What exactly is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is not a diet of vegetables alone. It is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which may exclude or minimize meat, including chicken, dairy products and eggs. The diet will definitely exclude foods made from refined flour and sugar, and certain refined vegetable oils.
There are several food categories from which to choose, and most of these can be included as ingredients in familiar dishes you may want to prepare, such as pizza, mashed potatoes, and burrito bases.
Here are some of the foods you can add to a plant-based diet.
•Fruit: mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, plums, lemons etc.
•Vegetables: lettuce, dark green veggie varieties, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, cabbage etc.
•Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yams, yucca, squash, peas, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans.
•Whole grains: millet, barley, brown rice, whole wheat products, oats, whole grain cereals.
•Legumes: All varieties of beans such as black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans, as well as legumes like chickpeas and lentils.
Bear in mind that iodized salt should be added to your food as it is a great source of iodine to help maintain a healthy thyroid.
The foundation of a plant-based diet
Starch-based foods and fruit form the basis of a whole-food plant-based diet. While leafy greens play an important part in the diet, they are low in calories and do not provide much of an energy source, so they may result in decreased energy levels, and leave you feeling hungry.
However, combined with starch-based foods like corn, peas, potatoes etc, provide fantastic all-round nourishment, and keep your energy up.
The idea of a plant-based diet is not to eat one food for a single nutrient, such as oranges for vitamin C, as an example. The main plan of a plant-based diet is eat what is known as a package of the foods that you enjoy, which contain all the essential nutrients.
This package can provide you with most of your daily nutrient needs, and be of enormous benefit to your general health.
Health benefits of a plant based diet:
A plant-based diet helps lower blood pressure because of the potassium-rich legumes and nuts
Plants contain no cholesterol, and this includes the super-food coconut oil
The fiber in plants helps to manage high blood sugar, by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the blood stream
A low fat, plant-based diet seriously lowers your risk of certain types of cancer
Healthy weight management happens naturally when you eat wholesome, unrefined foods, lots of fiber, take in natural vitamins and minerals, rather than processed food that has been stripped of nutrients and fiber
Research has shown that replacing saturated animal fats with the mono-unsaturated fats found in nuts, avocados and olive oil, substantially lowers your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.
You will also experience less inflammation in the body which is caused by sugary and fatty foods that can lead to other problems like constipation. The fiber in a plant based diet will keep your colon healthy.
Plant-based foods contain nutrients which are in proportion according to our human needs, and a variety of whole foods will easily meet your nutritional needs.
4 Steps to Adopting a Plant-based Diet:
Changing your entire diet will not be easy, especially if you have been eating a diet high in processed foods. Whether you want to fully embrace a plant-based diet, or perhaps ease into it gradually by keeping chicken or fish as part of your diet is a decision that only you can make. But there is no doubt that reducing your meat intake and following a plant-based diet can benefit your health.
If you are finding it difficult to drop meat and dairy altogether, here are some tips to help you:
Instead of cutting foods out, begin by adding healthy plant-based foods to what you’re already eating. You can do this by adding legumes in your regular diet, as they are generally high-fiber, make you feel full, and give you lots of energy.
You can also substitute one or two processed food items with a plant-based food in a meal each day.
Gradually exclude red meat from your diet. If you decide to keep chicken and fish in your diet, make sure that the chicken is skinless, and opt for healthy fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel, for their high omega-3 content.
Replace one or two days of your week’s meals with a full vegetarian, plant-based meal. Do this on a regular basis, until you no longer feel like you miss meat and continue to replace one meal per week.
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Backed by science.
The health benefits of a plant-based diet are supported by scientific research. Fatalities from heart problems is rated as the biggest single cause of death today, mainly due to poor lifestyle habits, and grossly unhealthy diets. Embrace a healthy diet and help lower your risk of a future heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.