By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RD
Every year there seems to be a new diet that is going to help us get healthier. The Paleo diet, Raw Food diet, and Whole 30 are some recent examples. Another diet that is making headlines is the Plant-based diet. The good news is that consuming a plant-based eating plan is different from a diet and if embraced, may actually become a lifestyle change that promotes better health.
Much has been written and researched about the benefits of decreasing meats and processed foods. Increasing intake of minimally processed plant foods may help protect us from many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many inflammatory diseases.
The United States Department of Agriculture, American Heart Association and American Institute of Cancer Research recommend that half of our plates should consist of vegetables and fruits, in order to meet our requirements for fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and C, which are generally lacking in Western diets1. Many people think a plant-based diet excludes all animal products, which can sound very overwhelming. However, a plant-based diet is the center of many other healthy food plans such as the Mediterranean diet. Eating patterns that are plant-based emphasize vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and fruit, but there is also room for moderate amounts of fish, lean meat, and low fat dairy.
Some people are concerned they won’t get enough protein if they don’t eat meat, but there are many protein sources in the plant world. Foods such as beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, soy, and whole grains are great sources of protein. When choosing soy products consider purchasing organic soy, because much commercial soy is genetically modified. For those following a vegan diet and consuming only plant-based foods, a vitamin B12 supplement is recommended, since our main dietary sources come from eggs, dairy, fish and meats.
A great way to start is by replacing one meal per week with a plant-based meal – think “Meatless Monday”.
- Swap out meat with tofu, lentils, or chickpeas
- Cut back on meat portions and increase vegetables and fruit
- Include more whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice, which contain more nutrients and fiber than processed starches such as bread, white rice, and pasta
A plant-based diet offers many health benefits. Think of the array of colors, tastes, and textures plant foods provide, which are so inviting and enjoyable!
- Hever J, Cronise RJ. Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention of chronic disease. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5): 355-36. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.012
Daphne Baldwin Kornrich has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the past 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings. Daphne currently specializes in bariatrics and weight management.