What is Plant-Based Eating?

By Michele Wisla

Perhaps you’ve seen all the buzz recently about new ‘plant-based’ products like Beyond Meat and OmniPork, have seen the movie The Game Changers or are wondering about this new term for eating that’s gone mainstream.

There’s a lot of terminology out there and a lot of different diets that people follow. Without getting into every possible way of eating these days, let me try explaining how our language and descriptions have evolved regarding the bigger picture of vegetarian, vegan and plant-based.

Vegetarians don’t eat animals but may eat products that come from them like eggs, dairy or honey. They also don’t eat fish, although there is a sub-set of vegetarians called pescatarians who eat seafood.

The term vegan was created by those vegetarians who didn’t eat eggs or dairy. The word came from the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’ to signify ‘the beginning and end of vegetarian’. The principles of veganism exclude - as far as is possible - all forms of cruelty and exploitation to animals. This includes not wearing leather, not using products that were tested on animals and even not eating honey.

Plant-based eaters aim to eat as little animal products as possible, or even no animal products, but without the strict connotations of vegan or vegetarian. In other words, it’s not all or nothing, but a conscious choice to eat more plants.

Thomas Colin Campbell, a Cornell University biochemist coined the term ‘plant-based’ and his 2016 book “The China Study” shows that a plant-based diet helps reduce the risk of certain cancers and diseases. So, locally we are no strangers to plant-based eating. However, in the last 10 years as incomes rose and people ate more meat and animal products, obesity rates in Mainland China tripled. Within Hong Kong, 50% of the population is now obese or overweight.

Plant-based eating describes a style of eating adopted by health-conscious people who’ve become aware of research that shows the benefits of eating mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and legumes.

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About the Author

Michele Wisla is a Plant-Based Nutrition Coach and expert in making plant-based food taste delicious, who runs the company Our Conscious Kitchen Limited. Her passion is enabling women who are discouraged by their unhealthy food choices feel confident finding or preparing plant-based meals that make a difference to their future health as well as the health of the planet.