If you are interested in nutrition, then you've probably heard of a plant-based diet. But what is this diet exactly? Here is everything you need to know.
When most people hear the words “plant-based” and “diet” thrown together, they picture themselves nibbling away at carrots and celery while everyone else is digging in at Thanksgiving. Which, in turn, begs the question:
Is making puppy eyes at the turkey every Christmas really the recipe for a sustainable, long-term diet?
So what is a plant-based diet, exactly? Is it something you can actually use on a long-term basis or is it another unsustainable diet trend? We’re about to tell you everything you need to know about plant-based diets.
All you have to do is keep reading.
First Things First, What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
The term plant-based diet traces its roots back to the 1980s. Back then, a biochemist named Dr. T. Colin Campbell used the phrase to describe a diet that’s high in fiber, low in fat, and filled to the brim with veggies.
So what does this mean in practice?
First, it’s important to note that you can be on a plant-based diet without being on a vegan or vegetarian diet. You can still consume meat or animal byproducts if you’re so inclined because health is your priority.
A plant-based diet just means that you’re consuming more fruits, veggies, and whole grains in proportion to the rest of your diet.
Or put another way:
You don’t have to be vegan to be on a plant-based diet. But a lot of plant-based diets can also be vegan or vegetarian.
Are There Any Benefits to a Plant-Based Diet?
Proponents of plant-based eating will talk a big game about how the diet is all about health. But are there actual health-related reasons to go this route or is this yet another bit of health and wellness-related hot air?
We’ve got you covered. Here are some insanely good reasons to start pursuing a plant-based diet.
Benefit #1: It Can Help With Weight Loss
They say that the secret to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than you burn. This Weight Loss 101 concept even has its own acronym. CICO or calories in calories out.
But yo-yo dieting is a thing, in part because it’s hard to stick to a hard and fast diet plan. And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like whipping out a food scale before every meal, there comes a point where you reach your limits.
This is how a plant-based diet can give you a weight-loss one-two punch:
First, you’re dropping processed sugars and foods
And secondly, eating more plants means that you’re eating more fiber. This makes it possible for you to feel fuller for longer.
Plain and simple, this is a diet strategy that allows you to eat less without being on a diet that makes you say, “I love the results but I’m hating every minute.”.
Benefit #2: It Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
With cholesterol buildup, fat intake, and all the other dangers that come with it, it seems like everyone is looking for ways to stay heart-healthy.
One of the perks of going plant-based is that you’re able to cut down on the types of fat, sugar, and processed food that can lead to an unhealthy heart. The greens, berries, and whole grains can all help you keep the ticker going.
Benefit #3: It Can Help You Stave off Diabetes
In 2019, WebMD reported on research that suggested that going plant-based could lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 23%.
And then, as if that number wasn’t jaw-dropping enough, the risk of developing diabetes dropped by 30% for people who primarily focused on eating healthy plant-based food.
When you consider the fact that 34.2 million adults have diabetes in the US, while another 1 in 3 are prediabetic, going all-in on a diet that can lower your risk by 25% or more seems like a no-brainer.
How Can You Get Started?
So you’ve read about the plant-based diet. And it ticks all the boxes you’re looking for.
Are there any practical tips you can use to go from “I’ve never heard of eating plant-based.” to full-fledged, card-carrying “I’m on a plant-based diet and I don’t care who knows it.”?
Sure there are. Here’s our list of top tips:
Tip #1: Swap Fruit for Cake and Pie
Whether you’re jumping headfirst into a plant-based diet or you’re dipping your pinky toe in and easing your way in, gradually having fruit for dessert lets you satisfy your sweet tooth.
From a caloric standpoint and a sugar consumption standpoint, having an apple or a pear for dessert is a relatively simple way to snack the plant-based way.
Tip #2: Treat Your Meat Like a Garnish
When it comes to food-based priorities, a lot of people see meat as the star of the show, while everything else, like your potatoes and your salads, is the culinary equivalent of a background dancer.
With a plant-based diet, don’t have to give up meat altogether. But you also don’t want to turn your meat into the Beyonce of every meal.
The easiest way to get plant-based meat proportions is to change the way you approach them. It’s the difference between having a chicken salad or eating a chicken with a side salad.
Tip #3: Up Your Veggie Intake
When you’re going plant-based, there’s no missing the fact that you’ll have to eat more veggies. From roasted veggies at lunchtime to salads at dinner, a plant-based diet turns vegetables into a necessity at every meal.
The good news is that with this approach to eating, you’ll be able to fill your plate right up. Your veggies will increase your fiber intake and this, in turn, can increase the volume of food and make you feel fuller for longer.
What Does a Plant-Based Shopping List Look Like?
Fortunately, shopping for a plant-based diet isn’t complicated. Some common, plant-based items you may see on your shopping list include:
- Rolled oats
- Mixed greens
- Extra virgin olive oil
In short, if it’s a whole grain, a fruit, or a vegetable, chances are that the food you’re thinking of will pass the plant-based diet test. You just might be surprised at how many different recipes you’ll be able to enjoy.
Should a Plant-Based Diet Be On Your List of Diet Options?
It seems like every few years, the health and wellness community comes up with a new diet that’ll change everything. A plant-based diet makes it possible for you to go back to the basics by focusing on foods that aren’t over-processed.
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