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The Secret to Plant-Based Diet Success is Science, Not Dogma with Simon Hill

February 23, 2022
Theresa "Sam" Houghton

“Our health is not determined by one single meal or one single food that we eat at one point in time. It’s about consistency over years and years.” ~ Simon Hill

Simon Hill’s journey into the plant-based space started at age 15 when he saw his father have a heart attack. The idea that heart disease could “run in families” planted seeds that today have blossomed into a career as a nutritionist, podcast host and author.

Since that first brush with the effects of lifestyle disease, Simon has immersed himself in the science of diet and plant-based nutrition. Rather than supporting any particular dietary dogma in the plant-based space, he provides research-backed advice backed to help people plant their diets appropriately according to goals and life stage.

He cautions against drawing a hard line on issues like protein requirements and oil consumption and instead advocates keeping an open mind to what ongoing research reveals.

“I think it’s important to not always reduce everything to black and white,” he says, “because science is not black and white.”

Science, in fact, has a lot of nuance, and Simon believes certain sections of the plant-based community have jumped to erroneous conclusions based on a handful of studies. This unhelpful approach can lead to obsession instead of awareness and prevent people from truly thriving on plant-based diets.

As an alternative, Simon believes it’s more beneficial to provide tools and information that help people navigate a food landscape that’s designed to encourage the overconsumption of ultra-processed fare. Such actionable guidance can help break down common barriers to making the kinds of dietary changes that lead to better health outcomes.

But there’s one other important piece to the puzzle: enabling people to succeed on plant-based diets once they make the switch. Science shows that people eating plant-based have unique nutrient considerations, which can change depending on age, health status and activity level.

Ideally, Simon would like to see more research into nutritional needs at different ages and life stages. He believes it’s going to take more data across demographics to settle some of the persistent questions about plant-based nutrition and ensure that people have the best information to tailor their diets to changing needs as they age.

He believes “every diet needs to be appropriately planned” and continues to use his platform to provide information and guidance that helps people adopt and stick to healthy plant-based diets.

This is a super nerdy episode! Simon draws his information from hours spent immersed in nutrition science and shares some great insights for anyone who wants to optimize their plant-based lifestyle.

🌱 Episode Highlights
  • How seeing his dad have a heart attack spurred Simon to get into plant-based nutrition
  • Why educating people about healthy food isn’t the key to improving diets or health outcomes
  • How the food environment may prevent people from making healthier dietary choices
  • A scientific look at common myths and misconceptions in the plant-based space
  • Limitations of measuring one specific biomarker during an isolated moment in time when attempting to  determine a food’s effect on long-term health
  • Why being aware of nutrient needs specific to plant-based diets and current life stage is a smarter approach than obsessing over single nutrients or foods
  • Why it’s important for the plant-based community to be opened-minded about new discoveries in nutrition science
  • The effects of dietary dogma—and how science can help correct erroneous conclusions
  • Simon’s tips for maximizing nutrition and health on a plant-based diet</aside>
Takeaways for brands
  1. People who have or know someone who has a chronic condition diet-related condition tend to be more willing to make dietary changes for health reasons. If you’re marketing to an audience with this mindset, it’s extremely important to deliver on the health aspect of plant based.
  2. People don’t need more education on why plant-based foods are healthy; they need help overcoming barriers that prevent them from switching to and sticking with a plant-based diet. In product development, branding and marketing, consider how you can make it easier to choose your product over a more familiar, visible brand that doesn’t offer the same health benefits.
  3. It’s important to be aware of the narratives in the plant-based space and know your customers’ foundational beliefs about food. The dietary “rules” people adhere to can influence how they perceive your product. Avoid using messaging that contributes to confusing or damaging messages in the plant-based space. Instead, use your marketing to come alongside your customers and help them achieve their personal health and nutrient goals.
  4. Be aware of nutritional needs and concerns in groups you’re targeting, be it relating to activity level, age or stage of life. Emphasize benefits specific to your audience in your marketing. These are areas where you can connect with customers and be a guide on their plant-based journeys.
  5. Don’t worry about trying to convince or prove to people that a plant-based diet is the “best diet.” Focus on the benefits that science shows correlate with eating plant foods—and save yourself from getting sucked into the internet diet wars!

About Simon & Plant Proof

Simon Hill is a nutritionist and qualified physiotherapist and the the founder of the popular Plant Proof podcast and blog.

On top of his formal education, Simon spends hours deciphering scientific studies so that he can break down how to fuel your body to promote longevity and reduce the chance of developing disease while simultaneously achieving whatever health and fitness goals you may have.

He is the plant-based food contributor to Chris Hemsworth’s fitness app, Centr, and in 2019 Simon opened a plant-based restaurant, Eden, in his Sydney neighbourhood of Bondi. In 2021 he published his book The Proof is in the Plants with Penguin Australia, which shot to the #1 non-fiction book Australia-wide in its debut week.

Simon frequently shares plant-based food, health and science information on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Follow, Listen to & Read Simon’s Work

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