Plant-Based Eating

Be it for health or environmental reasons, moving to a plant-based diet has become increasingly common and it’s not just a trend!

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You’ve likely heard about plant-based or whole-food diets before. They focus largely on minimally processed foods, specifically plants, and nutritionists agree that this approach to eating contributes to overall wellness. 

THE PRINCIPLES

Plant-based or plant-forward eating focuses primarily on foods from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans. You can also enjoy tofu, whole grain breads and plant-based milks. 

The basic principles of plant-forward eating are as follows: 

• Emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods

• Limits animal products

• Focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, which should make up the majority of meals

• Excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour and processed oils

• Pays special attention to food quality, prioritizing locally sourced, organic food

Plant-based eating differs from a vegan or vegetarian diet because, while followers eat mostly plants, animal products aren’t completely off limits. Meat can be consumed, albeit seldomly, viewed more as a garnish instead of the focus of the plate. It’s very important that when animal products are consumed, they are high quality products. For example, pasture raised eggs and free-range poultry, whenever possible.

Plant-based eating isn’t really a diet, as much as it is a lifestyle. There are a large range of studies and data that supports this way of life, with the Mediterranean Diet serving as a wonderful case study. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and limited amounts of yogurt, with meats and sweets less often. It has been shown in both large population studies and clinical trials to significantly decrease the chances of many cancers, depression, diabetes and heart disease.

Plant-based eating isn’t really a diet, as much as it is a lifestyle.

LEANING AWAY FROM MEAT

Apart from the time it can take to prepare meat, there are environmental and health reasons that make people want to reduce their consumption as well. Steaks and chops are delicious, no doubt, but it’s hard to ignore that there is a higher cost than ever to being a carnivore, be it for altruistic or nutritional reasons.

In response to a shift away from meat in many parts of the world over the past few years, plant-based meat and dairy products have really taken off. Oat milk has become a standard choice at most coffee chains and yogurt is now made with everything from cashews to coconuts. 

One of the common misconceptions about plant-based eating patterns is that the foods must taste bland and boring. On the contrary, there is more variety in the plant world than the meat one. What’s more, herbs and spices go a long way to creating layers of flavor. Grilling is a great way to bring excitement to vegetables and incorporating creative ingredients like toasted nuts, pomegranate seeds and tahini goes a long way to maximize their potential. It’s the little details in vegetarian cooking that really make all the difference. 

One of the common misconceptions about plant-based eating patterns is that the foods must taste bland and boring.

GUT HEALTH

Signs of poor gut health can include unexplained nausea, fatigue, and acne. An anti-inflammatory diet can significantly improve gut health. This diet promotes whole foods, omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, spices and healthy fats like olive oil. It also discourages the consumption of processed foods, red meat, and alcohol. Antioxidants are also key to reducing inflammation. Many plant-based foods are good sources of these, among them blueberries, raspberries, artichokes, red cabbage and beets. In the herb family, look to ginger, cinnamon and turmeric, for their anti-inflammatory properties. 

Many foods contain ingredients that can cause or worsen inflammation. High on this list are sugary and processed foods, while fresh, whole foods are less likely to have this effect. There is also some evidence to suggest that diets high in gluten and carbohydrates can lead to inflammation but, of course, one should work closely with a nutritionist to find out what their individual triggers are as well as undergo testing for nutrient deficiencies.

*Note This article is purely informational. Anyone who is thinking of significantly altering their diet should consult a medical professional.