A plant based diet is a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Animal products are generally not included in this style of eating although there are some who do choose to do so. The phrase “plant based diet” has been used as an umbrella term for several different types of diets such as vegan, vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian.
A plant based diet can include the following eating styles:
- Veganism: a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and legumes.
- Fruitarianism: a vegan diet that focuses on eating fruit primarily.
- Raw veganism: a vegan diets that consists only of foods that have not been heated over 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Vegetarianism: a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs and dairy products.
- Ovo-lacto vegetarianism: a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs.
- Ovo vegetarianism: a vegetarian diet that included dairy but no eggs
- Semi-vegetarianism: a mainly vegetarian diet that includes some meat, poultry and fish on occasion.
- Macrobiotic diet: a semi-vegetarian diet that focuses primarily on whole grains, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, unprocessed foods, and may or may not include meat, poultry or fish.
- Pescatarian: a semi-vegetarian diet that includes dairy, eggs, and all types of seafood.
Health benefits of a plant based diet:
A significant amount of empirical evidence has suggested that a plant based diet may help prevent and even reverse some of the worst diseases in the Western world. In some cases it has been shown to be more effective even than surgery and pharmaceutical medications. This is the only diet that has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients. This diet may also help to prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, Chron’s disease, kidney stones, gallstones, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis as well as vaginal infections.
In addition, a plant based diet may have beneficial effects on acne, allergies, abdominal fat, cellulite, body odor, gut flora, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, and longevity.
Consuming meat and other animal products has been associated with shorter lifespans. Meat, dairy, eggs and fish may increase exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, industrial pollutants such as mercury and other toxic metals.
People who follow a plant based diet generally consume more nutrients than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). Those eating plant based also appear to have enhanced athletic recovery and have healthier arteries than long-distance endurance athletes.
There are two important vitamins, which are not manufactured by plants: Vitamin D, which is made when we are exposed to the sun and Vitamin B12 which is made by microbes. There is an extremely serious risk of B12 deficiency if supplements are not taken on a regular basis. Alternatively foods that are fortified with B12 are also a good way to ensure that a deficiency does not occur. Some other nutrients that should be considered are omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iodine and zinc.
Contrary to a popular myth, people who eat a plant based diet get more than an adequate supply of protein. In one well-known study, within a matter of several weeks, the participants who were placed on the plant based diet showed marked improvements in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and insulin levels.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein consumption is 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body mass or weight. The RDA is the amount of nutrients that are recommended to meet the basic nutritional requirements of a healthy individual. In order to calculate your protein requirements simply multiply your weight in pounds by .36.
Sources of plant based protein include hemp seeds, dry roasted soybeans, dry roasted edamame, chia seeds, miso paste, tempeh, almonds, boiled soybeans, pistachios, nutritional yeast, tofu, flax seeds, Spirulina, lentils, beans and tahini.
It’s extremely easy to incorporate plant based protein into your daily diet. You can sprinkle hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds onto a salad or add them into a smoothie. A high protein trail mix is another easy way to incorporate more plant based proteins each day.
High Protein Trail Mix Recipe
This recipe makes 12 servings of ¼ cup each.
- ½ cup dry-roasted soybeans
- ¼ cup pistachios
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup almonds
- ½ cup freeze dried fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or cherries
- ½ cup whole oats
- ¼ cup cacao nibs
- ¼ cup coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Add the soybeans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and almonds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Toast for approximately 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove from oven and transfer all ingredients into a large bowl
- Add in oats, cacao nibs and coconut flakes while everything is still hot
- Stir until the cacao nibs begin to melt coating everything slightly.
- Spread out on the baking sheet again and allow to fully cool before placing it into an airtight container for storage.
Essentials for a plant based diet
1. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast looks like small gold colored flakes and usually comes in a shaker bottle or can also be found in the bulk foods aisle, which is much more cost effective. It is loaded with vitamin B12 and has a cheesy flavor and texture. It is the plant based alternative for Parmesan cheese. You can sprinkle it on anything such as pasta, popcorn, casseroles or pizza.
Quinoa is rich in protein. One cup of this cooked whole grain has eight grams of protein. This is definitely considered a super food as it contains several essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, folate, manganese, and copper. It can be used in either sweet or savory dishes.
3. Fortified Nut Milk
There are so many varieties of nut milks on the market today. There is flax, almond, coconut, soy, cashew and even pea protein. They are usually fortified with vitamins such as B and D. Nut milks are perfect for adding into smoothies, oatmeal and cereals.