What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet centers foods that come from plants, like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Unlike vegetarianism or veganism, plant-based diets don’t exclude anything. They just have a proportionately large amount of foods from plant sources.
How to start a plant-based diet?
Here are some tips to get you started.
1) Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner and include a rainbow of color. Snack on veggies with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
2) Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
3) Choose good fats, especially olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados.
4) Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
5) Include whole grains for breakfast. You might mix nuts, seeds, or fruit into oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley.
6) Go for greens. Have at least a serving of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach, every day. They’re versatile and can be steamed, grilled, braised, stir-fried, or eaten raw.
7) Make a meal out of your salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, Bibb lettuce, or red leaf lettuce. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
8) Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
Is a plant-based diet healthy?
Research has shown the benefits of plant-based eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet and vegetarianism. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), and depression. In older adults, it decreases the risk of frailty and improves mental and physical function.
Vegetarianism has also been shown to support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Vegetarian diets may also contribute to a longer life.
Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients than meatier or more processed alternatives. That said, some vegans may need to add a supplement (specifically vitamin B12) to ensure they receive all essential nutrients.
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