What exactly is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is not just about eating vegetables, and it’s certainly not woo woo or new age. Eating plant-based means filling up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and legumes to your heart’s content – quiet literally.
It doesn’t automatically mean vegetarian but it may exclude or minimise meat, including chicken, dairy products, and eggs depending on your preference.
Plant-based definitely excludes foods made from refined flour and sugar and certain refined vegetable oils.
There’s nothing spartan or lean about it as there are several food categories to choose from. Most plant-based victuals can be included as ingredients in familiar dishes you love like pizza, mashed potatoes, and burrito bases. Yum! Getting hungry? Me too. But stay with me…J
Here are some of the delicious foods you can add to a plant-based diet:
- Fruit: mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, plums, lemons et al.
- Vegetables: lettuce, dark green leafies, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, cabbage etc.
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yams, yucca, squash, peas, kumara aka sweet potatoes, peas, green beans.
- Whole grains: millet, barley, brown rice, whole wheat products, oats.
- Legumes: beans such as black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans, as well as legumes like chickpeas and lentils.
- Nuts and seeds: nuts and seeds pack a nutrition punch, lots of protein and good fats as well.
We love sea salt and cracked black pepper too and all the yummy herbs like basil, coriander, sage, parsley, dill, oregano etcetera.
Onion, garlic, chili and ginger add oodles of delicious flavours while good fats like cold pressed olive oil and coconut oil add health cherishing, skin loving fats.
The basis of a plant-based diet.
The idea of a plant-based diet is not to eat one food for a single nutrient, such as oranges for vitamin C, as an example. The main plan of a plant-based diet is to eat what is known as a package of the foods that you enjoy, which contain all the essential nutrients. A combo of foods that provides you with your daily nutrient needs, and are of enormous benefit to your general health.
Health benefits of a plant-based diet.
- A plant-based diet automatically lowers blood pressure because of the potassium-rich legumes and nuts.
- Plants contain no cholesterol, and this includes the super-food coconut oil.
- The fibre in plants helps to fight high blood sugar, by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
- Research shows a low-fat, plant-based diet seriously lowers your risk of falling prey to cancer.
- Weight loss happens naturally when you eat wholesome, unrefined foods, lots of fibre, and take in natural vitamins and minerals rather than animal fats and sugary, floury foods.
- Studies have shown that replacing saturated animal fats with the mono-unsaturated fats found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil, substantially lowers your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.
- You will also experience less inflammation in the body which is caused by sugary and fatty foods that can lead to other problems like constipation. The fibre in a plant-based diet will keep your colon healthy.
- Plant-based foods contain nutrients which are in proportion according to our human needs, and a variety of whole foods will easily meet your nutritional needs.
The best way to start a plant-based diet.
Changing your dietary habits in a big way is never a walk down easy street, especially if you haven’t been a healthy eater. Whether you want to fully embrace a plant-based diet, or perhaps keep chicken or fish as part of your diet is a decision that only you can make. But there is no doubt that reducing your meat intake, and following a plant diet is one of the best things you can do for your health.
If you are finding it difficult to immediately flip over to a new diet, here are some tips to help you on the way.
- Begin with including legumes in your regular diet, as they are generally feel-good foods, and will make you feel full, and give you energy.
- You can also substitute one or two refined items with a plant-based food in a meal each day.
- Gradually exclude red meat from your diet.
- If you decide to retain chicken and fish in your diet, make sure that the chicken is skinless, and opt for healthy fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel, for the omega 3 content.
- A good idea is to replace one or two days of your week’s meals with a full vegetarian, plant-based meal. Do this on a regular basis, until you no longer want to return to your previous way of eating (and that is exactly what happens).
Some meals you could try to prepare.
- Sweet potato lasagna.
- Kumara chips baked in the oven with coconut oil.
- Cauliflower rice or pizza crust.
- Mashed kumara and pumpkin with peas.
- Bean burgers.
- Falafel burritos.
Backed by science
The health benefits of a plant-based diet are supported by scientific research. Heart disease is the biggest single cause of death today, mainly due to poor lifestyle habits, and grossly unhealthy diets. And then there’s cancer and our global obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Take charge of your health, you’ll feel ah-mazing!