Photo by Maurizio Di Iorio
Amongst the more socially-conscious, the Whole Food Plant-Based diet has been a topic on the rise over the last year, and while it is not dissimilar from it’s cousin, Veganism, it can still be confusing to parse out exactly which is which, and why either is so popular right now. Beyoncé and Jay Z recently set the internet aflame with their Greenprint Project sweepstakes, challenging fans to adopt (and share) a plant-based lifestyle with the ultimate reward being a lifetime of tickets to their concerts. The short headlines touted Bey as vegan, but this begs the question: what is it to be plant-based and what is it to be vegan? And when do the two diverge?
Let’s start with the basics. What does being vegan really mean? First and foremost, veganism refers to a whole lifestyle, not just a way of eating. Vegans avoid all animal products, and while that includes meat, dairy, eggs, and animal-derived ingredients like beeswax, it goes far above and beyond food. Think leather, down coats and even makeup that may contain beeswax. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they always choose the healthiest options; many vegans diets contain an outsized amount of potato chips, candies, and cookies and not nearly enough vegetables. On the lifestyle front, shoes, clothes, accessories, makeup and even hair products derived from materials that come from animals (leather, silk, wool, gelatin, beeswax, and lanolin for example) are completely unacceptable.
A plant-based diet may be similar to the vegan diet in that it avoids animal-based products – meat, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based dieters may occassionally eat meat, but it is very rare and always includes an effort to minimize their animal product intake. In a plant-based diet, processed foods (which may include oil, white flour, and refined sugar) are stringently avoided. This means a concentration on unprocessed (or minimally processed) veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
The motivation behind each diet may be the catalyst to choosing a personal path. Generally, those that commit to veganism do so in support of animal rights issues. Those that opt for the plant-based diets are more often doing so for health reasons – which is largely why processed foods are not in the diet – but still working towards reducing their environmental footprint by avoiding animal products.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to what Queen Bee and Jay are getting into. The curiosity started before Coachella last year, when Beyoncé announced to her followers that she had adopted a plant-based lifestyle. A few years ago, the power couple founded a plant-based meal service called 22 Days of Nutritionwith their super trainer Marco Borges. The idea behind 22 days is that it is popular believed that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so by the 22nd day you are hooked. Promoting this lifestyle to reach a bigger audience, they have tempted us with a sweepstakes and the grand prize of free Beyoncé and Jay Z tickets for life – ok, well, really for 30 years, if you want to get technical.
The only confusion I find in this very noble and honest attempt to better the world is the intermittent exchange of the words ‘veganism’ and ‘plant-based lifestyle’. Even Beyoncé herself in the video to promote 22 Days Nutrition states that she still eats meat, but makes better meal choices on a daily basis. So, while the term veganism is being thrown around, it is not quite a vegan diet that is being discussed. The Greenprint Project, which is the new book to promote 22 Days of Nutrition and the plant-based diet, may be similar to the vegan diet in the sense that it avoids animal food products, but it is does not promote veganism. So, now that this is all cleared up, if you think this lifestyle is something you could groove with, sign up to be a lifetime Beyoncé and Jay Z concertgoer (and plant-based eater).
A common finding in my research and studying of nutrition is that a plant-based diet seems to be one of the most beneficial for our overall health. One diet is not perfect for everyone – we all have diverse needs and preferred tastes and one diet does not work for all. But I believe that trying to adopt a diet that centers mostly plant-based meals is a great place to start.