I am sure you can think of at least one friend or family member who is either vegetarian or vegan. Maybe you can also name 5 celebrities who practice this lifestyle. There are many reasons why persons adopt a plant-based diet but it is safe to say that one of the main reasons is the health benefits…and there are many. These benefits can also be yours.
You might have been thinking about it for some time but you are not sure how to start on a plant-based diet. Continue reading and see if these steps will help you in your decision-making.
What is a Plant-Based Diet
Just as it sounds, this is a diet that emphasizes the eating of plants. That is the simple definition. The plant-based dieter’s dining world consists of whole, unrefined (or minimally refined) foods. Meals are made from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. If I just stopped here, you would probably look back at what you just read and come to the conclusion that a person on a plant based diet is on the verge of starvation. It does not seem that there is enough food to eat.
What is excluded
A person on a plant-based diet does not eat beef, chicken, fish or any meat for that matter.
Fast foods are out, as are refined foods such as white rice, white bread, cookies, chips, sugary cereals. Yes, all those packaged, processed foods are out.
Whoa! Starvation for sure.
Are you about to make a run for it and get as far away from this plant based diet thing as you can or do you see right through my scare tactics and know that something good is ahead.
Come back. Don’t run away. Let me put away my mischievous self, put on my sane hat and tell you about the wonders of a plant-based diet and why it is a good lifestyle to adopt.
There are numerous research that has been done that shows the tremendous health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some of the main ones:
- Coronary Heart disease: Studies show that persons on a plant-based diet were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease.
- Lower Cholesterol: This diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol and contains more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as carotenoids and flavonoids resulting in lower total cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Many hypertensive persons have been able to come off medication and maintain a normal blood pressure
- Aids in weight loss and lower body mass index (BMI), which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.
- Type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. In studies of Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was half that of non-vegetarians
- Cancer. Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that persons on a plant-based diet have a lower incidence of cancer than those who are not. Plant-based diet also slows down the progression of some cancers such as breast, colon and prostate.
- Improves symptoms from chronic illnesses.
Isn’t this diet lacking in protein?
This is a question that comes up often when meat is removed from the diet but as can be seen in the article Protein and Vegetarians, there is absolutely no lack of protein in the plant-based diet. More than enough protein is supplied from the vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts consumed in this diet.
After all, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is only 0.8 g per kilogram body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), you only need 54 grams of protein.
Look at this breakfast……
1/2 cups oats (13g)
1 cup soy milk (7g)
1 slice whole wheat bread (3.6g)
1 tbsp peanut butter (3.5g)
…….and look at this dinner
1 cup brown rice (5g)
1 cup lentils (18g)
1 cup broccoli (4g)
You already have almost 58 grams of protein and you haven’t even added lunch and snacks as yet.
See… No problem with proteins.
Do you have to take supplements?
There are some persons who believe that someone one who does not have meat, fish or dairy in their diet will be severely lacking in nutrients and will need to take supplements to ensure that their nutritional needs are met. It is true that vegetarian and vegans and others plant-based dieters can be deficient in nutrients if they don’t carefully plan their menu to ensure balance. Some persons are really bad examples of healthy plant-based eaters. Instead of exhibiting the healthy, vibrant features of someone who is a vegetarian, for example, they look weak and sickly. This is because they have not been careful with planning their meals and ensuring that it is a balanced meal. This is discussed more in the article Why Vegetarians Are Unhealthy.
But you don’t have to worry one bit. A plant based diet is more than adequate to provide all the nutrients you need to achieve and maintain good health. The vitamin that is of the greatest concern in terms of availability for someone on a strict plant based diet is vitamin B12. Many times you will see vegans being advised to take vitamin B12 supplement.
You may take supplement if you so desire but guess what? You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from the plants. Yes, even vitamin B12.
Ready to make the Lifestyle Change?
Although you may be convinced of the many benefits, it is not very easy to convert a taste bud that has been used to certain foods all its life.
Not everyone can go to 100% plant-based diet overnight. Don’t worry about it. Just take your time and go slowly. Remember, it is not a race. It’s a lifestyle.
Here are the Steps
For those of you who can manage to go cold turkey feel free to start at Step 3.
Start making a conscious effort to limit meat and processed foods.
You can start by substituting your standard breakfast for a plant-based one.
Move on to substituting lunch and then dinner with plant-based menus. Now you are ready for the big guns.
Clear out your kitchen
That’s right. You have to clean out that fridge and that pantry. You don’t want to start the process with all that temptation around. You may clear it out quickly, or over time if you don’t want to waste what you already have.
Restock your kitchen
No. Not with the same things you just threw out. You are going to restock it with plant-based food.
Plan Meals in Advance. You have a greater chance of success if you are prepared.
Don’t give up
You might slip in your efforts sometimes but down let it get you down. So what if you yielded to temptation and devoured a whole box of donuts. Don’t despair. Get right back up and continue your programme.
Stocking your kitchen
If you have gone ahead and emptied your refrigerator and pantry, you might be wondering what you now need to restock the kitchen. You definitely don’t want to bring back any of those highly processed, refined foods. Instead, you want to stock your kitchen with food from the four food groups.
What four food groups, you ask? Well, here they are:
- Whole grain
You will be amazed at how complete your diet will be just using these plant foods.
Let me go ahead and add nuts and seeds as well. A small amount each day adds to your daily intake of protein and also provides the healthy fats that your body needs.
You know the common seeds; like flax seed, chia seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, and nuts such as almond, cashew, walnut, pecans and others.
Here is what you can stock your pantry with
Whole grain – whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats
Starchy vegetables – potatoes, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes………
Legumes – numerous variety of peas and beans
Others -onions, garlic, legumes, nuts, seeds
Also, your refrigerator
Vegetables – kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage……..
Fruits (some fruits are stored in the pantry or on the kitchen counter)
Don’t forget bananas. They are so versatile. Even when they are grossly overripe, please don’t toss them. They are still very useful.
Frozen fruits and vegetables – for quick meal preparation
Other Staple Items
Spices and herbs –
Non-dairy milk for example,. almond milk
And these are just examples. it’s certainly not an exhaustive list.
Tips to help in your journey
- Check with your doctor before you begin. Don’t be surprised if he has to reduce your diabetes and high blood pressure medication after only a short time in your journey.
- Pre-prepare and have food ready so you never have to go hungry. When you are hungry and good food is not readily available it is so easy to fall into the trap of eating junk.
- Get support. Join up with other plant-based dieters.
- Keep learning and practicing new recipes.
- Do it with a partner. In that way you can both encourage each other and hold each other accountable.
Did you know that….
>50% of the American diet is ultra processed.
>25% comes from meat and dairy products
<10% comes from fruits and veggies (and this includes juices and fries)
It is no wonder that we are plagued with so many chronic diseases. We are killing ourselves with our teeth.
The good news is that we have a better way. We can even undo some of the damages we have caused, by adopting a plant-based diet. It helps to treat and reverse all types of medical conditions.
I am so happy this option exists. What about you?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.