Do you want to live a plant-based life? It’s not as difficult as it may seem. In fact, plant-based diets are one of the fastest-growing trends in food consumption today, and for so many compelling reasons. Whether you just want to get healthier, boost your natural energy, or minimize the animal protein you consume, this guide will help you better understand the benefits of plant-based diets and how to have one.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is one that relies on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) for sustenance. That essentially means no meat, poultry, or fish products– but it doesn’t have to be totally vegan. For example, consuming a plant-based diet can still incorporate foods like dairy (if that’s your preference).
How does a plant-based diet differ from becoming vegan?
Technically, a vegan exclusively eats only plant-based foods (which means they do not consume any animal products or by-products, including dairy, butter, eggs, or anything that originally came from an animal).
However, for the purpose of this article, a plant-based diet (in contrast) means predominantly eating plant-based foods. So it’s a little less restrictive, which makes it easier to transition to for most people. I’m now a plant-based eater, which means the majority of the foods I consume come from plants. But I don’t always limit myself to just plant-based foods; in fact, sometimes I’ll eat salmon or eggs. For these reasons, I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, even though I consider myself to be predominantly plant-based.
What are the health benefits of a plant-based diet?
People who eat plant-based diets are at lower risk for heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity. Plant foods can also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly colon cancer. They’re high in fiber which is great for digestion and weight management too!
Plant foods have been shown to be healthier than manmade (or processed) foods and tend to have fewer negative side effects (such as inflammation) than animal-based foods. Also, plant-based foods are highly nutritious, as they contain many essential vitamins and minerals that our cells need to function properly.
A great documentary that truly shows the benefits (including scientific evidence) of a plant-based diet is called “Game Changers”. It not only interviews many of the world’s top athletes (including Olympians and pro sports stars) who eat plant-based diets, but it also shows laboratory test results that prove the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet versus consuming animal-based foods.
In addition to these health benefits, consuming a plant-based diet can also improve the appearance of your skin and hair. Since going plant-based over a year ago, I’ve noticed a vast improvement in my skin – it’s incredibly clear, radiant, and rarely breaks out now. My skin looks so great that people keep telling me I look like I’m “aging backward” or “look better than ever” (which is definitely one of my beauty goals!).
What should you know about transitioning to a plant-based diet?
While plant foods provide plenty of nutrients and health benefits, there are some important things to think about when transitioning from an animal product-based diet to plant food only. One of the biggest challenges many people face with a plant-based diet is figuring out where their primary protein sources will come from. But, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s not as difficult as you might think. And, don’t worry – you don’t have to live off tofu and salads all day.
In truth, a plant-based diet can be incredibly filling and fueling for your body. You might be surprised to learn that the world’s strongest man (a renowned bodybuilder named Patrik Baboumian) is actually vegan. So, if you thought that eating a plant-based diet means you’ll turn into a skinny beanpole, think again! In actuality, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts (including myself) have realized that they have more energy, endurance, and strength by going plant-based than ever before. Shocking, I know!
What are the best plant-based foods to eat?
To start with, a healthy diet always includes sufficient protein (which is essential for building strong muscles). Here are several high plant-based protein sources that are great alternatives for animal-based protein.
- Legumes (Chickpeas, Soybeans, Lentils)
- Beans (Black beans, Lima beans, Kidney beans)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp seeds
Aside from consuming ample protein throughout the day, you’ll also want to ensure that you’re eating enough calories, to keep your energy levels consistent. Focus on whole foods (like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds). Below are several of my favorite plant-based foods to eat, that are highly nutritious.
- Bell Peppers
- Flax seeds
- Almond Butter
In addition to this, keep in mind that your body might need a little time to transition to this new way of eating, especially as you start to consume more fiber. At first, you might experience bloating or gas, but don’t worry – those side effects will subside as your body accustoms itself to these high-fiber foods.
Another thing to remember is that just because you’re eating plant-based foods doesn’t mean you should indulge in processed foods (like vegan junk food).
The best part is – not only does eating a plant-based diet have so many health and wellness benefits for you, but it can also be incredibly tasty too! To learn how to cook plant-based recipes, check out the Diet & Nutrition section on Inspirations & Celebrations to discover several great-tasting dishes that are healthy too.
[Images via Canva]