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 eliminate foods made from refined flour + sugar and certain refined vegetable oils.
There’s tons of delicious food to choose from every day, and most of these can be used 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 iodised salt should be added to your food as it is an essential source of iodine to help maintain a healthy thyroid.
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 the energy pumping.
The primary goal of a plant based diet is to eat foods that you enjoy, which contain all the essential nutrients.
A plant based diet automatically lowers blood pressure because of the potassium- rich legumes and nuts. Plants contain no cholesterol, and this includes the superfood coconut oil. The fiber in plants helps to fight high blood sugar, by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the blood stream.
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
A low fat, plant based diet seriously lowers your risk of falling prey to cancer.
- 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.
- 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.
- Weight loss happens naturally when you eat wholesome, unrefined foods, lots of fiber, whole vitamins and minerals, rather than animal fats and sugary, floury foods.
Change may not be easy, especially if you have not been a healthy eater.
Whether you want to fully embrace a plant-based diet, or perhaps keep 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 diet is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Here are some tips to help you on the way:
- Begin with including legumes in your regular diet, as they are generally feel-good foods, and will make you feel full, and give you energy.
- Substitute one or two refined items with a plant-based food in a meal each day.
- Gradually exclude red meat from your diet.
- If you decide to retain 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 the 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 want to return to your previous way of eating.
- Try one of the thousands of recipes that can be found on the internet.
The health benefits of a plant-based diet are supported by scientific research.
Fatalities from heart problems are rated as the biggest single cause of death today, mainly due to poor lifestyle habits, and grossly unhealthy diets.
Don’t be another victim, embrace a healthy diet and help lower your risk of a future heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.