The big trend in diet and nutrition recently seems to be plant-based diets. This means focusing on eating foods derived from plant sources instead of animal sources. Although closely-related, plant-based diets are not necessarily vegan.
A plant-based diet is a stepping stone to a healthy lifestyle that can improve your health, boost your mood, and promote happiness.
Studies on vegetarian (meatless) and Mediterranean (includes fish) diets are driving the trend towards plant-based diets, encouraging more people to adopt more fruits, vegetables and plant-derived foods in their diets.
Benefits of Plant-based Diets
The science shows that these diets are good for reducing the risk for common severe diseases, including:
High Blood Pressure
Prevents Some Types of Cancer
Promotes Brain Health
Healthy Eating Promotes Happiness
Plant-based diets aim to incorporate more fruits and vegetables overall, but does not necessarily limit or restrict meat. The intent of a plant-based diet is improve overall health, but not all plant-based foods are healthy.
For example, 1 cup of cauliflower has around 5g of carbohydrates. A homemade pizza crust made with cauliflower varies by the recipe, but is typically around 10g of carbohydrates. A frozen pizza made with cauliflower crust can be as much as 50g of carbohydrates.
Plant-based diets balance the high-cholesterol staples of meat, cheese and eggs to promote better heart health. These foods contain virtually no dietary cholesterol, low saturated fats and abundance of fiber.
The low fat content in plant-based food choices helps insulin function properly and can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Plus, fruits and vegetables are naturally high in potassium which is effective in lowering blood pressure.
Anthropological study of civilizations that subsist largely on vegetarian and Mediterranean diets suggests there may also be a strong relationship between these dietary choices and longer lifespans. Plant-forward foods may promote healthful aging in adults of all ages.
Fruits and vegetables are dense in micronutrients that promote overall health. And, these foods are comparatively high in water content and low in calorie content so you can eat more without putting on weight.
What are Plant-Based Foods?
Fruits and vegetables are the obvious choices for a plant-based diet, but most of us prefer a little more variety than an endless lineup of vegetable sides and salads. Food manufacturers have taken note of the plant-based trend and have shown up with dozens of alternatives to favorite dishes.
Plant-based Protein Sources
Protein is an important component of a healthy diet. Proteins contain complex amino acids that provide the building blocks for cell repair, tissue growth, hormone regulation, and metabolism. Plus, protein helps you feel full and keeps you from overeating.
Limited (rarely or never) include animal-source proteins like fish, seafood, chicken, beef, pork, or eggs.
Plant-based Fat Sources
A small amount of fat is imperative for nutrient absorption and can help you feel full longer. Dietary fats come in many forms, including saturated, monosaturated and polysaturated. Not all fats are created equal which gives dietary fat a bad wrap.
Use these fats to replace common pitfalls like fried food, desserts with added sugar, and refined grains.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can be consumed in abundance as they are all naturally plant-derived. Enriched or refined grains like white bread, white rice, or processed desserts should be avoided. These foods have been processed to remove the healthy nutrients and replace them with unhealthy ingredients.
Once upon a time there were no plant-based dairy options. But thanks to the innovation of the food industry, consumers can now choose from a large selection of plant-based diary alternatives.
Almond Milk-based Yogurts and Creams
Cane sugar is plant-based, but is often highly refined. Raw Cane Sugar is a better alternative, but should be used in extreme moderation. Other sweetener options include:
Stevia products which claim to be non-nutritive sweeteners derived from the Stevia plant are often highly processed and contain very little plant-based material. Always make sure to research processed foods thoroughly.
Plant-based diets should be encouraged as part of an effort to include more fruits and vegetables. These diets are less-restrictive than vegan or vegetarian diets, but are susceptible to the same pitfalls like highly processed food substitutes that are not as healthy as they claim to be.