What exactly is a plant-based diet?
It’s not only vegetables.
A plant-based diet is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and may or may not include chicken, dairy products, and eggs. At its heart, it simply eliminates refined flour, sugar and certain refined vegetable oils.
There’s tons of delicious food to choose from every day, and most can be used as ingredients in dishes you already know and love, such as pizza, mashed potatoes, and burrito bases.
Here are the basics of 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.
(Iodised salt should be added to your food to help maintain a healthy thyroid.)
While leafy greens play an important part in the diet, they’re low in calories and do not provide much energy, alone they may result in decreased energy levels, and leave you hungry. However, when combined with starch-based foods like corn, peas, potatoes, etc., they really keep you feelin’ good and your energy pumping.
The primary goal of a plant based diet is to eat foods that you enjoy and give you all the essential nutrients you need.
A plant based diet automatically lowers blood pressure because of the potassium- rich legumes and nuts. They contain no cholesterol, and the fiber helps to fight high blood sugar, by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
Plants also contain nutrients perfectly proportionate with our human needs, and eating a variety easily meets your nutritional needs (so long, pricey supplements!).
A low fat, plant based diet seriously lowers your risk of cancer.
You’ll experience less inflammation 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’re making this lifestyle change for the first time.
Whether you want to fully embrace a plant-based diet, or keep meat as part of your diet is a decision that only you can make. But there is no doubt that reducing your meat intake, and eating more plants 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, they’re 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 processed meat from your diet, and choose lean cuts and dark fish.
- Replace one or two days of your week’s meals with a full vegetarian, plant-based meal.
- Try one of the thousands of recipes that can be found on the internet.
The health benefits of a plant-based diet is one thing every nutritionist agrees on. 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.