they do not contain animal products.
8. How can I get started with a plant-based diet?
Starting a plant-based diet can be as simple as incorporating more plant-based foods into your current diet. Begin by trying one or two plant-based meals per week and gradually increasing the amount of plant-based foods in your diet over time. You may also find it helpful to seek out plant-based recipes and cookbooks, or to connect with other people who follow a plant-based diet for support and ideas.