Everything You Need to Know About a Plant-Based Diet
Evidence suggests that nutrition and lifestyle can be the biggest drivers for improving overall health. But a quick Google search about what foods are healthiest can produce an overwhelming number of results that vary and can be quite confusing.
What is the big deal about going plant-based? And how do you determine that it is the best diet for your lifestyle? Let’s dig into what plant-based is all about, learn more about the proven benefits, and learn how to incorporate easy plant-based meals into your routine.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
A plant-based diet is a diet that consists of food primarily made of plans. High in fruits and vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will help reduce your cholesterol levels and help you lose weight, a plant-based diet contains no meat or other animal food sources (including eggs or dairy) known to increase cholesterol levels. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, please work with your doctor to see how this plan can work for you.
What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?
Nutrient-dense and packed with fiber, plant-based diets are among the healthiest and can easily meet all your nutrient needs. Here are a few of the proven benefits linked to eating a consistently plant-based diet:
- A 58% reduction in pill use. One study that worked with 328 patients aged 60 or older found results that consistently linked a vegan diet with lower pill use.
- Positive health outcomes. Added fiber intake and decreased intake of saturated fat from animal products are linked to improved blood sugar, weight, cholesterol, and other better health outcomes.
- Improved gut health. Eating a plant-based diet rich in fiber and high in nutrients that support immunity and reduce inflammation improves gut health, helping your body to absorb the nutrients from healthy food better.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight causes a myriad of health problems and increases cancer risk. A plant-based diet removes many foods that contribute to weight gain. Adding exercise can result in fast-tracked weight loss.
- Reduced risk of heart disease. Two studies show that eating a vegan diet is good for the heart, regardless of age.
- Better urological health, reduced risk of prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction in men. A trio of studies found that plant-based diets were associated with numerous benefits and a decreased risk of male reproductive health issues.
Getting Started on a Plant-Based Diet
As with any new beginning, getting started can seem overwhelming or confusing, but adopting a plant-based diet can actually be very easy. Consider the following do’s and don'ts to help you stay the course and achieve your goals on your new health journey.
Do: Focus on the many colorful, nutrient-dense food choices available on a plant-based diet and consider how each can improve or optimize your health.
Don’t: Focus on restricting yourself. Simply choose nourishing foods over animal foods that are known to adversely impact your blood sugar, cholesterol, and more.
Do: Incorporate whole grains (such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat bread) and healthy fats (such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and olives).
Don’t: Overdo healthy oils or highly-processed foods. As the plant-based community has grown, so have overly processed foods with “vegan” stamped on the label. Sticking to whole foods is your best bet.
Do: Enjoy a warm and hearty baked potato on occasion!
Don’t: Overdo fast food french fries, which, while they are technically plant-based, are highly processed, fried in inflammatory oils, and contain harmful preservatives.
Do: Eat the rainbow! In other words, make your plate as colorful as possible with fruits and veggies like apples, bananas, broccoli, spinach, carrots, beets, kidney beans, and onions!
Don't: Eat animal products.
Do: Enjoy a splash of almond or coconut milk in your coffee or smoothie.
Don’t: Consume dairy, including cow’s milk or products made from cow’s milk, such as half and half or ice cream.
Easy Plant-Based Meal Ideas
To make healthy habits stick, they must be practical, convenient, and relatively easy to do. Incorporate one or more quick and easy plant-based meals into your day, and you’ll be fueled with plant-powered energy throughout your day. Need some inspiration? Check out these three plant-based recipes to help jumpstart your plant-based journey.