What Are Plant-based Diets?

So, you are thinking about trying a plant-based diet? Maybe you have heard about the health benefits, you care about the environment, or perhaps you just want to eat less meat? Regardless of your reasons, you are not alone. In the United States, plant-based diets are becoming more popular. According to a 2017 report, 6% of Americans identify themselves as vegans, up from 1% in 2014.

Health Benefits | Types of Plant-Based Diets | Vegetarian | Vegan | Flexitarian | WFPB

Properly followed, plant-based eating limits the consumption of refined sugar, oils, and processed foods, leaving only whole foods to provide nourishment. By doing so, you can maximize your nutritional intake and minimize food that may negatively impact your health.

Plant-based diets focus on eating patterns that emphasize plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables. This does not mean you should not consume dairy products, but your choices should be proportionally more on food from plant sources than animal sources. While there are a variety of plant-based diets, all of them emphasize certain foods associated with heart health.

There are numerous health benefits to consuming plant-based diets. Studies conducted on large populations and random clinical trials show that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancers, metabolic syndrome, fewer frailty issues, and better physical and mental function. Study results have shown that a vegetarian diet can improve the quality of life. The fiber, minerals, and vitamins found in plant-based diets are vital to the body.

These plant-based diets can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Changing your diet to a plant-based diet is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your health, boost energy levels, and reduce chronic conditions. By changing your diet, you can live longer, reduce your risk of getting sick, and help the environment.

Are Plant-based Diets Healthy?

Yes. According to research, a diet based on plant foods is good for your health. You can reduce fat, sugar, and processed foods significantly by following a plant-based diet so that only whole foods provide nutrition. In this way, you maximize nutrient intake and virtually eliminate foods that will cause poor health outcomes. In addition to being cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, these diets are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Various Health Benefits of plant-based diets

There are numerous benefits of a plant-based diet. Plants contain essential nutrients that are unavailable in other foods. Plants contain minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that can help you maintain a healthy body and immune system. The nutrients from plants can also help with:

-Weight loss

-Heart disease

-Diabetes

-Cognitive

Weight loss

When you switch from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-based one, your risk of obesity decreases. Several studies show that eating a plant-based diet can help you lose weight and your LDL cholesterol. There is a correlation between whole grains and vegetables and weight loss.

plant-based diets and weight loss

Vegetables and whole grains have a low glycemic index, thereby slowing digestion, and fruits contain fiber and antioxidants, prolonging fullness. You can avoid many of the foods that lead to weight gain if you eat mostly plants.

Heart disease

The saturated fat contained in meat can lead to heart disease when consumed in excess. Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in plants reduces the risk of heart disease by 16 percent and the death rate caused by it by 31 percent. When you limit your meat consumption, you should eat healthy plant-based foods. In other words, you should consume whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and healthy oils instead of plant foods that are unhealthy, such as refined grains and sugary sodas, which can pose a health risk.

Diabetes

plant-based diets and diabetes

For some time, people with type 2 diabetes have been aware of the link between diet and diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, fat tissue makes the cells more insulin resistant, which can increase the risk of diabetes. As the American Diabetes Association points out, this is likely due to the fact that plants contain fewer saturated fats than animal products, which are factors contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Cognitive decline

Plant-based diets provide a variety of physiological benefits, but they may also have mental benefits. Some promising research shows that plant-based diets may slow Alzheimer’s progression. Researchers found that eating about one-half cup more fruit and vegetables a day resulted in a reduction of 13 percent in cognitive decline. A recent article published in Nutrients reports that whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are the core of a plant-based diet. The diets are rich in polyphenols. Researchers believe polyphenols can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reverse its cognitive decline.

Different Types of Plant-based Diets

A plant-based diet can take various forms, so you have to find what works for you.

Flexitarian diets: Usually consist of eggs, dairy products, and occasionally meat, poultry, fish, and seafood.

Vegetarian diets: Are devoid of meat, fish, seafood, or poultry, but you may eat eggs, milk, and cheese.

Vegan Diet: Forgo eating animal foods, and that includes milk, cheese, and eggs.

Vegetarian Diet

A vegetarian diet excludes poultry, fish, and meat. Fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains will make up the bulk of your diet. The good news is that there are more options at the grocery store and when you dine out.

Additionally, vegetarians do not have to give up dessert. There are many vegetarian ice cream options.

In recent years, vegetarianism has gained widespread popularity.

Various studies estimate that vegetarians make up 18% of the global population.

Besides the ethical and environmental benefits associated with removing meat from your diet, a vegetarian diet may lower your risk of chronic disease, aid in weight loss, and enhance your nutritional intake.

Many reasons motivate people to eat only vegetarian food, such as religious reasons or ethical ones. The environment is another reason many people become vegetarians since livestock production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbates climate change, and requires a significant amount of water, natural resources, and energy.

What is a Vegetarian Diet?

There are several types of vegetarian diets. Your approach can help you decide which one is best for you.

Lacto-ovo: Many people choose this approach, forgoing meat, fish, and poultry but maintaining their dairy and egg intake.

Lacto-vegetarians: These people do not eat eggs or meat, but they eat dairy products.

lacto vegetarian

Vegans: This plant-based approach excludes all animal products, including dairy products and meat.

As with any diet, variety keeps boredom at bay – include different colors of vegetables and protein sources to get your daily nutrition.

Pros

-A well-balanced diet with good nutrition

-Is heart-healthy

Cons

-Can get boring

-Lack some nutritive qualities found in meat.

-Can be time-consuming

Vegan Diet

Veganism is a lifestyle that aims to prevent animal exploitation and abuse, regardless of whether for food, clothing, or any other reason. In addition to reducing waistlines and improving blood sugar control, this diet may provide a number of health benefits.

Nevertheless, a diet consisting solely of plant foods may, in some cases, result in nutritional deficiencies.

vegan diet

What is a Vegan Diet?

Vegans take being vegetarian to the next level. Becoming vegan is more about a lifestyle choice than what you eat. You abstain from all animal products, period, and that includes dairy and eggs. As far as food is concerned, you avoid anything containing dairy or eggs.

Pros

-Fill you up quickly

-Provides environmental and health benefits

Cons

-Can be restrictive

-Can lead to nutritional deficiencies

-Can be tedious

Flexitarian Diet

While allowing some moderate consumption of animal products, the Flexitarian Diet emphasizes plant-based foods. By choosing a flexible vegetarian diet, people can still reap vegetarian benefits without denying themselves animal products entirely.

flexitarian diet

What is the Flexitarian Diet?

Flexitarian diets are more flexible than vegan and vegetarian diets.

Looking to increase your plant foods consumption but do not wish to give up meat entirely, this may be an option for you. The flexitarian diet includes the below principles:

-Include legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, in your diet.

-Choose plant-based protein over animal protein.

-Be flexible and occasionally use animal products.

-Consume as many natural, unprocessed foods as possible.

-Reduce your intake of sweeteners.

Pros

-Filling

-Flexible

-A lot of tasty recipes

Cons

-Promotes home cooking

-Can be tough if you dislike veggies and fruits

Whole-food, Plant-based Diet

For many years, there will be arguments about which diet is best. But, the health and wellness communities will agree that plant-based diets emphasize fresh, whole ingredients and limit the intake of processed foods.

whole food plant-based diet

Whatever your dietary needs are, whether you are vegan or looking to switch things up, consuming more unprocessed foods and vegetables is always a good idea. This healthy diet plan emphasizes whole vegan foods, which means nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains, are the primary sources of protein, rather than processed meat substitutes.

However, some people worry about getting enough protein without meat, but planning your meals well should eliminate that concern. Furthermore, whole plant-based foods tend to be high in fiber, which is another key satiating nutrient. Aside from its many health benefits, fiber also helps you stay full throughout the day.

What is a Whole-food, Plant-based Diet?

What exactly makes up a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB diet) is not a rigid diet but more of a lifestyle behavior. A WFPB diet consists primarily of unprocessed foods. You can also include frozen fruit and vegetables and canned beans, as these foods require little processing and have fewer additives. WFPB focuses mostly on plants, including fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes, which should make up most of your diet.

Exclude refined food such as white flour, added sugar, or processed oils.

Many advocates of the WFPB diet push for organic, locally sourced foods but focus on food quality.

Pros

-Can help you lose weight and keep it off

-May help slow or even prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s, according to studies

-Helps to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Cons

-Missing out on nutrients

-Can be difficult if you dislike veggies

-Expensive

What You Can Eat:

Plant-based diets offer plenty of foods that you can enjoy. Remember to add variety to every meal to avoid boredom. See the below list.

Fruits: Most fruits are a great food to boost your nutrient intake. Among these are berries, bananas, peaches, pears, citrus fruits, and pineapple, etc.

Vegetables: Leafy vegetables are high in calcium and iron. Among them are kale, peppers, carrots, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower, etc.

Starchy vegetables: Calorie for calorie, vegetables are among the world’s most nutrient-dense food items, and they are widely available. Some starchy vegetables include sweet potatoes, potatoes, and butternut squash, etc.

Whole grains: These foods are rich in fiber, iron, carbs, and B-vitamins. Some whole grains include rolled oats, brown rice, brown rice pasta, Farro, quinoa, and barley, etc.

Legumes: The Legumes family has many beneficial plant compounds and nutrients. Among these are lentils, peanuts, peas, chickpeas, and black beans, etc.

Seeds, nuts, and nut butter: These foods provide an excellent protein, iron, fiber, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids source. Some of these foods include cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, macadamia nuts, tahini, pumpkin seeds, and natural peanut butter, etc.

Plant-based protein: These are versatile and high in protein alternatives to fish, meat, eggs, and poultry for many recipes. The plant-based protein sources include tempeh, tofu, plant-based powders, or protein sources, with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.

Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, and unsweetened coconut, etc.

Unsweetened plant-based milk: Almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, etc.

Spices, herbs, and seasonings: Turmeric, salt, basil, rosemary, curry, black pepper, etc.

Condiments: Mustard, salsa, vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, etc.

Beverages: Tea, coffee, sparkling water, etc.

The plant-based diet involves eating food derived from plants and avoiding unhealthy foods such as refined grains and sugar. These diets are available in a variety of forms. Studies have shown that the nutrients in these diets have many health benefits, including weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline.

So, switching to a more plant-based diet is a wise choice for you and our planet. Regardless of the plant-based diet you choose, eating this way is sure to boost your health.