A plant-based lifestyle is more than another diet or fad. With a variety of ways to incorporate plant-based foods, find what works for you and live a healthier life for it.
BY: JENNA GORHAM, RD
There’s no doubt about it: plant-based diets have gone mainstream. However, there are many ways that people can go about it without labeling themselves as fully vegetarian or vegan.
You may not like the taste or texture of meat, or don’t appreciate the way heavy, meat-centered meals may make you feel afterwards. But every so often, if you’re served meat or feel like eating a burger, you’ll dig in and feel satisfied.
In other words, ‘plant-based’ does not mean you have to go full-out vegetarian or vegan.
It can mean you eat meat only a few nights a week or when you’re served it on special occasions. It can even mean every night, except meat doesn’t dominate your plate portions. Over time, this lifestyle has countless benefits to your health.
Remember everything we’ve been told about the importance of eating our fruits and veggies? It’s true – more and more research supports the fact that eating predominantly plant-based foods has a positive impact on health outcomes. And while plant-based may sound trendy, unlike Paleo or Whole30, it has quite a few more science-based benefits even without going ‘all in’ on a full vegetarian lifestyle. Here are a few to consider:
1. Better heart health
Countless studies have shown lower rates of heart disease and other chronic diseases in people who eat a predominantly plant-based diet. Plant-based diets have been linked to lower blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
2. Improved gut health
Diets high in animal products have been shown to alter our gut microbiota, which can contribute to inflammation. Full of antioxidants and high in fiber, which work wonders on our digestive tract, plant-based diets may have a more protective effect against inflammation due to its impact on the gut microbiome. Another recent study showed differences in gut bacteria when people consumed a diet high in animal proteins versus a diet mainly comprised of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.
3. Weight management
Vegetarians and vegans tend to have a lower rate of obesity. By focusing on more nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, these foods have a tendency to fill you up and make it easier to be aware of your hunger and fullness.
Not sure if it’s realistic to go more plant-based in your day-to-day?
The main concern people have when they adopt more of a plant-based lifestyle is where they will get their protein from. While it is a logical concern, meat and animal products are not the only sources of protein in our food supply. Here are a few sources of protein that come from plants.
- Almond butter
- Cashew butter
- Peanut butter
- Flax seeds (choose the ground version to reap the full benefits)
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
BEANS & LEGUMES
- Black Beans
- White Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Pinto Beans
It is important to note that a plant-based diet must emphasize eating it in their whole-food form. Vegetarians whose diets focus heavily on potato chips and other highly-processed foods may not reap the same benefits.
So go out there, and eat more plants. You’ve got nothing to lose, except better health.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: ANNA PELZER
Jenna Gorham, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Bozeman, Montana focused on helping 20-somethings improve their health by making healthy eating easy. By emphasizing nutrition is more than the latest fad diet and trend, Jenna bridges a better understanding of the body’s needs with simple, long-lasting lifestyle habits that help others achieve the best health.