“I am very interested in the trend towards eating the ‘plantivore’ way as I’ve been trying to eat more plant-based meals and less meat. I also care about the environment. However, I don’t want to put my health at risk. I am woman in my mid 50s going through the menopause. What do you think?”
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer answers.
A high meat diet is being shown to have a detrimental effect on the environment and looking ahead to the future there appear to be issues with food availability across the globe, so this is a great question.
Plantivore vs flexitarian
Becoming a plantivore is similar to being ‘flexitarian’ – i.e. flexing your diet between vegetarian eating and meat eating. The word ‘plant’ makes this way of eating easier for people to understand. Including more plant-based foods in your diet is a really healthy way of eating. By doing so you’ll naturally be consuming more antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, minerals and other plant-based compounds that deliver a range of health benefits.
Vegetarians who eat mainly plant foods tend to have better digestion and lower incidences of heart disease and other degenerative diseases. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of people becoming vegan and eating no animal produce at all. This diet doesn’t suit everyone, however, partly because inadequate meal planning leads to many people not getting the correct balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
The importance of protein
Eating sufficient amounts of protein is essential for good health. Protein is required for many body processes including the correct working of the immune system, producing hormones, overall growth and repair of the body and for healthy bones and muscles. In a vegan diet, grains need to be combined with beans in order to get the essential amino acids (or proteins) we need on a daily basis.
A plantivore will generally eat around 80% plant-based foods with just 20% from animal protein. Animal proteins naturally contain all the essential amino acids the body can’t make from other foods, therefore these amino acids have to come from the diet. Some people, therefore, find themselves feeling hungry more frequently because they’re not eating the correct balance of amino acids.
As you’re going through the menopause, you’ll be experiencing some disruption to your hormone levels, so getting sufficient protein is really important for you. I would certainly try eating as a plantivore for a couple of months and see how you feel. It’s also worth keeping a food and symptom diary so you can monitor your progress.