What a Plant-Based Diet Really Means (and What It Doesn’t)

What a Plant-Based Diet Really Means (and What It Doesn’t)

Plant-based diets have been around for a while and gaining popularity, but what does it really mean? What can and can’t you eat? Why is a plant-based diet good for you? We’re about to tell you!

What Is a Plant-Based Diet?

According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, they define a plant-based diet as “all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices and excludes all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.”

The Harvard Health Blog agrees and defines a plant-based diet as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. But, the Harvard Health Blog makes a distinction that you can eat meat, as long as you continue to focus on consuming foods from plant sources. So what can you eat or not eat? Keep reading! 

Why Are Plant-Based Diets Good for You?

Plant-based diets boast a variety of good health benefits (we’ll cover specifics below!). A common myth about plant-based diets is consumers are nutrient deficient. But that’s false as plant-based diets offer all the necessary macronutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates), vitamins, and minerals for optimal health. A side effect of plant-based diets is consuming more fiber and phytonutrients. All of these are required by your body for optimal health.

From that same National Center of Biotechnology Information article, the doctor who wrote it noticed how incredible the benefits are of a plant-based diet. He now recommends a plant-based diet to his clients to reverse diabetes, high blood pressure, and hyperlipidemia. He also wrote that because of a plant-based diet, his patients avoided coronary artery bypass surgery, arterial stents, bariatric surgery, and more. 

What Can and Can’t You Eat on a Plant-Based Diet?

An important distinction with a plant-based diet means that you aren’t vegetarian or vegan. A plant-based diet can still include meat. But the point of a plant-based diet is to consume more food from plant sources, which is mostly vegetables, fruits, and grains. There are many plant-based lifestyles and options. We’ll cover some of the more popular ones. 

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is constantly being praised as one of the best diets for people to follow. It’s the diet citizens in the “Blue Zones” follow which makes them the healthiest and live the longest. The 5 Blue Zones are:

  1. Okinawa, Japan
  2. Sardinia, Italy
  3. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  4. Ikaria, Greece
  5. Loma Linda, California

Residents of the Blue Zones are eating a plant-based diet most of the time. And while it includes the items we listed above, it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week. An important distinction to note between these 5 cities is their location. They’re all right on the water, which is why fish is a huge part of their diet and why red meat is not. 

The Mediterranean Diet has many benefits. Some are:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and depression
  • Decreased risk of frailty
  • Better mental and physical function

Vegetarian Diets

There are several vegetarian diet options and we’ll cover the differences below. All the vegetarian diets include the staples we mentioned above like vegetables, fruits, and grains. 

  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian is someone who eats eggs, dairy products, and sometimes meat, poultry, fish, and seafood.
  • Pescatarians eat eggs, dairy products, fish, and seafood, but no meat or poultry.
  • Vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products, but no meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
  • Vegans do not eat any animal products (fish, meat, dairy products). 

All these diets restrict themselves in one way or another, but they all have the same plant-based diet containing vegetables, fruits, and grains. It’s up to you to decide which fits your lifestyle and makes your body feel its best. Check out which one is right for you by reading our last blog post, “Flexitarian, Vegan, Pescetarian: Which Diet Is Right For You?”!

How To Start Eating Plant-Based Today

Following a more plant-based diet doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. The key is to start small and be consistent. Here are easy ways to start eating more plant-based:

  1. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner.
  2. Use meat as a garnish instead of an entree. 
  3. Consume more good fats like olive oil, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados.
  4. Cook one vegetarian meal at least one night a week.
  5. Try new fruits and vegetables to make it exciting.
  6. Eat fruit for dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth craving. 

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