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How to Optimize Your Nutrition by Adding More Plant-Based Options

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Can more plant-based options help you optimize your nutrition? Since we were little, we’ve been told to “eat our veggies” without necessarily contemplating the why. In this post, we’ll give you a bigger perspective on the topic by discussing some peer-reviewed studies that investigate the matter with a holistic approach and provide practical tips on optimizing your diet.

How to Optimize Your Nutrition by Adding More Plant-Based Options | Beyond Sapiens

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More plant-based options to optimize your nutrition?

Why plant-based options? For us as vegans, well, that’s all we eat. But what works for us is a sum of many variables that do not necessarily work for everyone. We all need to find the best solutions for ourselves by recognizing what our minds and bodies need.

So, we do not argue for or against any specific diets in this post. What we want to do, is to bring holistic awareness of nutrition research and give science-based tips on how to optimize your nutrition for sustainable performance.

Before we jump to the discussion, let us give you some context of the research we’ll analyze. The first study took 3 optimized diets – a German national guidelines-based diet (which basically is a healthy omnivorous diet), a vegan diet, and a Mediterranean diet.

It then analyzed them from a One Health perspective. That is a multidisciplinary approach that aims to find common ground between what’s best for human, animal, and environmental health. While the second study is based on the Health Nutritional Index, a new index that calculates how a serving of food can add or subtract minutes to your overall lifespan.

How to be more sustainable while adding more plant-based options to your diet?

We rarely stop to think about where the food on our plates comes from. On a global level, food consumption is responsible for around a fourth of all greenhouse gasses. This is partly because of the long food supply chains, which makes it important to reflect on where the food we buy is coming from.

The impact of the food supply chains can be measured with the Life Cycle Assessment, a broadly used method that measures the overall supply chain impact. Of course, we need to eat, so it is important that we produce food, but we can always choose more low-impact alternatives.

With small changes, we can make more sustainable choices supporting our health. Research has shown that diets with less ready-to-eat meals and meat can reduce the climate change impact by 20 to 30%. On the other hand, fully plant-based wholegrain diets can reduce the impact by 50%.

Additionally, switching only 10% of daily meat consumption to plant-based whole food options could decrease your dietary carbon footprint by a third. This small change would also make you gain 48 healthy minutes of life per day! Which is a lot when compounded over the years.

These changes are not only positive for the environment but also for your health and the animals.

Holistic approach on nutrition to ensure animal welfare

Analyzing the environmental impact through the Life Cycle Assessment can surely help us better understand our real impact on the environment. What that method doesn’t include, though, is the impact we have on the other species we share this planet with.

It’s common knowledge that the intensification of animal farming has significant implications for animal health and welfare. But how can that be measured? The researchers integrated additional indicators into the Life Cycle Assessment to achieve a more holistic perspective on this complex topic.

Specifically, they used a methodology that covers the impacts from farm to slaughter with 3 indicators: animal life years suffered, loss of animal lives, and loss of morally-adjusted animal lives. Whether you stand for the animals, as we do or not, this is an interesting approach as it expands the concept of our actual environmental impact.

The results revealed that besides meat, consuming honey, fish, and seafood has the most significant impact on animal welfare because of the high number of animals involved.

Health aspects of adding more plant-based options to your diet

Besides supporting animal welfare, reducing the consumption of meat products and ready-to-eat meals in favor of more plant-based options lowers the risks for many diseases. In fact, the high nutrient density of legumes, vegetables, and whole grains, promotes better health and, through that, better performance.

This is because Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Simultaneously they include significantly less saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Eating more plant-based options also has positive effects on mental health. For example, a study with 8,600 participants showed that eating at least 470 grams of fruits and vegetables daily correlated with over 10% lower stress levels. 

Why choose more plant-based options?

When you start thinking deeper about what is on your plate and its impact on the environment as a whole, you might feel overwhelmed, and that’s normal as it’s a highly complex topic with a lot of variables to consider without even mentioning the cultural influences and our own sets of beliefs.

What matters, though, is to take the first few steps toward more sustainable performance. And you can do that by adopting these two main takeaways we took from the research.

The 1st step is to decrease your consumption of food with the most damaging health and environmental impacts, such as highly processed meat, beef, and shrimp, followed by pork, lamb, and greenhouse-grown vegetables.

While the 2nd step is to increase your consumption of the most nutritionally beneficial foods, such as field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and low-environmental impact seafood.

We hope this post gave you some new awareness and perspective. If you’re ready to go Beyond Sapiens, you can learn more about our Business & Individual Maximization Coaching programs!

Related Research & Articles

“Changing dietary patterns is necessary to improve the sustainability of Western diets from a One Health perspective”

“Small changes in diet could help you live healthier, more sustainably”

“Eating more fruit and vegetables linked to less stress, study finds”

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