Everything You Need To Know About The Plant-Based Diet!

plant-based diet guide: basics and tips

If you’re used to a meaty diet, the mere thought of going plant-based likely makes your taste buds curl up and hide but imagine being able to address almost all of your mental and physical health issues simply with your diet? Plant-based doesn’t sound so bad after all, right? With popular documentaries, such as Cowspiracy and Fork Over Knives, raising awareness about this type of diet, there’s no denying that it has piqued many people’s interests. After all, there’s something super intriguing about a diet that is considered to be one of the healthiest, if not the healthiest way to eat, and that is proven to offer a plethora of benefits, including sustainable, natural weight loss, reduced risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some mental illnesses,  and the ability to lower your risk of early death, according to studies. But it’s plant-based and who wants to eat a diet free of meat and other animal products? While there’s no denying that it is an adjustment (just like any diet change is), switching to a plant-based diet can provide you with all of the benefits you’ve been looking for. And hey, once your taste buds adjust, you may even call it yummy! 

The 101 on Plant-Based Diets

Just as the name suggests, plant-based diets are diets that are, well, plant-based. They’re described as an alternative term for a vegan diet, as they eliminate all types of animal products, including poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey and meat. This means that you’re left with a delicious diet that consists of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, and anything that comes from plants, such as herbs and spices.

However, the confusion sets in when it comes to the different versions of plant-based diets. For example, the term can also be used to describe vegetarian diets or even broader, a diet that is made up mostly of plants, but not entirely. This leaves the interpretation up to you, which also means that you can select the “plant-based” version that best suits you and your taste buds.

Types of Plant-Based Diets

As a rule of thumb, it makes much more sense to use the term ‘plant-based diet’ as a broad category of diets. After all, there isn’t just one plant-based diet. Instead, this term can be used to describe a diet that is strictly plant-based, largely plant-based, completely vegan or a compilation of a few. However, there are a handful of plant-based diets that are considered to be the original and most common options. These are also the types of plant-based diets that get studied.

The variations (and confusion) often stem from the vegetarian diet, as it can be broken down into diets that are considered to be semi-vegetarian or a flexitarian diet which allows the occasional meat, poultry, fish and seafood. A vegetarian diet can also be a pescatarian diet, which includes eggs, dairy, fish and seafood but absolutely zero meat and poultry.

The good news about all of this is that there are plenty of options to choose from. You can choose to be super strict with your plant-based diet to maximize your benefits or opt for a more flexible approach. The choice is yours.

Top Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

We would be here all day if we went over every benefit you can receive from following a plant-based diet plan, so we have decided to focus on the top ones. Keep in mind though, that the benefits you can receive highly depend on the type of plant-based diet you follow. For example, following a vegan diet (the truest form of a plant-based diet) is likely to provide you with maximum benefits when compared to a variation of such. Fortunately, since all types of plant-based diets largely focus on getting more whole fruits and vegetables into your diet, they all provide an abundance of health benefits, according to research. This is due to the increased nutrient intake and the elimination of foods that have been linked to poor health, disease and illnesses. For example, eating meat regularly has been proven to increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia and other serious illnesses. Considering almost all plant-based diets cut out meat entirely or for the most part, you can receive the benefit of reducing these risks with whatever type of plant-based diet you choose.

Take a look at some of the top benefits you can expect when switching to a plant-based diet:

  • Reduced cholesterol
  • Significantly lower risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Improved fertility
  • Can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses, including cancer
  • Positive impact on emotional, mental and physical well-being
  • Reduce inflammation (which also improved chronic disorders caused by overactive inflammatory response)
  • Lower carbon footprint
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Improve kidney function
  • Lower risk of cognitive impairment and dementia
  • Improved gut health
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Reduced arthritis pain
  • Can reduce the likelihood that you’ll need medication
  • Lower your risk of obesity

And that’s only to name a few of the top benefits that plant-based diets offer, but what’s worth mentioning is that the benefits pertain to all aspects of your health, including your physical, mental and emotional health. Plant-based diets also come with benefits that improve your quality of life and overall health and wellbeing, reduce risk of disease and illness, and so much more.

Simple Tips for Starting a Plant-Based Diet

Anytime you transition into a new diet, you’re bound to experience some hesitation and difficulties. That’s completely normal, especially if the change you’re making is quite a drastic one. After all, the diet you’ve been following has become ingrained into your daily life and habits, and now you have to learn new, healthier ones. This often requires a ton of research, prep and planning, which quickly takes the excitement out of your new journey. To avoid burning out before even getting started, consider using an online program that has already done the research, preparation and planning for you, so you can jump right in with all of your motivation still ripe.

There are also a ton of simple tips and tricks you can use to make the transitional period easy and stress-free. Here are some worth considering:

  • When starting a plant-based diet, keep it simple and start by cutting out one animal product at a time
  • Start by cooking a vegetarian meal one night a week and gradually increase this
  • Make the transition into a plant-based diet by having smaller amounts of meat on your plate
  • Aim to get enough protein in your meals (beans, lentils, quinoa, soy products, nuts and seeds are excellent sources) to maintain strong bones, healthy skin and muscle mass
  • Make sure you get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D from ingredients such as soy, almond, rice or hemp milk, dark leafy greens, beans, and mushrooms
  • Get your zinc, iron and B12 vitamin in from foods such as whole grains, beans, fortified cereals and soy products, to support a healthy immune system, to maintain energy
  • Take supplements to compensate in areas of your diet where you aren’t getting sufficient amounts of certain foods to meet your nutritional requirements
  • Replace all dairy products with rice, soy, almond and hemp alternatives.
  • Stock up on plenty of legumes, beans, nuts and seeds
  • Aim to include all four food groups in each meal (plant protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains)
  • Eat lots of veggies
  • Enjoy fruits for dessert
  • Build your meals around a salad
  • Keep your grocery shopping list heavy on beans, produce and plant-based proteins to set yourself up for success
  • Choose good, healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, nut butter, seeds and avocados
  • Use pre-made meal plans to take the guessing work and stress out of your meals

Plant-based diets are considered to be the healthiest way to eat, according to studies that have linked them to a plethora of physical, mental and emotional health benefits. They can improve and even eradicate your current health concerns and conditions, while also preventing and reducing your risk of developing many more, including those with the big “C” attached to them. There are many different variations to choose from as well, so you can find the perfect type of plant-based diet that best suits your goals and preferences. And there’s nothing stopping you from starting with a super relaxed style and slowly progressing into a more authentic version that provides you with maximum benefits. 

You can also check out The Plant-based Recipe Cookbook here.

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