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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Committee on Plant-Based Health & Nutrition

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A simple web search of FAQs for plant-based diets has hundreds of results, so why another list? Because much of what exists if full of inflated claims, biased opinions, and research that is applied selectively or based on animal studies. Instead, we strive for an evidence-based, practical guide that cuts through the hype and tells what you really need to know. The material has been reviewed by experts in medicine, nursing, nutrition, public health, medical education, community wellness, health policy, and health disparities.

FAQ1: Plant-Based, Vegetarian, and Vegan Diets

What does it mean to eat a “plant-based” diet?  How does a plant-based diet differ from a vegetarian diet?  What does it mean to eat a “semi-vegetarian” diet?  What does it mean to eat a “flexitarian” diet?  Are plant-based diets the same as a vegan diet?  What does it mean to eat a “whole-food” plant-based diet?  Is it best to eat a plant-based diet that is also gluten-free?

FAQ2: Plant-Based Diets and Your Health

What are the benefits of plant-based nutrition?  Can a plant-based diet improve my health?  If refined foods are not healthy, does that mean that processes foods are also bad?  How does the health of people who eat plant-based diets compare to meat-eaters?  Will eating soy products (tofu, tempeh) increase my risk of breast or other cancers?  Can switching to a plant-based diet help me if I already have a health problem?  Are plant-based diets safe for children?

FAQ3: Practical Aspects of Plant-Based Nutrition

Will eating a plant-based diet be expensive?  How can I follow a plant-based diet when I go out to eat?  Is there a way to find restaurants that offer plant-based food choices?  If I eat a plant-based diet should I be concerned about added sugars?  What sugar substitutes are best when I want something sweet?  Which meat substitutes and alternatives are best if I want to avoid eating meat?  Are mock meats and fake meats healthy if they are plant-based?  Can I stay healthy if I don’t drink milk or eat dairy products?  What is the best way to cook food without added oil?

FAQ4: Nutrients and Food Categories

Can I get enough protein on a plant-based diet?  Are animal proteins better than plant proteins?  How do I get enough calcium on a plant-based diet?  How can I get omega-3 fatty acids from a plant-based diet?  Do I need a vitamin B12 supplement if I am on a plant-based diet?  Can I get enough iron from a plant-based diet?  Will eating carbohydrates cause me to gain weight?