PLANT-BASED NOT VEGAN
To many plant-based sounds like another name for a vegan diet which it is actually not. “Veganism” is not only about food but also a philosophy. If you are vegan, you avoid all products derived from animals. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you are eating a healthy diet. Many products considered vegan are processed and full of unhealthy sugars, fats, and other additives.
Plant-based on the other hand refers to whole, colorful plant foods that resemble their original form (and are completely free of artificial ingredients). You choose organic, unprocessed, ideally local foods of high quality. Your body is going to love the signals it gets from nutrient dense food that helps build metabolic reserve (long-term capacity of your body to withstand repeated insults). What eat daily is fundamental to building a foundation for good health and for preventing chronic diseases.
A good example for a plant-based diet with well-studied benefits is the Mediterranean Diet.
BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET
“When you base your meals on plant foods, you’re packing your diet with the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that most people don’t get enough of,” says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., editor of Environmental Nutrition. Plant-based diets are also full of phytochemicals, compounds that help keep many of your body’s systems running smoothly. For instance, the anthocyanins in berries help protect vision; carotenoids in carrots and cantaloupe, and the isothiocyanates in Brussels sprouts neutralize the free radicals that may cause cell damage; and quercetin as in apples or onions help control inflammation. There are of course a myriad more health benefits to each of these compounds.
“Every body is different, but incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet can help your overall health in so many ways!” shares Caitlin Shoemaker, the author behind From My Bowl. “This can include reduced cholesterol, blood pressure, and lowered inflammation in your body. Personally, I experienced clearer skin, better digestion, and feel so much more energized!”
TRANSITIONING TO A PLANT-BASED DIET
The shift to a plant-based diet can feel intimidating and overwhelming if you’re unsure where to start. Be sure to take it one day at a time. Make adjustments that work for you but don’t seek for excuses to go back to your old habits. “I think the best way to transition to a plant-based diet is to go at your own pace, and find a way of eating that works best for you!” says Shoemaker. “Food is a major part of our lives, and it can be hard to drastically change your diet overnight. Even if you just start with one meal a day and adjust from there, I think you’re on the right track.”
Sources of Protein
Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in our bodies. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. When we reduce our animal protein intake, we need to know what other sources of protein are available. Plant-based protein comes in many forms.
Here are some of my favorites are:
– Whole grains like quinoa, wild rice, millet, and amaranth
– Seeds like hemp, pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds
– Nuts (including nut butters and milks) like almonds and cashews
– Legumes like lentils, green peas, and chickpeas
– Tofu (always choose organic and non-gmo)
For some people beans and legumes are challeging in terms of digestion. It’s important you prepare them properly. Soaking is it. Here’s a great article for you to read: Putting the Polish on Those Humble Beans