A plant based diet is defined by what it includes, lots of plant food; vegetables, green leaves, plants, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Eating more plants and less meat is becoming more and more popular, not only due to the health benefits, but also due to the environmental impact that eating meat has. The belief that we need animal protein in our diets is just not the case. We can get just as much protein through nutritionally rich foods such as chia seeds, walnuts and quinoa. A healthy, plant-based diet aims to maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. It encourages lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, seeds, and is generally low fat. Despite these smaller differences, there’s evidence that a broadly defined plant-based diet has significant health benefits.
The term plant-based is sometimes used interchangeably with vegetarian or vegan. There are multitude reasons why people choose to eat an exclusively, or mostly, a plant-based diet. Some end up partaking in the herbivore lifestyle due to concerns about the treatment of animals in factory farms. Others choose to become vegetarians because they want to reverse illness, while some may want to eat foods that are more sustainable for our planet.
A healthy, plant-based diet requires planning, reading labels, and discipline. Any steps we take will help, however the more plants and fewer animal foods, the better. Meatless Monday, a campaign that encourages people to start each week with a day of vegetarian eating is a great way to begin. Upping our vegetable and fruit intake is the first step, even if we don’t actively cut back on meat at first, adding more produce will help us develop a taste for plant foods and ease the transition to a higher-fiber plant based diet. Redesigning our plate and filling at least half of it with produce, grains, or beans, and downsizing our meat serving is another helpful technique. Substituting in chopped mushrooms or tofu for half of the ground meat we’d normally use in our meatloaf, tacos, chili, or pasta sauce can make a huge difference for our families’ health, but not on the taste of our food.
The major benefits for those contemplating whether or not to try a plant-based diet is the possibility of reducing the number of medications used to treat a variety of chronic conditions, lowering body weight, decreasing risk of cancer, and a reducing the risk of heart disease. A plant-based diet is not an all-or-nothing program, but a way of life that is tailored to each individual. It may be especially beneficial for those with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, or cardiovascular disease. The benefits realized will be relative to the level of devotion and the amount of animal products consumed. Someone suffering from obesity and diabetes will benefit from a plant-based diet that includes a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables and minimal low-fat animal products. Members of the population that suffer from kidney disease may need a plant-based diet with special restrictions, for example fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium and phosphorus.
Physicians should advocate that it is time to get away from terms like vegan and vegetarian and start talking about eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods, primarily fruits and vegetables and minimizing consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products. Physicians should be informed about these concepts so they can teach them to staff and patients. Too often, physicians ignore the potential benefits of good nutrition and quickly prescribe medications instead of giving patients a chance to correct their disease through healthy eating and active living. If we are to slow down the obesity epidemic and reduce the complications of chronic disease, we must consider changing our culture’s mind-set from “live to eat” to “eat to live.”
At Gourmet Services Inc. we know the more research you do, and the more you experience the benefits of a plant-based diet firsthand, the more motivated you will become. Although vegetarian diets are associated with lower risk of several chronic diseases, the key is to focus on eating a healthy diet, not simply a vegan or vegetarian diet.
When we base our meals on plant foods, we’re packing our diet with the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that most us don’t get enough of. We need to eat more plants, period. If we continue to eat animal products, they should be grass-fed, humanely treated and we should try to actually meet our farmers. Eating clean, whole foods will help us experience firsthand a difference in our energy level, quality of sleep, strength, mood, mental clarity and overall health. There is no more influential motivation than that. So PLEASE, eat more plants.