Plant-based foods are popping up everywhere. Why all the hype? The plant-based diet consists of foods that come 100 percent from whole and unprocessed plants. Choosing to eat this way means saying no to animal products and yes to eating vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
More people are choosing to eat plant-based diets because of the positive health benefits. For example, consuming plant-based foods can reduce inflammation in the body, decrease cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and improve gastrointestinal health. A plant-based diet has also been shown to protect against heart disease and diabetes. Further, people also choose plant-based diets based on many research studies that point to the environmental impact and ethical issues in animal treatment and farming practices.
When eating plant-based, look for foods that are minimally processed and include unrefined whole foods and plants. Avoid or limit animal products such as eggs, dairy, beef, pork, and fish. It is also important to avoid refined sugar, trans fats, and bleached flour.
I recommend that plant-based diet beginners start slowly. It takes time to change your palate. Moving away from past eating habits can be stressful, but stay focused on improving your overall health.
You may have heard of Meatless Mondays, when restaurants offer only plant-based entrees. Several restaurants are now offering plant-based meat options such as Beyond Burgers, Impossible Burgers, plant-based sausages, and plant-based chicken. But before you eat these plant-based meat options, do your research, as these newly developed products can sometimes be high in sodium. Read the labels carefully before consumption. When eating plant-based, it is also recommended that you supplement your diet with the following vitamins: omega 3’s, calcium, iron, vitamin C, zinc, B-12, and vitamin D.
Growing your own vegetables provides the two-fold benefit of eating locally-sourced plants and increasing your physical activity. But if gardening isn’t quite your thing, look for fresh, whole foods at your local farmers market, or visit the produce section of your favorite grocery store.
Plant-based eating is a new way to a better, healthier you!
Below, a plant-based eating category of foods:
All fruits; all vegetables; legumes––canned, frozen, or dried; nut butters; nuts and seeds; whole grains; spices and herbs; healthy fats; and nondairy substitutes.
By: Deborah W. Walker, MA, RDN, LDN