A plant-based diet is one that focuses on foods from "plant sources" or consuming "mostly" or "only" foods that come from plants. Sounds impossible to you? It's not.
Some people see this as a vegan diet. A vegan diet involves avoiding all animal products.
A plant-based diet means for some that that plant foods are the "main focus" of their diet, but they may, occasionally, consume "meat, fish, poultry or dairy products."
For me, that is not the case
Yes. There are clear health benefits in terms of nutritional considerations, not to mention the ethical and environmental concerns that many people share.
With a plant-based diet, people demonstrate the following.
Lower body mass index (BMI)
Lower rates of cancer
Lower rates of diabetes
Lower rates of heart disease
Lower rates of obesity
The American Heart Association (AHA) states that eating less meat can also reduce the risk of:
Diabetes (Type 2)
Hyperlipidemia (High cholesterol)
Hypertension (High blood pressure)
You can eat all types of fruit. Remember fruit is a carbohydrate and has sugar. So balance and portion control matter.
Not all fat is bad.
The "polyunsaturated" and "monounsaturated" fats, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, are important—if not vital—to a balanced healthy diet.
Nuts are considered a healthy fat.
Nuts also offer some protein and vitamins (selenium and vitamin E).
You can reduce your dairy intake with many "unsweetened" plant-based milk options available.
Seeds are a great add-on, snack, and a solid source of extra nutrients in your meal.
Sesame seeds (calcium)
Sunflower seeds (vitamin E)
A healthy diet, in general, contains plenty of greens and vegetables. The more colorful the vegetables—the more likely you will be consuming vitamins and minerals.
Remember some vegetables are a healthy source of carbohydrates.
Many vegetables are a great source of fiber.
Some have protein like legumes.
Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans)
Root vegetables (sweet potato, potatoes, butternut squash, beets)
Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber.
Whole grains can aid in stabilizing blood sugar and contain magnesium, copper, and selenium—all essential minerals.
Eating smart and healthy is a choice. My choice. Your choice. A choice based on balance, portion control, and accountability.
By reducing or even eliminating animal products from your diet, you are doing yourself well. However, it does not automatically mean that your plant-based diet "healthy."
Ask yourself. What am I choosing to eat instead?
A plant-based diet means for some that that plant foods are the "main focus" of their diet.
Deep-fried foods (anything that is greasy)
Processed vegan and vegetarian "alternatives" (look for added sugars and excess salt)
Sugars (bakery items, cakes, muffins, and pastries)
White flour and carbohydrates
Let's address below the concerns regarding "missing" the following.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Iron from a plant-based diet has a lower "bioavailability" than meat, thus you need to make sure you are getting enough foods in your diet that are iron-rich.
Eating a plant-based diet means ensuring you get enough iron in your dietary choices.
Plant-based iron has a lower "bioavailability" (the amount that enters the circulation and able to have an active effect) than iron from meat.
That does not mean you cannot get iron from plants. (Read: you can get iron from plants.)
Vitamin C from citrus fruits or as a supplement helps absorb iron.
Plant-based foods that have a good source of iron include the following:
Beans (black and kidney)
Dark leafy greens
If you strictly follow a plant-based diet, you should consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids are "essential" in your overall health and nutrition.
Prevent heart disease
Protect from memory loss
EPA – found in fish, seafood, eggs
DHA – found in fish, seafood, eggs
Some plant-based foods contain omega-3 ALA such as the following.
However, our bodies are slow to convert the omega-3 ALA to omega-3 EPA and DHA.
Also, some people genetically have poor absorption of omega-3 ALA.
Low levels of omega-3 DHA and EPA in your blood and tissue may lead to the following.
Decreased concentration ("brain fog")
Eating a plant-based diet is a healthy and wise choice in my opinion. I eat that way. I also take a plant-based omega-3 supplement.
Some dietitians advise vegetarians to reduce the amount of the "pro-inflammatory" linoleic acid, since they may be at risk for lower levels of omega-3 DHA and EPA in the blood and tissue and thus be at risk for "increased inflammation."
Personally, I don't think about this and it does not change how I eat.
I know you are worried about protein. Don't be.
Consume proteins from a broad variety of plant-based food sources adds diversity to your diet and microbiome.
It also helps provide all of the necessary amino acids (protein building blocks) for a balanced and sustainable healthy diet.
There is a wide choice of plant-based protein sources, including the following:
Beans (kidney, pinto, or black beans)
Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient for blood and cellular health.
B-12 deficiency (low levels of Vitamin B-12) causes anemia (low blood levels) and neuropathy (nerve damage).
B-12 is not in many plant-based foods—but is found in many animal products.
Vegans and vegetarians should consider taking a B-12 supplement or consume products fortified with B-12.
I do and check my Vitamin B-12 levels with my annual blood tests.
Note this listincludes dairy.
Fortified plant-based milk
Eat a diet high in plant-based foods and lower in animal products. You can't go wrong. I do.
This works for me and it is what I now routinely recommend to my patients.
The health benefits go beyond weight loss or the lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Don't wait for the "perfect" time. Make a shift in your life to a plant-based diet today.
Go all in, or start gradually by reducing your red meat and/or your dairy intake. Maybe start with one 100% plant-based meal a week. Consider changing one animal product at a time for a plant-based one.
What are the "big picture" outcomes and results you want in your life?
Baby steps are okay to start. What are the "big picture" outcomes and results you want in your life?
Find what works for you. Find what works in your life. I am sharing with you what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.