Worldwide demand and consumption of meat products has almost doubled during the past 50 years. Average meat consumption per capita has increased from 23 kilograms a year to 42 kilograms a year and still rising. Among the effects of increased consumption of meats and processed meat products leads to higher intake of saturated fat and additives. In turn, this contributes to a rising trend in chronic Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
These disease trends are not just a public health issue, with increased awareness amongst consumers, driving growth of the plant-based diet trend. According to STATISTA, the global plant-based market value in is worth $1.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2025.
Naturally, the plant-based food market in Thailand is on the rise as well. The market value was $1 billion 2019 and it is expected to increase to $1.5 billion in 2024, an average growth of 10 percent per year.
Plant-based diets have a wider meaning than a general vegetarian diet as they are more flexible and without fixed criteria, focusing instead on health. From eating a variety of vegetable and whole grains to opting for tofu or beans as protein sources, as well as avoiding processed foods and foods with additives.
There are several types of vegetarian diets as follows:
- Veganism or a Vegan diet strictly avoids all animal-based products, consisting of grains, fruits and vegetables exclusively; and refrains from all meat including all animal products, seasonings; and ingredients derived from animals such as eggs, honey, milk or butter.
- Semi-vegetarianism or Flexitarianism is a flexible vegetarian diet. It is not as strict as veganism, but A focuses on eating plant-based foods with occasional consumption of meat or animal products according to individual choices. For example, one might opt for a complete vegetarian diet 5 days of the week and eat fish the rest, or may limit meat consumption to 3 meals per week.
- Pesco-vegetarians have a diet that is plant-based with the addition of eggs, dairy fish and seafood, but no other meat products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians exclude meat, fish and poultry but eat eggs and dairy products.
Numerous studies in recent years suggest the many health benefits of following a plant-based diet:
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes: plant-based diets consist mainly whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. These foods are high in fiber, which helps slow down blood sugar absorption, lower hemoglobin A1C (HBA1C) level, and greatly reduce the risk of diabetes type 2 by 51%, compared to those who eat healthy diets that still include meat.
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases: Lower meat consumption means less saturated fat intake, resulting in reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. Eating a plant-based diet also helps lower blood pressure and reduce trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels. A study found that higher TMAO levels are linked to occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. Eating a plant-based diet helps reduce risk and mortality of coronary heart disease and stroke by more than 20%.
- Help regulate the body weight: According to a study, eating plant-based diet for at least 4 weeks can help lose up to 3 - 5 kilograms of weight, due to lowered caloric energy and saturated fat intake from animal fats. Plant-based foods also provide more fiber, helping one feel fuller as well.
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers: Eating plant-based diet helps reduce the risk of colon cancer by 45% and breast cancer by 67% compared to those who eat regular diet, as plants contain phytochemicals such as polyphenols, flavonoids and lycopene, which helps prevent the carcinogenesis process through various mechanisms. Furthermore, refraining from animal products helps one avoid carcinogens in processed foods, such as bacon and sausages.
- Increase antioxidant levels and reduce inflammation: Because plants contain several phytonutrients which help the body reduce free radicals, a cause of cell degeneration and various diseases.
- Improve probiotics functions and help boost the immune system. A healthy intestine will act as an important defense line to keep out foreign substances. Thus, consuming dietary fiber from fruits and vegetables on a regular basis helps promote the growth of such beneficial bacteria.
Better for the environment: Switching to a plant-based diet and reducing meat consumption helps reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and land used for livestock by up to 70-80%cuts water consumption by 50%, as well as reduce chemicals and antibiotics used in animal farming as well.
Boost immunity against viruses
The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to suspicions that the severity of symptoms may also be associated with patients’ diets, since patients with medical conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases have highest mortality rates and a higher degree of severity.
A study on high-risk healthcare workers delivered a notable result, where a study group who followed a plant-based diet displayed73% milder symptoms than the regular diet group. Even the pescatarian group suffered 59% less severity than the meat eater control group.
Plant-based diets display numerous health benefits; however, holistic health care is equally important. Whether it is a 30-minute exercise session on at least 5 days a week, adequate sleep of at least 7-8 hours every night, no smoking and drinking or stress-reduction measures such as meditation. Taking a balanced and holistic consistent approach is beneficial in the long term, and supports a longer and healthier lifespan. .
- Nils-Gerrit W. Global meat substitutes market size 2019-2027[Internet]. Feb 2, 2021 [cite Aug 10, 2021]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/877369/global-meat-substitutes-market-value/
- Krungthai Compass. ทำความรู้จัก Plant-based Food…เมื่อเนื้อสัตว์จากพืชกลายเป็นเทรนด์อาหารโลก. November 2020 Available from: https://krungthai.com/Download/economyresources/EconomyResourcesDownload_625Slide_Plant_Base_Food_24_11_63_1.pdf
- Turner-McGrievy, G., Mandes, T., & Crimarco, A. (2017). A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. Journal of geriatric cardiology: JGC, 14(5), 369.
- Satija, A., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Spiegelman, D., Chiuve, S. E., Manson, J. E., Willett, W., ... & Hu, F. B. (2017). Healthful and unhealthful plant-based diets and the risk of coronary heart disease in US adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(4), 411-422.
- Satija, A., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Rimm, E. B., Spiegelman, D., Chiuve, S. E., Borgi, L., ... & Hu, F. B. (2016). Plant-based dietary patterns and incidence of type 2 diabetes in US men and women: results from three prospective cohort studies. PLoS medicine, 13(6), e1002039.
- Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T., & Alba-Barba, I. (2018). Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, 6(1).
- Chen, Z., Wang, P. P., Woodrow, J., Zhu, Y., Roebothan, B., Mclaughlin, J. R., & Parfrey, P. S. (2015). Dietary patterns and colorectal cancer: results from a Canadian population-based study. Nutrition journal, 14(1), 1-9.
- Rigi, S., Mousavi, S. M., Benisi-Kohansal, S., Azadbakht, L., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2021). The association between plant-based dietary patterns and risk of breast cancer: a case–control study. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-10.
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