With the plethora of diet trends these days, it is easy to think that a plant-based diet is merely one of the latest health hypes gurus and celebrities, promote. However, a plant-based diet is more than just a fad. By adopting this diet, you can improve not just yourself, but also the planet. Below, we’ll explore the ideas behind a plant-based diet, and explain how it can benefit you.
What You Need to Know About a Plant-Based Diet
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet basically centers on making plants the focal point of your diet, meaning that you don’t eat overly processed food, like bleached or white flour, oil, or refined sugar. This diet instead, promotes the consumption of whole food.
While it’s easy to assume that people, who follow a plant-based diet eat only plants or follow a strictly vegetarian lifestyle, that’s not the case. There are people who successfully follow a plant-based diet, while still including eggs, dairy products, and even chicken and fish, in their diet. However, these protein sources are consumed very minimally.
Why adopt a plant-based diet?
Eliminating, or at least, reducing meat from your diet by going plant-based, has many benefits. Doing so can lower your carbon footprint, help preserve resources, discourage animal cruelty, and improve your overall health.
Preserve the environment
Acknowledging environmental concerns and raising livestock, creates a significant demand for fresh water, grain, and land resources. The same pressures also exist for processing canned goods, and other ready-packaged food items. By eating the grain itself, rather than using it to maintain livestock or prepare pre-packaged foods, you contribute to less water, energy, and land usage.
Treat animals better
Animal rights activism has been one of the most significant reasons behind the plant-based lifestyle, given that the demand for livestock has led to the poor treatment of animals. Many animals live and die in horrible conditions — all for the sake of human consumption. There are several documentaries that shed light on this issue within the food industry, like Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Fed Up.
Improve overall health
Maintaining a diet heavy in vegetables and other whole foods, may help ward off chronic diseases, such as those related to heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Other physical benefits include weight loss and improved skin.
What foods can you eat on a plant-based diet?
Plant-based foods include vegetables, nuts, and legumes (like soybeans and peanuts), tubers (like potatoes), fruits, mushrooms, and sea vegetables. Ideally, there should be no animal-based products in a plant-based diet. However, as mentioned, there are those who still minimally consume certain types of meat, dairy products, and eggs.
Bear in mind, that even when processed foods do not contain animal-based products, they are still not immediately considered a plant-based food. For a food to be considered a part of the plant-based diet, it ideally must be processed as little as possible, and be free from additives. Consequently, those following a plant-based diet tend to avoid overly treated, packaged food items, like all-purpose flour, refined sugar, oil, and stereotypical “junk food.”
Sometimes, plant-based food may include minimally processed versions of whole foods, such as guacamole, hummus, applesauce, salsa, oatmeal, and vegetable broth. Other accepted foods in the plant-based diet world include whole-grain bread, brown rice noodles, whole-wheat pasta, and corn tortillas.
There is a misconception that a veggie-based lifestyle can be expensive. However, beans, potatoes, and whole grains are quite affordable, especially when purchased in bulk. When planning your menu for the week, create a plant based diet meal plan around these staple items.
What is the difference between a vegan and plant based diet?
A plant-based diet is not the same as a vegan diet. Generally speaking, a food item that is plant-based is vegan, but something that is vegan may not be plant-based. Oreos and Coca-cola, for example, are considered vegan. However, as they are both overly processed, they are not plant-based.
Additionally, vegans absolutely eliminate animal products, from both their diet and lifestyle. In contrast, those who follow a plant-based diet might still consume animal-based food items, or simply use animal-based products outside the spectrum of food, like leather or other animal skins.
How to adopt a plant-based diet?
Some people may not be ready to make the full switch to a plant-based diet, and that’s okay. Instead, you can start small. Try joining the Meatless Monday initiative, and eliminate all meat from the start of your week.
- Reduce or limit your consumption of processed food and meat. Meatless Mondays can be a start. Then increase the number of days you go meatless in a week.
- Add more plant food to your meals. For example, if you love chicken curry, start by adding more vegetables to the mix, and slowly reducing the amount of chicken as you go along.
- Research more about plants, food swaps or food alternatives, and plant-based recipes. Remember, getting the number of calories you need is important, even when you’re on a plant-based diet.
- Start growing your own food. If you have ample space at home, start growing a sustainable garden. If space is an issue, start small by planting commonly used herbs in small pots.
Learn more about how to begin the plant-based diet in this video by HealthyGroceryGirl:
While adopting a plant-based diet is not the easiest thing to do, it does have great benefits. Regardless of if you’re an omnivore or a herbivore, most agree that avoiding factory-farmed, overly-processed, or artery-clogging food, is a positive thing!
Are you thinking of switching to a plant-based diet? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on November 16, 2017 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.