Diets rich in plants are often more balanced, more nutritious and as a result are associated with lower risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. But 'plant-based' doesn't have to mean vegetarian or vegan.
Plant based diets are simply a way of eating that puts a greater emphasis on foods from plants (such as wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts, seeds and oils) complemented with small amounts of animal based foods (including meats, fish, seafoods, eggs and dairy).
Across our varying cuisines and dietary patterns across the world, animal foods typically provide a number of important nutrients in our diets such as calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. So as we strive to include more plant based foods in our diets, including a diverse range of plant sources of these nutrients is the key to a healthy and a nutritionally complete plant based diet.
We've identified the top nutrients which can be easily found in animal products in our diets and provided the best plant based swaps for a healthy and more sustainable way of eating.
Plant sources of protein include peas, beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and meat alternatives such as tofu, mycoproteins, seitan, tempeh.
These plant sources of protein have a similar amount of protein as animal sources gram for gram. What is more important to consider is the quality of the protein provided and the balance of amino acids, also known protein building blocks.
Animal based foods, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy, typically provide all the essential amino acids ours bodies cannot make and therefore need from the diet. Most plant sources of protein don't provide either all of the essential amino acids, or not in high enough quantities. Nevertheless, this can be easily solved by mixing different types plant sources together in a meal or across the day such as lentil dahl with rice or pearl barley with chickpeas.
We need iron to transport oxygen around our bodies and it plays a key role in the functioning of our immune system too. Iron from animal sources is most easily absorbed by our bodies, however combining plenty of plant based sources of iron with foods rich in vitamin C (such as peppers, kiwi, fruit juices or sweet potatoes) helps your body to absorb iron.
Plant based iron sources include: beans, peas, lentil, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, dried fruits (especially apricots and figs), nuts and seeds.
Remember: tea and coffee contain tannins, a type of anti-nutrient, that makes it harder for your body to absorb iron, so try to avoid having tea and coffee with your meals.
Vitamin D helps our bodies absorbs calcium from the diet, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Low vitamin D status is also associated with conditions outside of bone health such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and some autoimmune conditions.
Our skin can make vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D can also be obtained from the diet however most of these sources are animal based (eggs, oily fish, fortified margarines and fortified breakfast cereals). However, there are some plant based sources of the vitmain which include brown mushrooms (vitamin D is found within the skin), plant milk drinks, breakfast cereals and fat spreads which have been fortified with vitamin D
WHAT ARE THE BEST PLANT BASED ALTERNATIVES TO MEAT?
Rich plant sources of protein include peas, beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and meat alternatives such as tofu, mycoproteins, seitan, tempeh. These have a similar amount of protein when compared to animal sources.
Remember to combine different plant protein sources together to get the optimium balance of amino acids (building blocks of proteins).
HOW DO I COOK WITH PLANT BASED ALTERNATIVES?
Whether you're blending, swapping or substituting meat with plant based alternatives it's easy to include more plant proteins each day.
Take a look at our Plant Based Recipes for inspiration and chef's tips!