Why a Plant-Based Diet Is Not the Answer for Health

Plants and fruits

You’ve probably seen lots of recommendations that we eat a “plant-based” diet to improve our health. A plant-based diet allegedly improves heart health and prevents cancer. But there are a number of reasons why, despite superficial plausibility, this is misleading. Here’s why a plant-based diet is not the answer for health.

What is a plant-based diet?

You might think that calling a diet “plant-based” is simple and straightforward. It means based on plants, right? But the reality isn’t so simple.

Most people eat plants in some form or another – other than pure carnivores, who probably number less than 1% of the population. I eat plants.

At what point does a diet go from “meat-based” or “animal food-based” to plant-based?

If you get greater than 50% of your calories from plants, is your diet now plant-based? You could still be eating 49% of your calories from animal foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy, but now most of your calories come from plants, so that must be plant-based.

Or if you get greater than 50% of your food by weight from plants, maybe that’s plant-based. That would be easy to do. Vegetables like broccoli and cabbage have low caloric density, and therefore weigh a lot compared to the amount of calories they provide. A pound of cabbage provides only 112 calories, so you could be eating lots of it and still get most of your calories from animal food.

The designation “plant-based” leaves a lot to be desired. It’s ill-defined and obscures more than it illuminates. I might go so far as call it useless.

“Plant-based” seems more a euphemism for “vegetarian” or “vegan”. Those who use the term plant-based know it would be significantly less popular if they called it vegetarian or vegan.

Why a plant-based diet isn’t the answer for health

A number of vegan doctors claim that eating a plant-based diet, whatever that might turn out to be, greatly reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Maybe it does. Caldwell Esselstyn, and others such as Dean Ornish and John McDougall, claim success for their diets in actually reversing heart disease. For the sake of argument, let’s accept that at face value.

The question is, does eating more plants or fewer animal foods confer the benefits of these diets, or is it something else?

Dr. Esselstyn claims that the events that lead to coronary heart disease are “set in motion, and worsened, by the Western diet, which consists of added oils, dairy, meat, fish, fowl, and sugary foods and drinks—all of which injure endothelial function after ingestion, making food a major, if not the major cause of CAD”.

Note that added oils and sugary foods and drinks are not animal foods. In fact, they’re plant-based.

Also note that eating fish is associated with less coronary artery disease and death, not more.

These facts about oils, sugar, and fish cast great doubt on the claim that animal foods are uniquely harmful. Added oils and sugar may indeed be creating all of the harm, for all we know – and in fact that’s probably the case.

Some of the other studies Esselstyn cites in support of a plant-based diet also changed other lifestyle factors, such as smoking.

Ornish: The Ornish study was “without added oil”. Right there is an important change that has nothing to do with animal foods. Vegetable oil is a plant food. The Ornish study also utilized smoking cessation, exercise, and stress management. Thus there are no grounds for concluding that a low-fat vegetarian diet, which Ornish used, had anything to do with better outcomes.

Norway: “Strom and Jensen reported a profound decrease in circulatory diseases in Norway during WWII when the Germans confiscated the country’s livestock, forcing the Norwegians to subsist mostly on plant food.”. During the German occupation of Norway, many things changed.

The paper by Strom and Jensen notes that, “there was a considerable decline in the consumption of meat and meat products, whole milk, cream, margarine and other fats (but not butter), cheese, eggs, fruit and berries, sugar, and coffee. On the other hand, there was a rise in the consumption of fish, skimmed milk, cereals, potatoes, and vegetables.”

So, during the war, the Norwegians ate more fish, and less margarine (an industrial product made from seed oils) “and other fats” (hydrogenated fat and/or vegetable oils?) as well as less sugar.

They also must have smoked a lot less, as tobacco was rationed or scarce in wartime Europe. Gasoline was also rationed, so the Norwegians undoubtedly walked more.

All of these, more fish and exercise, and less smoking and margarine, could account for the decline in circulatory diseases. Did they lose weight? Maybe calorie restriction caused lower mortality.

Thus there’s little to no basis for concluding that less animal food had anything to do with what happened in Norway during WWII.

Finland: Finland, at one time the heart disease capital of the world, decreased its heart disease rate by 80%. The methods cited included smoking cessation and reduction in blood pressure, both of which have nothing to do with a plant-based diet. Both smoking and high blood pressure are large risk factors for heart disease.

Is medical treatment any better?

Here’s where I’m completely on board with Esselstyn: we should focus efforts on prevention, not treatment:

In overlooking disease causation, we implement therapies that have high morbidity and mortality. The side effects of a plethora of cardiovascular drugs include the risk of diabetes, neuromuscular pain, brain fog, liver injury, chronic cough, fatigue, hemorrhage, and erectile dysfunction. Surgical interventions are fatal for tens of thousands of patients annually. Each year approximately 1.2 million stents are placed with a 1% mortality rate, causing 12,000 deaths, and 500,000 bypass surgeries are performed with a 3% mortality rate, resulting in another 15,000 deaths. In total, 27,000 patients die annually from these two procedures.

What really works to prevent heart disease

Vegetable (seed) oils, sugar, and refined carbohydrates are all plant-based foods. Eating more of them will damage our health, so “plant-based” isn’t the answer.

Wait, you say they mean unprocessed plant foods? Bingo, there’s your answer.

Dr. Esselstyn uses the term “whole food, plant-based nutrition (WFPBN)“.

The “whole-food” aspect is the important part.

By eliminating processed foods, you eliminate seed oils, refined carbohydrates, and added sugar. You eliminate pizza, Coke, potato chips, and donuts.

The more important distinction for health is not between animal and plant foods, but between whole, minimally processed food, and ultra-processed food.

Virtually anything you eat is healthier than the Standard American Diet (SAD), so long as it’s whole, minimally processed food.

That’s why (in my opinion) “plant-based” diets, however defined, have shown some success in preventing or reversing heart disease. They eliminate the processed garbage that passes for food in America and much of the developed world today. In addition, they come packaged with smoking cessation, exercise, and treatment for high blood pressure.

Are “plant-based’ diets optimal?

No, they are not.

But if they are based on whole foods, and force you to give up processed junk, they may do a lot of good.

Ultra-processed food contributes significantly to most chronic disease, including coronary artery disease and obesity. Some have even proposed that the “diseases of civilization” be renamed the “diseases of processed food”.

Moral of the story: eat, whole, minimally processed food. If your food was made using an industrial process in a factory, beware.

Update: Here’s the talking head version:


PS: Another way to sharply lower your disease risk is through strength training, so you may want to get a copy of my book, Muscle Up.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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  1. Bob McBob says:

    Thank you for talking about the term plant-based!

    I wonder if it’s the animal rights groups that like that term so much. It lets them imply that animal foods are bad, and lets them use more experts as references to support their claims which otherwise would disagree with a strictly vegan or vegetarian approach.

    Where I really noticed the term plant-based and how it was being used to push an agenda was when I watched the movie “Eating You Alive. They used the term “plant-based” heavily throughout the movie. You should should write an article about that movie. There were so many misleading statements. They pretended that olive oil is just as bad as corn oil or soybean oil. The movie made it seem like they have all the answers, yet we know that all the experts that appeared in the movie disagree on different things, including the definition of “plant-based”. The movie tried very hard to hide that fact. Who funded the making of that movie? It’s also completely irresponsible how they said a plant-based diet would cure cancer. How many cancer patients watching that movie will stop seeing their doctor and hope their diet will cure their cancer? Like Steve Jobs.

    • Montgomery says:

      I am interested in veganism – and (in my opinion) it’s underlying cause – leftism, because I find those people so very weird and different from myself, yet socially influential.

      I think a human universal is to consciously or unconsciously aspiring a higher social status (a basic desire we share with other primates), because this facilitates success in natural and sexual selection.
      Mostly this manifests itself as the desire to impress others by signalling superiority.
      This requires achievement (being smart, successful, disciplined, strong, beautiful, skilled, courageous, rich etc.)
      This is hard or impossible for many people due to low IQ or health (laziness can be another factor).
      What can they do?
      Attempt what is called “virtue signalling” – trying to impress others and gaining social status by appearing to live more “moral” than those. This needs no actual, difficult achievement – it can simply and cheaply be claimed and faked (hamburgers may be eaten secretly).
      And that’s it: Others are humiliated and lose social status, while the vegan rises in social status – just like that, without any effort, without real achievement, without personal costs.
      In the past, this kind of people usually tried to appear socially “holier than you” in religiousness – when signalling religiousness/piousness provided quick and simple gains in social status.
      It seems that this kind of person has nothing else what he/she can be proud of and derive social status/prestige off – it’s virtue signalling or nothing. So they can be quite annoying, insisting, ideological about their virtue signalling – they literally have nothing else left to build a positive identity from.
      If such a person becomes a communist, vegan, feminist, PETA member, scientologist or whatever else – this ideology, this “religion” is the only thing they have going for them, and therefore they must aggressively and irrationally defend and further it – for without it, they would be nothing but an empty shell.

      People also enjoy having power (comes usually with high social status) over others and telling them what to do, ordering them around, correcting them – and for those who have no power from other means, giving other people nutritional “advice” about eating “right” can satisfy this lust for power. Vegetarians/vegans are often not content just eating according their ideology privately, they actively attempt to command, proselytize, other people by making them eat like they themselves do. For gaining this authority they use (highly questionable, often outrightly fabricated) health claims, and appeals to “morality” (usually along “animals are cute and we should not harm them by eating them”).

      I think this is all just a petty device to gain social status and power over others for those who crave those things but have no other means to get them.

      Another aspect seems to be a great deal of naivety from growing up too sheltered from the realities of life.
      Food is only known to come from boxes in supermarkets, animals are only known as cute pets or from children’s cartoons or as stuffed toy.
      Hardly anybody has ever visited a farm, witnessed the realities of birth and death and slaughtering animals, let alone doing it him-/herself.
      When those people then see in pictures or videos little bits of reality, they are deeply shocked and perceive it in their ignorance as something deeply horrible and evil (instead as the animal-friendly, pain-minimizing slaughter methods that are used today).
      Some organizations, like PETA, exploit this naivety and sentimentality for political power and financial gain.
      The vast majority of PETA members are female – there seems to be a connection with the cuteness- or baby-rearing instinct: It is obvious that such “animal rights” organizations’ efforts are only targeted at cuteness-instinct-satisfying species like mammals or some birds, but not at instinctively perceived “ugly” classes of species like spiders, insects or reptiles – whose well-being is tellingly ignored.

      (If you want to anger or embarrass PETA-sympathizers ask them how the millions and millions of animals in free nature usually die every day – and how predators feed themselves – or better even, have some “cruelty of nature” videos ready to prove that modern animal farming and slaughtering is extremely animal-friendly compared the customs of and in “mother nature”.)

      • Bob McBob says:

        Great post. Interesting ideas. Sounds right.

      • mark sanders says:

        I’m really tired of ignorant political ramblings in health blog comments. Note that Hitler was a vegetarian. Why don’t we all try to concentrate on the science?

        • Montgomery says:

          >I’m really tired of ignorant political ramblings in health blog comments.
          In an ideal world this should not mixed up, I agree.

          >Note that Hitler was a vegetarian.
          He also liked to breath air.

          >Why don’t we all try to concentrate on the science?

          Because science overlaps with politics, that is power, this is different interests of different (groups of ) people.
          Politics, somebody once said, is about who gets what, when and how.
          Science influences opinions, and therefore public awareness of issues, and therefore politics.
          Therefore science is subject to politics, usually by individuals or groups trying to mislead the scientific process, to falsify science, because science is widely recognized as delivering “truth”.
          Who controls “truth” controls public opinion, and from that power distribution.

          Therefore, having and attempting pure science for the sake of truth is a noble ideal, but it is under fierce and highly skilled attack from politics.

          Science is power. Those seeking to get and keep power therefore must openly or secretly attempt to influence science.

          Therefore, much of what seems to be real science, isn’t.
          And this makes everything much, much more difficult for trying to figure out what is the truth: One not only needs to battle one’s own ignorance, but also other people’s malicious attempts to mislead science.

          This is greatly complicated by the fact that those who hold the real power positions tend to be the most intelligent people; and their manipulations of science for their own political gain are therefore especially difficult to expose and prove for everybody else.

          In the past, scientists, studies and journals were more or less simply bought.
          We have a great many examples for that.
          I fear that today’s most skilled manipulations of the scientific process is much more subtle, effective and hard to detect.

          • mark sanders says:

            I mentioned that Hitler was a vegetarian because you were claiming some connection between leftist politics and vegetarians/vegans. Looking forward to 4 more long paragraphs full of wisdom.

          • Robert says:

            Looking forward to 2 more sentences of snarky logical fallacy devoid of any insight

          • Van Doren says:

            Hitler was a socialist. NSDAP was a left party, they heavily regulated German economy.

        • Elliot says:

          Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, that’s was propaganda .

  2. Vlad says:

    ##“Plant-based” seems more a euphemism for “vegetarian” or “vegan”. Those who use the term plant-based know it would be significantly less popular if they called it vegetarian or vegan.##

    You hit the nail on the head Mr. Mangan.

  3. Scott says:

    Usually, plant based is coupled with the term “Whole food.” You may see WFPB. To me that is clear. Oil is not a whole food. But avocado is. Usually that is the problem with the term vegan, since it could include a lot of crap. Try that same test on Whole-food, plant-based and it won’t be completed confusing.

  4. Scott says:

    Usually, plant based is coupled with the term “Whole food.” You may see WFPB. To me that is clear. Oil is not a whole food. But avocado is. Usually that is the problem with the term vegan, since it could include a lot of crap. Try that same test on Whole-food, plant-based and it won’t be completed confusing.

  5. Rita Dagys says:

    You are bought off, or perhaps greedy and crooked. Plant based is the only healthy way to live. 10 years on it and I feel 25 years younger, great blood work. Meat based diets kill. Quit being greedy and face the facts. Animal based kill people. Also animal is atrocious. If you are a woman can you imagine being constantly pregnant, your constantly pumped and sore and pushy. Animals (this is science) have feelings, have social structures. Would like your child taken away from you a day after he’s born. Men, would you like to be castrated with no pain medication. It happens to pigs. Would you like to eat you dog? Or have him castrated with no anesthesia? Pigs are smarter than most dogs. If you love your children quit eating meat. 80 percent of our grain is fed to animals. Animal iron is carcinogenic. 50 percent of the earths’s fresh water is given to animals that you eat. And create more pollution than the planes, trains, cars, heating, and more. If you love your kids and are not ok with animals skinned alive. Stop eating meat and animal products. Jesus would have been a vegan. Please wake up!

    • Alex says:

      Spot on. Thank you.

    • Bill says:

      Fully fledged zealot’ & veganist here folks….

      Sorry Rita, no converts to be saved here.

    • David says:

      Rita’s current deadlift: zero pounds, zero ounces.

      “Jesus would have been a vegan.”


    • pzo says:

      Well, damn, sure glad I found out why I must have blood lipid panels to kill for………pun intended. My LDL is so low it’s off of the range of normal. Very high HDL, low trigs. Year after year. Every used ratio marker is, at the minimum, Very Good. One actually goes into the negative!

      Do you think it’s my apple wood smoked pork ribs with my Bayou #14 dry rub, or the chocolate/orange sauce finish Kansas City style? That just be it, the latter is “plant based.”

      My long term overall fat intake is 4:2:1, Saturated, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated. Lots of cholesterol, lots of hormones; I’ll be 72 in six days and my very happy gf is 52. Dang, doing it all wrong again, ain’t I?

      I have a Masteres degree in Theology, and lemme tell ya, Veganism has Religion stamped all over it. Y’all are religious fanatics. What are you going to do when it is confirmed, beyond doubt, that plants are sentient? We already know that they have some communications skills.

      • pzo says:

        Clarification on that negative ratio marker: Lower is better, my actually swings into the negative. i.e., less than one, less than zero

    • Robert says:

      Thank you for disproving the notion that “plant based diet” followers are crazy

    • Samantha C says:

      Rita you read my mind! This article is a waste of time! Poorly written and just misleading and ultimately incomplete. I agree with Rita!

  6. Dave Davis says:

    Saying “plant based” is so misleading. You used that so many times and only once used “whole food plant based. This is the term ALWAYS used by Esselstyn and Ornish.
    Oils of any kind damage the arteries. Fish are not as beneficial to heart health as a whole food plant based diet.
    This is the first time reading your posts, but I suspect you may be a proponet of the new low carb higher fat diets.

    • KC says:

      Thank you for hitting the nail on the head, Dave Davis. I won’t be back to this website. First time and last time reader.

      • Bill says:

        Golly gosh PD, two more veganist zealots here to save us !

        But hopefully they are so annoyed they will seek converts elsewhere now.

      • RDzins says:

        Great won’t be missed. Never understood why vegans troll on keto or meat based diet sites. I don’t troll on vegan sights, Ridiculous. BYE BYE!

    • Robert says:

      No sources to cite for your claims?

  7. Daniel F Haynes says:

    It is misleading to say fish is associated with less heart disease. It is less than a meat heavy diet but not less than a vegan diet. The important factor there is the omega 3 levels in some fish. Most vegetarian/vegan and omnivores have too much omega 6 to 3 ratios. This is how vegans can get heart disease by eating too much oils. There are numerous plant based omega 3 sources, such as flax. A whole food plant based diet still kicks a whole food omnivore diet in the buttox when it comes to disease prevention. The science has established this already. Getting rid of processed food is the way to go!

  8. SAOPOLO says:

    Semi veg. Is best for vast majority. There is more than one way to skin a cat. AVOID feedlot meats, sprayed veg matter and low fiber.

  9. Sheena says:

    obviously someone wanting to eat a healthy 100% whole food plant based lifestyle, would eliminate oils, refined sugar and refined carbs. correct? which has scientifically proven to be the best diet than an omnivore. you know exactly what you wrote and your points are invalid, it is ridiculous how much you didn’t even research this before writing your article

    • Bill says:

      I have lost track of the number of vegans & vegetarians who so love to get into sweet sugared, refined flour foods made with industrial seed oils….
      It is especially apparent among people influenced by the Indian vegetarian tradition…

      And in India CVD is rife.

    • Robert says:

      How in the world do you get enough calories if you’re eating exclusively unprocessed plants?

      Where is your “scientific proof”?

  10. Healthy says:

    Dumbest article ever.

  11. Seany Napalm says:

    What a horribly misleading article. none of the doctors listed would advise eating processed junk. They all advise a whole food plant based diet. Fish is bad for your health as well. Go to nutritionfacts.org for real medical data regarding nutrition where all the advice is derived from clinically proven lab results. The test show meat eating causes inflammation and artery clogging and cancer. Dairy as well. The less of those you eat and the more whole plant foods one eats, the better the health

  12. Irene says:

    There was a lot of written text saying very little at all. No one needed 6 paragraphs asking the “what does plant based” mean, when logically it’s used by those eating a PLANT BASED diet. Otherwise, it would be “partially plant based”, “sometimes plant based”, “87% of the time plant based”, etc…

  13. Alexandra says:

    My understanding is that veganism is a lifestyle which in addition to not consuming animal products also includes not purchasing products that have been tested on animals, not wearing leather, fur, wool, etc., and not supporting animals being used in the entertainment industry. Plant-based refers to a whole foods diet that does not include animal products. So a vegan likely eats a plant-based diet but a plant-based eater is not necessarily a vegan. A quick google search will tell you this so not sure why you act like the term plant-based is so arbitrary and difficult to grasp. Oh wait.. could it be because you are trying to promote your supplements and weight training book as the keys to health instead?

  14. Carla Clark says:

    Why is this site called ROGUE Health and Fitness when it clearly supports MAINSTREAM diets and living? BTW no I’m not vegan. I eat meat, as well. Thanks.

    • Robert says:

      Often, the “correct position” pushed by official culture masquerades as the noble victim, and the ones who go against the mainstream are slandered as “malicious, backwards radicals”. If you ask the common man what is more radical or unhealthy, to be a vegan, or to be a carnivore, which do you think they will answer?

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      This site does not support mainstream diets and living. Those have made almost everyone fat.

  15. Jason says:

    Plant based refers to if you eat only plants,and had to do with your own health. pretty straight forward… Veganism has to do with the animal welfare(no clothes or other products that contains animal products or has been tested on animals) you could live of Lays chips an Oreos as a vegan.

  16. Justin says:

    Dear Sir Mangan,

    This popped up on my Google feed since I am trying to be more in tune with the latest Whole foods plant based news. Your title is clickbaitish and I really have to question your intention for writing this article in the first place. I have no idea what you are arguing for because the same doctors you cite against are brought up to support your conclusion.

    These doctor ALWAYS tag “plant based” with “whole foods” and they are ALWAYS sure of the specific types of ingredients that fall into those categories.

    But that’s besides the point. I have no idea why you wrote this article. Either to guide someone somewhere better or whatnot, the structure of the post is really misleading and confusing.

    Are you telling people to eat more plants, exercise more, eat fish, ingest oil, eat meat or what?

    -.- I hope you take this criticism constructively because this is how I mean it.

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      OK, thanks Justin. The point I’m most making is where I wrote: “The more important distinction for health is not between animal and plant foods, but between whole, minimally processed food, and ultra-processed food.”

      There’s little basis for concluding, based on the studies these doctors cite in support of their position, that “plant-based” (however defined) is necessary or sufficient to prevent or reverse chronic disease. Whole food is the important point, and a whole food, animal-based (however defined) diet would likely work just as well, and in my opinion, does. So to prevent disease, don’t eat processed food, full stop.

      • Sylvie says:

        If your point is that whole food is important, then you could say that, and stop attacking vegans and vegetarians. Are you just trying the provocative stance, to get more visitors? It is a pity, because your blog would be better without such biased literature. Instead of taking a stand against different ideas, would you please clarify yours? Of course, you have things to sell – we all need to make a living. But I believe your intent is to teach, I think you are sincere. Then instead of e.g. grumpy remarks about “vegetable oils”, why not explain clearly omega 3-6-9 and what you reckon people can do? Negativity will get us nowhere.

        I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 50 years, I am 62 and I swim 1600 metres every day, and I walk a lot, and I ride my bicycle everywhere. It is possible to be vegetarian while eating junk food, but I think it is not common! There are Olympic vegan and vegetarian athletes. Obviously, they are aware of nutrition and they do not eat crap.

        Vive la difference!

  17. frank says:

    such a bullshit! article. lets medicate and feed everyvody more dairy, meat!. Stop contradicting what works the evidence is overwhelming do your research!.

  18. Will says:

    So much yes!!

  19. Amilcar Buenaventura says:

    Great article, PD. We live in times where meat and fat is demonized by the health establishment. Vegans that claim to be independent from the nutritional establishment are in many ways carrying out these same elites’ agenda.

    The War on Meat is upon us. https://mises.org/wire/get-ready-war-meat

  20. Paul Rivas MD says:

    This is an impossible discussion because vegetarians tend to view their diet under the heading of morality and religion rather than health and longevity, so it’s impossible to have an objective discussion.

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      Agree, and also changing one’s mind on what one considers an important topic, one you’ve lived your life by, can be so painful that people won’t even contemplate opposing ideas, but lash out at the messenger.

    • Ole says:

      Food is becoming the next religion. We are constantly counting calories, carbonhydrates, protein, instead of enjoying a tasteful, well prepared meal. We are talking about the caloric contents of our food instead of appreciating the taste, colour, texture etc.

      In reality, the body doesn’t really care what you eat, as long as it has sound nutritional value. It has a tremendous capability to utilize whatever is present in our food and quite honestly, in terms of longevity, genes play a much bigger role than food ever will.

      Next topic please….

      • Chris says:

        ‘Enjoy your food’ might seem like an obvious thing to say, but it is perhaps the single most important point any nutritionally-minded health practitioner could highlight to you.

        When you truly enjoy your food you send deep, instinctual messages to your body to reach out and extract the energy and goodness from that nutrition.

        A good diet does not have to be boring and don’t think for a moment you should eat foods you dislike just because they’re good for you! Enjoyment and appreciation of good food is a sure foundation for feeling and living well. Some of the healthiest and longest-Iiving people in the world eat the most interesting and tasty diets. (Richard Whelan)

      • Sylvie says:


  21. Bill says:

    PD, Glad that your web site is back online after all the veganist attempts to shut you down yesterday….
    But think of it this way : you must be doing something right to become the target of such an attack..
    Keep up the great work !

  22. Bob McBob says:

    Many proponents of the whole food plant-based diet eat some highly processed foods. Many of them drink soy milk, almond milk, eat tofu, chocolate, cacao powder or paste, etc. What if you use a food processor and strainer and ground spices, etc., is that processed? My point is, even the definition of “processed food” is not at all well defined. Avoiding most “processed foods” is not a bad guideline. I use processed foods like olive oil, spices, mustard, vinegar, etc. But I personally think it’s better to look at individual ingredients and avoid things like sugar, refined grains, seed oils, glycated proteins, oxidized fats, etc.

    Many of the experts say there’s no problem getting enough protein from a plant-based diet (when they mean no meat). There’s a good chance they are getting less than 1g/kg of protein, or, the smarter ones are adding things like brewers yeast, pea protein, soy, etc., and pretending like they are still eating “whole foods”. I’m not at all advocating for high-protein diets – there’s plenty of evidence they are bad. But, less than 0.8g/kg and you’re deficient. You really don’t want to be deficient in anything.

  23. Lowell ALEXANDER says:

    Good 1st order logic, but flawed due to not addressing the issues with what animal products do to the human body. The author completely leaves out saturated fat, cholesterol, and high methionine, choline, and carnitine as issues. What about the body’s production of Trimethylamine oxide due to too much choline, which is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events.
    What about the massive oxidative stress and rapid aging due to high methionine in animal products? Look at the research. You cannot just use 1st order logic and reasoning to justify animal products.
    The reseach is pretty clear.

    • pzo says:

      A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      Methionone is truly a two edged sword. Absolutely essential, but only a bit is needed. Methionone is easily countered with whey or glycine. Not the time or place for laying out the citations, but there are many to support my statement.

      Everyone arguing these points needs to understand something. There is no perfect food. Every wonderful food we eat has downsides. Sometimes they can be in the total quantity, sometimes in the percentage, sometimes for an individual, but not others.

      Remember, too much water kills.

    • Drifter says:


      If you’re actually open to other points of view, both Paul Jaminet and Chris Masterjohn have written extensively about TMA. Paul’s main post on it is here:


      Chris pointed out in his article that spinach actually has some of the highest TMA content, if I remember correctly, but the entirely of his article is well worth reading also. As a former WFPB person myself, I would counsel you to avoid relying on zealots of any form, and people who go out of their way to exclude other points of view are especially to be avoided.

  24. Shannon Sherman says:

    I feel that most people who eat a plant-based diet know that it’s vegan or vegetarian. If they don’t know then they’re pretty uneducated. On that note, people who eat healthy know that soda’s, chips, and oils are unhealthy as well, so those of us who eat plant-based diets don’t eat those things. If they do, they know the health risks.

    • Sylvie says:

      Precisely! People who choose to become vegan or vegetarian are usually more aware about nutrition than most!

  25. LP says:

    Good arguments. The term plant based diet is vague and not eating properly (the so called vegan junk food) on a vegan diet is easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Still, what you have in your plate every day has not magically appeared in the supermarkets. The environmental impact from growing animal based food is immensely greater than the majority of its plant based counterparts (there are a few rare exceptions). A vegan diet is possibly the healthiest diet – if done right. It is not as complex as it may sound. You can be healthy/ier, for a fraction of the price (meat and dairy are usually the most expensive food items), while reducing your environmental impact drastically and while also eliminating a lot of unnecessary animal suffering. Why wouldn’t you do it? I would never tell someone what to eat – but I will always push for people to educate themselves on that subject. We are lucky to be eating 3 times per day – we should consider our options. My opinion: let’s drop the venomous words (animal based, plant based, carnivorous, herbivore, vegetarian, vegan, etc.) and let’s focus on what is best for us and let’s ask ourselves the right questions.

    • Sylvie says:

      LP, thanks! I totally agree with your opinion, and I appreciate the way you phrase it.
      Vive la difference! But let’s all focus on what is best for us, and for the planet that we are going to leave to our children.

  26. Jesse says:

    I can see your somehow linked with corporations that selll meat, dairy, and other process foods. Thank God for critical thinking and intuition based knowledge and experience to diciferthat the information you claim to support is false.

    • Bill says:

      Jesse, it would seem that neither god nor evolution have given you ‘critical thinking’ or the ability to spell English accurately !
      It’s curious over on Malcom Kendrick’s blog, there has been a big discussion about taxing sugary drinks to discourage all the chronic diseases that it causes.
      I have strongly supported the sugar tax idea contradicting Dr Kendrick’s view.

      However I think I will change my mind : I think that it will be better for all of us without a sugar tax as then the zealot veganists will depart this Earth sooner.

  27. Cameron says:

    I was really intrigued about this article, but I think you haven’t done enough research on this topic if you haven’t read The China Study (google it) and I think you don’t understand the concept of a true plant based diet and make very poor and uneducated assumptions when it comes to the benefits of eating a plant based diet. Obviously if you eat a plant based diet, the more natural and organic the better. A plant based diet doesn’t mean eating white bread with margarine, and fries. A true plant based diet ticks all your daily nutritional needs for protein, fibre, calcium etc. For an example it’s a myth that cows milk is a good source of calcium as our bodies don’t obsorb high amounts of calcium from dairy products. Some countries in the world with high dairy intake suffer from high rates of osteoporosis. Also, don’t you find it strange that humans as a species, rely so much on the consumption of another animals milk? When this milk is only produced for the purpose of feeding a new born cow? Why don’t we drink monkeys milk? We share 99% of a monkeys DNA wouldn’t it be more suited to humans?

    I would like to know what your thoughts are on eating these other “healthy” animal productions such as eggs, milk, cheese, chicken breast and steak for protein, fibre and calcium compared to eating plant based foods such as beans, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, kale just to name a few.

    Would love to hear your thoughts ?

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      Well, since according to you, I “haven’t done enough research”, and I “don’t understand” and “make very poor and uneducated assumptions when it comes to the benefits of a plant based diet”, why in the world would you want my opinion on anything? Just go back to your vegan gurus who won’t bother you with any disturbing facts.

  28. Jeff says:

    What incredible medical ignorance. You have given ZERO peer reviewed studies to support anything you claim or try to discredit. Those who are your targets are actually science-based medical experts with literally hundreds of peer reviewed studies to support their assertions. What a shameful article.

  29. Jared says:

    You talk about why some of the evidence in favor of plant based diet may not be proof but offer no evidence that including animal products has any benefit. The fact is we are designed to eat plants, compare your teeth and digestive tract to other supposed omnivores and you won’t find a match. We are healthier eating a diet we evolved eating, a little flexibility could help keep us alive in tough situations but eating that way regularly leads to the healthcare crisis we find ourselves in. You shouldn’t be eating animals any more than your dog should be eating salads.

  30. kenney says:

    your claims about there being no way of getting DHA and EPA from plants is entirely wrong. Spirulina has DHA in it and is actually the reason seafood has it, so you are WRONG. the protein claims are also wrong, I get as much as 28% of my calories from protein as a vegan.

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      I’m WRONG. Got it. Spirulina is not a plant, and is not a normal human food, but a supplement.

      • Kenney says:

        If you are tough enough to deal with the shitty taste or just take oil, u can get all the Omega-3 necessary. its also 60+% protein so how about u people just eat this instead of fish. While u are right its not a plant, it is vegan.

  31. Mike says:

    Of course, you’re selling books and supplements. After getting off meat, dairy, pasta & bread, I lost 40 lbs, lowered my blood pressue and cholesterol and got off meds for both – maintaining all for over 3 years. The meat and dairy industries are in panic mode now and uneducated articles like this one will only help more and more people see that meat & dairy are killing so many people. Neanderthal.

  32. sam says:

    One thing you should be informed of is that ‘grass fed’ beef is actually fed only 30% grass and as much as 70% corn. ‘grass-fed’ dairy cattle are fed 30% grass, 40% alfalfa(given they need high protein diets), and 30% corn. don’t believe me? go ask the farm employees yourself, they told me its not possible to 100% grass feed cattle and make money due to the extreme amount of land that would be required.

  33. Big Staub says:

    “Vegetable (seed) oils, sugar, and refined carbohydrates are all plant-based foods. Eating more of them will damage our health, so “plant-based” isn’t the answer.”

    @P.D. Mangan
    This statement sounds logical, but if you think about it, it’s completely incorrect. This article is more about spreading doubt about plant-based than anything else. How about you create some actual tangible content for the world? Yeah thanks.

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