Could Plant-Based Be The ‘Perfect’ Diet?

Oct 05, 2023
Could Plant-Based Be The ‘Perfect’ Diet?

Blog written by Julia Maxwell

New dietary fads and dieting techniques popularize every few years. From Paleo to intermittent fasting to Whole30, the idea that we only need to follow the strict rules of the latest dieting trend to look and feel our very best can be alluring. However, when it comes to fueling our bodies with what they need, there is no quick fix to health. If it sounds too good to be true – it most likely is!

One type of diet that has been commended by nutritionists for more than 20 years is plant-based. It feels strange to call it a diet – it feels more like an ethos of eating. There is no singular definition or set of rules for the plant-based diet. Instead, it encourages eating mostly minimally processed foods that are close to the earth like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Many who eat plant-based are vegetarian or vegan, but being so is not a requirement. Meat, processed foods and refined sugars can also be enjoyed in small amounts. The plant-based philosophy believes that full-out restriction of any food group is rarely a good idea, especially because food can bring so much satisfaction, satiety and pleasure to our lives! 

Part of the reason fad diets popularize so quickly is that they promise a quick solution to a complicated question: what diet is best? However, because every person has a unique set of dietary needs and preferences – for example, their age, sex, height, and weight, how active they are, what foods they like or dislike (or can’t live without!) – it is impossible to describe any diet as universally perfect.

It’s also very difficult to conduct scientific studies that examine the health benefits of any particular food. This is due, in part, to sampling bias. For example, if I were to examine the health outcomes of broccoli eaters versus non-broccoli eaters, perhaps I would find that broccoli-eaters have less risk of obesity, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels. After all, broccoli contains powerful nutrients that promote all of these positive health outcomes.

However, it's important to take into account that broccoli-eaters may also be more likely to eat higher amounts of other vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and lower amounts of meat, refined sugar, and heavily processed foods. They may also be more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising and refraining from smoking. Without controlling for numerous potential covariates, it is impossible to definitively identify the effects of any one type of food (even one as healthy as broccoli!) on health outcomes.

What is helpful in assessing the benefits of a plant-based diet is to look at multiple large-scale studies that examine how different diets impact large numbers of people over time. Systematic reviews can be useful in making broad conclusions because they consider numerous studies, which means the evidence presented is gathered from a larger and more diverse pool of participants than a single study.

One recent systematic review of 32 studies found that plant-based diets (as opposed to conventional Western diets) had beneficial effects on weight status, energy metabolism, and systemic inflammation in healthy participants as well as patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. This evidence is exciting because it suggests that a plant-based diet can be effective not only in preventing obesity, but also in managing and mitigating comorbidities associated with the disease.

Another recently published large-scale review examining the long-term health impacts of vegetarian diets in over 65,000 people found that plant-based eating was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, kidney stones, cataracts, and possibly some cancers.

These are just two examples of an increasingly robust body of research signifying the potential benefits of plant-based diets. As the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease continues to rise, eating plant-based diets may be a powerful tool in preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Another important point to consider is that plant-based diets are not only good for us – they’re also beneficial for the planet. A recent study of nearly 30,000 participants found that the less animal-sourced food that was consumed in one’s diet, the smaller environmental footprint they had. That is, pesco-vegetarians and vegans participants omitted 64% and 69% less greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, than omnivorous participants.  Adopting a plant-based diet may be one of the most impactful individual ways to preserve and protect our world.

JAMBARs are an ideal addition to a plant-based lifestyle. For starters, our bars are made with certified organic, non-GMO ingredients. They contain whole grains like oat bran, quinoa, sorghum and brown rice, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as soluble fiber, which can help control blood sugar levels. Truly nature’s candy, fruit provides a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Our Jammin’ Jazzleberry is made with a mix of freeze-dried raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries, while Musical Mango contains perfectly ripe, naturally air-dried mangos.

All sweeteners used in JAMBARs are minimally processed, meaning that not only do they add delicious flavor, but also contribute important minerals and nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. Organic cashew, peanut, and sesame butters contribute fiber, protein, and importantly, good fats – crucial for keeping you satiated, as well as for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Some who want to start a plant-based diet worry that cutting back on meat will leave them protein deficient. However, there are plenty of complete plant-based proteins that provide all of the essential amino acids your body needs, in addition to vitamins, minerals, and fiber. JAMBARs are a great example of this. All four flavors pack in 10 grams of protein per bar – Musical Mango and Jammin’ Jazzleberry contain vegan sunflower protein while Chocolate Cha Cha and Malt Nut Melody contain vegetarian whey protein, which also offers calcium. You can read more about the importance of protein in a healthy diet here.

The plant-based diet clearly has a lot going for it. But perhaps what’s just as important as its numerous health benefits is its ethos: a focus on filling up on all the “good” stuff – veggies, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats – instead of banning all the “bad” stuff. We should enjoy foods the way they’re meant to be – whole, minimally-processed, straight from the earth. But that doesn’t mean there’s no place for treats (bonus points if your sweet tooth is satisfied by Guittard chocolate – like the fair-trade chips we use in our Chocolate Cha Cha JAMBAR)!

The plant-based diet demonstrates there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how we should eat because every person has a unique set of requirements and preferences. No single diet is perfect for everyone. And no one should expect his or her diet to be perfect! Plant-based eating offers a balanced, sustainable approach to enhancing our health through food.

Julia is the daughter of JAMBAR founder Jennifer Maxwell and has an MA in Medical Anthropology and an MSc in Health Psychology. She ran track and cross country at Stanford and remains an avid runner, most recently finishing 2nd in the 2023 Dipsea Race. Her secret training tool is pushing Henry, her 11-month-old son, around local roads and trails in his jogger.