Before we recap this session of the Good Food Dialogues, let's first see what the participants said:
"Diet is not only about food choices--it's also about health. To make wiser food choices, we need to pay attention to the relationship between body composition and diet, understand the complex processes involved, and gain more information. And after that, we need to continue studying the relationship between our health and the food we eat every day!"
"It was very rewarding. I gained a comprehensive understanding of the nutrition of a plant-based diet."
"Lots of positive energy! [It's good to] communicate with and learn from the world's leading food activists."
"I gained a deeper understanding of the impact of meat and dairy products on health. The guest speakers' participation and interactive Q&A also demonstrated tolerance for a diverse world. This was a wonderful exchange of ideas."
In this discussion about plant-based health, we were honored to be joined by several plant-based athletes who appeared in The Game Changers: Olympic cyclist Dotsie Bausch, Professor Gan Yehua of Peking University School of Stomatology, well-known sports influencer Wu Dong, and Liu Liyan, brand manager of plant-based sports nutrition brand Vega.
Read on to see what these leading experts have to say about exercise, health, and the global plant-based trend!
Dotsie Bausch is a cyclist and Olympic silver medalist who appeared in the documentary The Game Changers
At the age of 37, Dotsie Bausch faced an important choice in her athletic career: should she continue consuming animal products, believed by mainstream society to be indispensable to athletic performance, and pursue her Olympic dream with more "certainty"? Or should she make the transition to a plant-based diet?
When Dotsie learned about the suffering of animals raised in factory farms for meat and animal-derived products, she was deeply shocked and felt compelled to make a change. She decided to follow her heart and choose a plant-based diet. To her surprise, after she went vegan, not only did her sports performance not deteriorate, it actually improved as her recovery became faster and faster.
Does a plant-based diet only make sense for athletes? Dotsie pointed out the example of lactose intolerance among humans. After humans stop breastfeeding, the body's production of lactase (the enzyme for digesting milk sugars) decreases, because the body naturally doesn't need other dairy products. Inappropriate dairy consumption can cause a series of diseases. "We should get to know our bodies." Dotsie suggests. "Try not to eat dairy products for 24 hours and see what happens to your body."
A sports influencer's fine-tuned diet
Wu Dong, a famous sports influencer
"Does eating meat enhance strength and endurance?"
When he met the athletes in the "Vegan Running & Spiritual Practice" club, elite amateur athlete Wu Dong was astonished when they attributed their athletic performance to their plant-based diets.
Wu Dong also learned from the Beijing News that during the Beijing Olympic Games, 20% of endurance athletes were plant-based, compared to only 1.5% of the general population. He wanted to know what makes top athletes choose a plant-based diet.
Although he was concerned about food safety, Wu Dong began tentatively experimenting with plant-based eating. He was rewarded with positive results: he lost weight, his resting heart rate lowered (indicating improved athletic ability), he gained muscle definition and improved body composition, and his marathon and triathlon results also improved. Happy with his results, Wu Dong was more confident to transition from an omnivorous diet to a fully plant-based diet.
"Different sports require different diets. Endurance athletes tend to worry the most about protein intake. In fact, with a variety of beans, we can meet our protein needs." Wu Dong now applies his science background to his diet, constantly optimizing his food intake and tracking data on the results.
Plant protein versus animal protien
Prof. Gan Yehua, Beijing University School of Stomatology
What nutrients does the human body need? Is it better to eat animal foods or plant foods? Beijing University's Professor Gan shared his findings and experience around these two questions:
It is generally believed that the human body needs five types of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. To these five nutrient categories, I also added a sixth: dietary fiber. First discovered 70 or 80 years ago, dietary value has come to be highly valued in the past 20 or 30 years as rates of colon cancer and other diseases rose. These kinds of diseases are closely related to insufficient dietary fiber intake. Dietary fiber mainly comes from plants, including grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Carbohydrate, fat and protein are collectively referred to as the three macronutrients, which are our main energy sources.
Animal foods: animal foods is rich in protein and contain some minerals and vitamins (although no vitamin C) and a small amount of calcium. Animal proteins can accelerate the development of tumors. They can also accelerate the loss of calcium in the body, which can cause kidney stones and gallstones. Eating animal foods also contain saturated fats and cholesterols which are impossible to avoid, leading to high rates of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes. In addition, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and leptin accumulate in higher quantities in animal foods, and when we eat animal foods we will certainly ingest these substances. Animal foods lack dietary fiber and antioxidants, which are considered to be an important contributor to physical endurance.
Plant foods: plant foods provide carbohydrates, which are our best source of energy. They are rich in high-quality fats and unsaturated fatty acids. Plant foods also contain protein, are the main source of all minerals, provide almost all vitamins (except B12), and contain a variety of phytonutrients. Pesticide residues are also present in plant foods.
The active ingredients in plants--such as polyphenols, carotenoids, organic sulfides, and phytic acid--perform a variety of functions, including inhibiting tumors and harmful microorganisms, protecting cells from oxidation, and regulating the immune system, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Plants also contain other active ingredients which are beneficial to our health.
Should we take supplements when we eat a plant-based diet? There is no need to supplement anything except vitamin B12. Sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D. Vegetables and fruits provide more than enough vitamin C. Adequate vitamin intake helps the body to absorb iron and calcium.
After hearing all this, do you still think that eating plant-based food is bad for you, and only eating animal foods is good for you?
植物蛋白的可持续饮食革新 Plant protein and sustainable food innovation
Li Liyan, Vega's China brand manager
Mr. Liu Liyan shared the story of Vega's cofounder, Brendan Brazier. A professional triathlete, Brendan found that post-exercise recovery was key to superior athletic performance, and that diet played a key role in recovery.
He spent seven years trying different dietary protocols and strictly recording his diet and training. His results showed that plant-based food could provide all the high-quality protein and nutrients his body needed to recover and perform. When he began competing on a plant-based diet in 1998, he achieved a new high in his sports career, winning the Canadian 50K Ultra Marathon Championship twice.
Later, he compiled his training experience into the Thrive book series and cofounded the Vega plant-based sports nutrition brand to make it easy for sports lovers to benefit from plant-based nutrition.