“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – A. Einstein
A whole food, plant-based diet is all about adding more veggies and fruits to your diet, and about reconnecting to real food. It’s not about giving up everything you love. Plant-based eating is – believe it or not – fun! It’s like a whole new world opening up! You leave unhealthy, processed food with lots of empty calories behind and choose nutrient-dense food instead. It’s very much adaptable to a wide range of cuisines.
Food like everything else we take in from our environment sends signals to our bodies. Good signals (as in eating right, keeping fit, sleeping well) are necessary for our bodies to maintain their self-healing capacity. Think: A beautiful song (good signals) vs. noise (bad signals in form of processed foods, stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption to name a few).
If you’re thinking about doing something good for yourself, of creating a habit that is beneficial for your health, of eating a little closer to the earth, here’s how your can start.
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
PLANT-BASED PROTEIN POWDERS
From pea to brown rice and hemp protein, there are tons of plant-based protein powders to choose from. Some of them are amazing in taste and textures but many are not. Experiment with different products and find what works for you. It’s also important you make sure the protein powder you purchase is tested and free of contaminants. Clean Label project recently tested a couple of protein powders. You want to select a product that has a clean list of ingredients and is free of artificial add-ins, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and milk ingredients, to name a few.
Some of my favorite protein powders are:
Sprout Living Epic Protein Original: This USDA Certified Organic, raw product is a blend of includes organic plant protein, prebiotics and nutrient-dense superfood. One serving: 26 g proteins.
Amazing Grass Superfood Protein Powder: This product combines a superfood blend of plant-based protein with greens and nutrient-dense fruits and veggies.
One serving: 20 g proteins.
Warrior Food Vanilla combines pea and sprouted rice protein. It is a great product as well. One serving: 15 g protein
Don’t just stick with one protein powder. Use different ones for optimal health benefits. Variety is key!
PLANT-BASED PANTRY LIST
Stocking your pantry with plant-based staples makes cooking and meal-planning much easier. Here’s your shopping list:
• Black beans
• Chia seeds
• Flax seeds
• Almond butter
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Coconut oil
• Maple syrup
• Coconut Syrup
• Nutritional yeast
• Plant-based protein
• Sprouted gluten free whole wheat bread
There are so many good plant based food blogs out there. My go to ones for super nutritious, yummy recipes are:
They are all amazing, fun and special. I love everything cake … just made this Chocolate Strawberry Pie as a surprise for my best friend.