Plant-based eating is a hot topic, with almost 40% of Americans eating more plants over the last five years. But, it’s not just a trendy way of eating. Plant-forward diets have been around for decades, and research proves they’re healthful and sustainable.
Popular AND beneficial? Let’s dive in.
What is a “Plant-Based” Diet?
Plant-based is a broad term. It refers to an eating pattern that includes foods that are mostly or entirely derived from plants.
Commonly eaten plant foods include: vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and lentils, and nuts/seeds. These foods make up the base of a plant-based diet. Foods derived from animals, such as meats, dairy, and eggs, are limited or avoided altogether.
A plant-based diet can take on many forms. Here are some popular examples:
- Mediterranean Diet: predominantly plant-based foods, but allows small amounts of fish, eggs, dairy, and poultry. Red meats are limited or avoided.
- Pescatarian Diet: mostly plant-based foods, but incorporates fish, eggs, and dairy.
- Vegetarian Diet: does not include meat, poultry, or fish. May allow dairy and/or eggs.
- Vegan Diet: limited to plant-based foods only. Does not include any animal-derived foods.
Why the Push for Plant-Based Diets?
A lot of research has emerged over the past few decades highlighting the benefits of eating more plants. Here are just a few:
Plants are Nutrient Powerhouses
In their whole, unprocessed forms, plants are incredibly nutrient-dense. They are packed full of fiber, a carbohydrate that can help regulate blood sugars, improve lipids, and help increase feelings of fullness and satisfaction.
Plant-based foods also have an abundance of vitamins, minerals and something called phytochemicals – compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Plants Can Help Prevent Chronic Diseases
Plant-predominant diets have been linked with significantly lower rates of heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
They have also been shown to improve quality of life, by lowering risk of life-altering conditions like kidney stones, gout, and dementia, to name a few.
Plants Can Promote Happiness
Yes, that’s right! Research shows those who eat several servings of produce daily feel better, physically and mentally, than those who don’t.
Plants Promote Environmental Benefits
More evidence has been proving that the foods we grow and eat have a powerful effect on our environment. It seems that animal foods, especially meats, significantly contribute to the degradation of our planet.
Growing and consuming plant foods uses less resources and has a lighter carbon footprint overall.
Want to Incorporate More Plants In Your Diet?
There are several ways to include more plants in your diet. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach, so you can choose how to make it work for your preferences. Here are five tips to get your started:
- Just eat more plants. Seem simple? Perfect. Adding more plants to your diet can be really easy. For instance, if you already include vegetables at dinner, you could just increase the amount of vegetables you eat and maybe eat a little less meat. Having eggs for breakfast? Mix in some wilted greens. Do you snack at all? Add some veggies and dip to the mix.
- Swap animal proteins for plant proteins at your meals. Replace meats with plant proteins at meals. You’ll maintain a good intake of protein, while also reducing saturated fat (from meat) and increasing fiber and other nutrients (from plants.) Because plant proteins are versatile, you could prepare some meals exactly the same as you normally would, just switch the protein source. Some good plant sources of protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and small amounts of nuts or seeds.
- Choose more whole foods. I’m not saying ditch processed foods – those can definitely have a place in your diet! But processed or refined foods, like prepared entrees or snacks or treats, have less nutrient value per bite. If you can, fill up on mostly whole, minimally processed or unprocessed vegetables, grains, beans and fruits to get more bang for your buck.
- Work with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in plant-based eating. It’s a great idea to seek help if you’re unsure where to start. A dietitian can help ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients to help you thrive and meet your nutrition goals. And, more importantly, we can help you find balance and enjoyment without unnecessarily restricting food.
- Explore new recipes to determine what you like. Plant-based recipes can take on a host of interesting and enjoyable culinary flavors. Trying new recipes can help you discover interesting flavors and enjoyable ways of preparing plant foods. Here are a few of my favorites you could start with:
Want More Support?
My background in preventive cardiology combined with my history as a long-term plant-based eater make me a great resource if you want to work towards eating more plants. I can help you make the shift work for you, at your own pace.
Interested in working together? Click here to sign up for a free inquiry call to discuss your goals.
Remember: there’s no right or wrong way to follow a plant-based eating pattern. Start slow, be open-minded, and enjoy the process!