There are many arguments about which diet is best for you. Nevertheless, health and wellness communities agree that diets emphasizing fresh, whole ingredients and minimizing processed foods are superior for overall wellness. One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels, and prevent chronic diseases is to move towards eating more of a plant-based diet (1).
“For heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods, and it’s possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet,” says Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The definition of a plant-based diet can depend on who you ask. Generally, it is an eating style that emphasizes real, whole foods that come from plants, including*:
- Vegetables: kale, spinach, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, etc.
- Whole grains: brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, etc.
- Legumes: peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, beans, etc.
- Plant-based protein like tofu or tempeh
- Nuts and nut butter
- Plant-based oils
- Spices and herbs
- Unsweetened beverages: coffee, tea, sparkling water, etc.
Now it must be noted that getting enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals can be harder for people who do not eat meat or animal products. A person must plan ahead to ensure they get enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B-12, which people on an omnivorous diet get from animal products (3).
What is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?
A whole-food, plant-based diet is based on the following principles:
- Whole food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
- Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t include animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.
A whole-food, plant-based diet lets you meet your nutritional needs by focusing on natural, minimally-processed plant foods.
How to Truly Eat a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
Here is a sample plant based meal plan to help give you a comprehensive guideline.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal made with coconut milk topped with berries, coconut, and walnuts.
- Lunch: Large salad topped with fresh vegetables, chickpeas, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese.
- Dinner: Butternut squash curry.
- Breakfast: Full-fat plain yogurt topped with sliced strawberries, unsweetened coconut and pumpkin seeds.
- Lunch: Meatless chili.
- Dinner: Sweet potato and black bean tacos.
- Breakfast: A smoothie made with unsweetened coconut milk, berries, peanut butter and unsweetened plant-based protein powder.
- Lunch: Hummus and veggie wrap.
- Dinner: Zucchini noodles tossed in pesto with chicken meatballs.
- Breakfast: Savory oatmeal with avocado, salsa and black beans.
- Lunch: Quinoa, veggie and feta salad.
- Dinner: Grilled fish with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.
- Breakfast: Tofu and vegetable frittata.
- Lunch: Large salad topped with grilled shrimp.
- Dinner: Roasted portobello fajitas.
- Breakfast: blueberry, kale, cashew butter, and coconut protein smoothie.
- Lunch: Vegetable, avocado, and brown rice sushi with a seaweed salad.
- Dinner: Eggplant lasagna made with cheese and a large green salad.
- Breakfast: Vegetable scramble made with tofu.
- Lunch: Roasted vegetable and tahini quinoa bowl.
- Dinner: Black bean burgers served on a large salad with sliced avocado.
As you can see, the idea of a whole-foods, plant-based diet is to use animal products sparingly. What sets plant-based eating apart from being vegan or vegetarian is that it isn’t an all-or-nothing mentality. Ideally, foods from animals are minimized.
What are the benefits of a plant-based diet plan?
1. PLANT-BASED EATING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEART
2. IT’S GOOD FOR BRAIN HEALTH
3. FOLLOWING A PLANT-BASED DIET IS GOOD FOR YOUR GUT
4. IT’S LINKED TO REDUCING THE RISK OF CERTAIN CANCERS
5. IT’S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Some foods contain ingredients that can trigger or worsen inflammation. Sugary or processed foods may do this, while fresh, whole foods are less likely to have this effect. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables. Many plant-based foods are good sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods.