What is a ‘plant-based diet’? Essentially, this is an umbrella term that describes a diet characterized by a focus on food sources from plants with a lower, although not necessarily eliminated, consumption of animal and animal-derived products. Canadians are hearing and reading about this topic more and more, especially since the 2019 update of Canada’s Food Guide has a focus on fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins such as nuts, seeds and legumes as well as whole grains. These recommendations can be seen visually on the Eat Well Plate, in which fruits and vegetables represent one half of the plate while the remaining half is divided equally with whole grains and protein – with plant-based sources of protein encouraged more often. These recommendations were guided by evidence that consuming plant-based foods containing low levels of saturated fat, high levels of polyunsaturated fat and/or high levels of fibre can improve health, in part, by lowering one’s risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – of which the latter two chronic conditions are closely linked with periodontal disease. While there is limited research regarding the effects of plant-based diets on periodontal health, a plant-based diet is known to support improved health outcomes in patients with existing heart disease and type 2 diabetes – risk factors for periodontal disease.
Written by: Larissa J. Rowdon and Dr. Wendy E. Ward