Plant-Based and Vegan Eating

The Rise and Science Behind Plant-Based and Vegan Eating

The world of nutrition, diets and health can be extremely complex, dense and difficult to navigate. It seems every other day an innovative way of eating comes to light, a new trend takes over social media and people seem to flaunt their “latest studies” and “cutting-edge research” on the best ways to trim fat, live longer and eat better.

Despite the fact that it can be overwhelming to sift through the heaps of information available, most people simply struggle with finding a place to begin, a source to trust and a springboard to further exploration on the topic of plant-based eating in the world of nutrition.

That’s exactly what this site has been configured to be.

A 2021 guide to plant-based and vegan eating.

Featuring a series of health experts, experienced researchers and actual people on the diet, we’ll navigate what the science says, if this eating pattern is all it’s made up to be and act to serve as a tipping off point for further research.

You’ve probably heard someone you know say, “I’m vegan”. Or perhaps, “I’m trying plant-based right now.” But what does that mean? Is that even good for you? And why does it seem so prevalent everywhere you go?

With the rapid growth of plant-based and vegan diets over the last five years, what is this way of eating all about? What’s the science behind it all? How does it affect different demographics and athletic performance? Are there alternatives? Does it really live up to the hype?

Let’s grab a bite and dig in.

Your Appetizer: Some Key Definitions

First, let’s go over some terminology.

Plant-Based Eating is an umbrella term that refers to a diet mostly made up of foods that come from plants (and few, if any, animal products). It’s a broad category that covers multiple diets, eating habits and nutritional lifestyles. Among others, it includes the “flexitarian”, vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian diets.

Flexitarian” eating is the colloquial term for a more lenient vegetarian, whose diet is mostly made up of plant-based foods, but allows for occasional meat, poultry and seafood.

Vegetarian eating represents a diet with no meat, but still permits dairy products and eggs. There are several subcategories of vegetarians based on the specificities of their food choices. Namely, lacto-vegetarians are ok with dairy but refrain from eggs while the opposite, ovo-vegetarians, allow eggs but skip on dairy. The broader lacto-ovo-vegetarians are what’s traditionally referred to as just “vegetarian” as they include both dairy and eggs.

Pescatarian diets are based on vegetarian eating, but also include fish and seafood.

Vegan Eating is essentially a vegetarian diet but with absolutely zero animal products. It is a 100% plant-based eating pattern that excludes all meat and animal derivatives, including dairy and eggs.

“Plant-based” or “plant-forward” eating patterns focus on foods that generally come from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and grains. Essentially, the majority of a plant-based diet comes from foods derived from plants (but doesn’t entirely exclude meats, fish or dairy).
Photo Credit: Good Chef Bad Chef

Meet Our Experts

Dr. David Jenkins

Canada Research Chair in Nutrition and Metabolism, Physician and Plant-Based Eater
University of Toronto

Dr. Nanci Guest

Registered Dietician, Nutrition Consultant and Researcher
University of Toronto

Dr. Leo Liu

Family Physician
McMaster University

Dr. G.H. Anderson

Physiology Professor
University of Toronto

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