The Forks Over Knives diet got its start with book and an advocacy film produced in the United States in 2011. It was directed by Lee Fulkerson and featured several doctors who advocated for the adoption of a whole-food, low-fat, plant-based diet as a way to either avoid several chronic diseases or to reverse their impact on a person’s diet. It stresses a complete avoidance of oils and processed foods.
Although some people correlate the Forks Over Knives diet with following a vegan lifestyle, the practices employed through the eating of unrefined, whole items from plant-based foods is a different application. Most of the people who choose to adopt this lifestyle typically eat tubers, legumes, fruits, and vegetables with whole grains, minimizing the amount of animal-based protein and refined sugars.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is one of the primary advocates of the Forks Over Knives diet, claiming that cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even some cancers are preventable or treatment by switching to this diet.
If you are looking for a different eating plan to support your health, then these are the pros and cons of the Forks Over Knives diet to consider.
List of the Pros of the Forks Over Knives Diet
1. It encourages you to get rid of all of the junk food in your diet.
Americans are eating a significant amount of processed foods, preservatives, chemicals, and artificial junk every day. When these food-like products replace fruits and vegetables, then there is an increase in numerous risk factors that can lead to weight-related health problems. If you are struggling to lose weight, then consider eating unprocessed items whenever possible. The simple act of replacing processed produce with unprocessed items can be enough to start triggering weight loss.
That doesn’t mean all of your favorite foods must disappear. The goal is to cut out the items which contain heavy refinement before they become usable. A sample Forks Over Knives eating plan suggests blueberry oak breakfast muffins to start off your day, a pear as a morning snack, and then a quinoa garden salad for lunch. Then you can make a sweet potato and vegetable lasagna at dinner by creating layers with the produce instead of the noodles.
2. You might experience a decrease in your cholesterol numbers.
People with a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis can reduce their LDL cholesterol numbers by over 20% by switching to a complete plant-based diet. When you eliminate dairy and meat products from your eating habits, then you’re getting rid of the primary source of fat in your diet. This forces your body to consume what is already present for energy, which helps to slim the waistline while reducing risk factors for heart disease. Those who adopt the Forks Over Knives diet see several health benefits in this category which are similar to what is possible by living a vegan lifestyle.
3. It increases the number of antioxidants that you consume.
When you decide to follow the Forks Over Knives diet, then your consumption of whole foods and fresh produce will increase the number of antioxidants that are in your diet. There are also higher levels of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you will receive with a varied approach to your eating. You’ll want to include legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure you’re receive the daily recommended value of each category.
4. You could start lowering your blood pressure numbers.
When you eliminate processed foods, oils, and animal proteins from your diet, then there is a decreased risk of death associated with heart disease issues. Because your body doesn’t need to work as hard over time to manage the extra fat you would carry otherwise, your blood pressure numbers can fall outside of the range of hypertension. You might also notice more energy throughout the day, a healthier waistline circumference, and fewer immune system responses to triggers in the environment.
5. It can lead to higher levels of self-control when eating.
One of the most significant contributors to weight gain is a lack of portion control. People who eat a plant-based diet must establish habits which help them to maintain their awareness of eating at all times. These behaviors might include more self-control over the speed of eating, finding moments of mindfulness in the process (especially at the beginning of the transition), and researching ingredients to understand what is in everything that gets put onto the plate. This process of awareness can help to stop impulsive eating behaviors, especially right before bedtime, that can lead to a significant increase in weight.
6. You are not asked to eliminate alcohol or caffeine from your diet.
The Forks Over Knives diet focuses more on the quality of the foods you choose to eat more than the substances it contains. There is no mention about the potential adverse effects of alcohol or caffeine on your health, but that also means you can still drink coffee since it is a plant-based product. Tea is another beverage that you can consume with this eating plan. You’ll need to avoid sodas, fruit juices, and any other product with high levels of refined sugar, but it doesn’t have to be a complete lifestyle change from what you are currently doing.
7. There are plenty of stories from other dieters who found success with this program.
When you watch the Forks Over Knives movie or read the book, then you can find inspiration from several different dieters who found success with this program. If you see that it is possible for other people to navigate the changes that this plan asks of you, then it becomes easier to implement them yourself. There are plenty of tips included with the information to help make the transition to a plant-based diet much easier, and it is essential to remember that the health benefits of an eating habit like this are strongly supported by decades of scientific research.
List of the Cons of the Forks Over Knives Diet
1. It eliminates the idea that some animal-based proteins could be healthy.
The Forks Over Knives diet groups all animal proteins into the same category, labeling them as a dangerous addition to your diet. Although some foods are a poor choice, like a fast-food burger or a pepperoni pizza, eating wild-caught salmon or sustainably-raised chicken and turkey can offer a lean alternative with healthy fats which are linked to several health benefits. Moving away from these items by cutting out all animal products (which includes dairy items like cheese) could eliminate some needed resources from a person’s diet.
2. There could be new health concerns to consider with a switch to a plant-based diet.
Promoting a plant-based diet is not inherently terrible, but it does create the possibility of encountered a new set of diseases and health problems that wouldn’t exist if a mixture of food choices were available. Instead of exposing yourself to the higher fat levels of animal proteins, you will have the potential for GMOs, pesticides, and super grains becoming a problem in your life. Since many of these products contain gluten and can lead to food sensitivities or allergies (along with triggers from Celiac Disease), the Forks Over Knives diet may not be the healthiest choice for some people.
That’s why a conversation with your doctor is always recommended before you change your eating habits.
3. It could lead to nutritional deficiencies in some areas.
There are several vitamins and minerals that humans receive through the animal-based proteins they consume. Although some of these items are available in plants, switching to whole or raw foods can limit the amount of fortification available to each consumer. That means you may need to take several vitamins or supplements to ensure your electrolyte balance remains intact and nutritional deficiencies do not occur.
Most people who follow an eating plan like the Forks Over Knives diet encounter many of the same issues that vegans experience. That means there is a lack of vitamin B12, issues with calcium, and a lack of Vitamin D.
4. This diet requires a radical change in eating behaviors for many people.
If you decide to start following the Forks Over Knives diet, then it will require a radical change in your eating habits unless you are already following a vegan-like lifestyle. When you cannot eat certain ingredients, then you must learn how to put together complementary foods that can help you to form an excellent nutritional profile. There are over 100 different recipes to follow with this eating plan that can help you to succeed, but someone accustomed to eating dairy or animal-based products frequently may encounter feelings of grief, despair, or depression because of the new gaps forced upon them by this eating plan.
5. It might interfere with other existing medical conditions.
If you have diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, or one of several other health conditions that require consistent management and supervision, then the Forks Over Knives diet might not be the right choice to make. You will need to consult with your primary care physician first before starting this new eating habit. It may be necessary to add a registered nutritionist or dietician to your treatment team as well so that you do not create roadblocks to the treatment of your current condition.
6. You will struggle to eat at restaurants with the Forks Over Knives diet.
Because there are strict limitations in place with the Forks Over Knives diet plan, it might become impossible to find something to eat on a local menu. Most restaurants do not offer true vegan-based choices as it is, so trying to find options that fit the profile of this eating choice are even more challenging to find. You will need to ask about cross-contamination issues from the very beginning. If you are taking a road trip somewhere, then you might find it to be necessary to pack your own snacks and meals so that you don’t get stuck with a choice to avoid eating entirely or violate your diet.
7. This diet can lead to a set of unrealistic expectations.
It is easy enough to believe that if you start following the Forks Over Knives diet, then you are making healthier choices with your eating plan. There is no actual data to support the concept that choosing a specific way to eat as an isolated behavior can lead to a better health outcome. Although you can lose weight with this diet and possibly reverse some of the adverse impacts that processed foods have on your health, there must also be a balance of exercise and wellness if the maximum results are to be possible. If you only change your eating and still live a sedentary lifestyle, the results around the waistline might not ever appear.
8. It costs more financially to follow the Forks Over Knives diet.
You will need to spend about $15 to pick up the Forks Over Knives diet book if you want to receive a complete overview of this eating plan. Watching the movie might cut this expense down a little, but it won’t provide you with the same level of supportive resources either. Then there is the cost of food to consider. Although some people can follow this lifestyle for as little as $25 per week, the average expense is closer to $350 per person, per month when following this nutritional plan. Most plant-based items which serve as a substitute are priced 50% higher (or more) than their regular counterparts.
9. This diet requires a high level of self-discipline to follow.
When you start searching for information about the Forks Over Knives diet, you will quickly discover that there is not a structured meal plan provided to you. There are followers of this eating choice who have put together some options based on their experiences with the diet, but that is the only option available to you right now. The recipes which you receive with this guide do not contain any nutritional information either, so you may not know where the status of your daily health lies. If you struggle to stay accountable without formal structures in place to guide your new habits, then this option may not be your best choice.
10. It may not be possible to follow the diet in some geographic locations.
You must have access to fresh produce consistently if the Forks Over Knives diet can work. If you live in an area where food scarcity is an issue, then this eating plan may not be possible to follow. You still have the option of growing a garden and harvesting what you grow to encourage better eating habits, but a complete transition is not always possible. Before deciding that this is the path you want to choose, it can be helpful to survey what foods are available in your community to ensure that you have groceries to bring home all year long.
These Forks Over Knives diet pros and cons suggest that there could be some benefits to the adoption of this lifestyle, but it comes with specific risks that you must manage from the start. You will want to have nutritional supplements available to cover any deficiencies that might develop from the lack of animal-based protein and dairy products. If you are tempted by the possible results of this plan, then engage your doctor with a conversation about this option to see if it could provide a boost to your health.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.