Home / Guide To Protein In Plant-Based Diet - Introduction

Guide to Protein in plant-based diets

Introduction

Interest in adopting a plant-based diet, particularly in the western world, is growing exponentially (1). Top athletes, celebrities and vegetarian movements are at the forefront of advocating for a plant-based diet. Recent research suggests that 1 in every 3 New Zealanders are reducing their meat consumption or eating no meat at all (2). For a country recognised for its farming and Sunday roasts, these figures are remarkable and worth exploring further. It is thought that around 10% of New Zealanders are either ‘mostly or always meat-free” (3) and each year, the number of people supporting a plant-based diet continues to rise (4). Not only is this way of eating becoming more accepted by society, but food retailers are also having to adapt by purchasing more meat alternatives, and providing more vegetarian menu options. The senior director, Julie Emett, of the Plant Based Food-Association retail partnerships remarked that "plant-based foods are a growth engine, significantly outpacing overall grocery sales,".

Environmental, ethical and nutritional motivations are among the top drivers for pursuing a plant-based diet. Many other motivations exist, ranging from religion, value for money, dislike of the taste and/or handling of meat, and social influences. The New Zealand Vegetarian Society President Caroline Jack believes upward trends are related to an increased awareness of farming. Documentaries such as "The Game Changers", "What the Health" and "Cowspiracy" also attract a lot of attention to the plant-based movement.

The first and foremost factor to consider is what is a ‘plant-based diet’? The term ‘plant-based’ means many different things to many different people so we’ve got to be careful with how we interpret anything using the term. For some people, a plant-based diet excludes all animal products and consists of only plant foods while for others a plant-based diet is primarily comprised of plants but animal products still may be included. The main types of plant-based diets are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian and flexitarians. All the diets have one thing in common, they exclude a form of animal products to some degree with the stricter vegan diet and looser flexitarian diet. The type of plant-based diet that works for one person, may be different from what works for someone else.