Diet & Nutrition
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Diet & Nutrition

A Simple Guide To Plant-Based Diet

Hello everyone. :) If you have come across vegans or people who follow a vegan diet and people who follow a plant-based diet and you are wondering maybe how is it different? what do they include in their diets? Well here’s a simple guide for you.

Vegan diets have originated from ancient Greek times and are still followed religiously around the world. T. Colin Campbell claims responsibility for coining the term “plant-based diet” to help with his research on a diet at the National Institutes of Health in 1980. He defined it as “a low fat, high fiber, vegetable-based diet that focused on health and not ethics.

What is a plant-based diet? (PBD)

A healthy, plant-based diet aims to maximize the consumption of nutrient-dense whole plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. It encourages the inclusion of lots of vegetables (cooked or raw), fruits, legumes, lentils, seeds, and nuts and is generally low fat.

Is a Plant-Based Diet the same as a Vegan diet or a Vegetarian diet?

Sometimes vegan and vegetarian diets are used interchangeably. A key distinction in these diets is that although most of these diets are defined by what they exclude, the plant-based diet is defined by what it includes.

Few Lifestyle diets that encourage plant-based foods —

  1. Vegan (or total vegetarian): Strictly excludes all animal products, especially meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. This type of diet does not require the consumption of whole foods or restrict fat or refined sugar.
  2. Mediterranean: Similar to whole foods, a plant-based diet allows small amounts of chicken, dairy products, eggs, and red meat once or twice a month. Fish and olive oil are encouraged but fat is not restricted.
  3. Whole-foods, Plant-based, low-fat: Encourages plant foods in their whole form, especially vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds and nuts in small quantities. Limits on animal products and total fats are generally restricted.

What are the health advantages of adopting a plant-based diet?

  1. Prevents Obesity: A PBD is highly effective for weight loss and weight management. Many review studies have stated that a PBD diet caused more calories to be burned after meals, in contrast to non-vegan diets which may cause fewer calories to be burned because food is being stored as fat. Vegetarians were found to consume more magnesium, potassium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamins and less total fat as compared to non-vegetarians. Plant-based diets are low in energy density and high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and water, which may increase satiety and resting energy expenditure- the energy required to keep your body functioning at rest.
  2. Prevents Diabetes: Plant-based diets may offer an advantage over foods that are not plant-based in the prevention and management of diabetes. In 2009, a study involving more than 60,000 men and women found that the prevalence of diabetes in individuals with a PBD was 3%, compared with 8% in the nonvegetarians. A low-fat, plant-based diet with no or little meat may help prevent and treat diabetes, by improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance.
  3. Improves Heart health: Animal-based foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which raise blood cholesterol levels, causing fatty, plaque to build up in the arteries. Highly processed foods often contain too much salt, which raises blood pressure, damaging the lining of the arteries over time. By eliminating these harmful foods from your diet and replacing them with whole-plant foods or PBD, you can bring down your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.

Here are 4 common myths debunked about a Plant-based diet-

Myth 1: Protein deficiency is common in people following plant-based diets.

Fact 1: Generally, people who are on a plant-based diet are not at risk for protein deficiency. Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which are called essential amino acids- EAA. These cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. EAA is found in meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as in many plant-based foods, such as quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina. EAA can also be obtained by eating certain combinations of plant-based foods. For example- brown rice with beans, or hummus with whole wheat pita. Therefore, a well-balanced, plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency.

Myth 2: Plant-based diets may generally lead to anemia

Fact 2: Plant-based diets contain iron, but iron in plants has a lower bioavailability than iron in meat. The bioavailability of iron in plants can be enhanced by the addition of Vitamin C-rich foods to the diet, which helps in better absorption of iron in the body. Plant-based foods that are rich in iron include kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage, and tomato juice.

Myth 3: One cannot obtain calcium and vitamin D from a plant-based diet since there is no source of dairy.

Fact 3: Calcium intake can be adequate in a well-balanced, carefully planned, plant-based diet. Some significant sources of calcium include tofu, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and kale. Spinach and some other plants contain calcium that, although abundant, is bound to oxalate and therefore is poorly absorbed. Plant-based products such as soy milk and cereal grains may be fortified to provide an adequate source of Vitamin D.

Myth 4: Plant-based diet does not contain sources of good fats.

Fact 4: The fatty acids that vegans are most likely to be deficient in are the omega-3 fats (n-3 fats). Consumption of the plant version of omega-3 fats, alpha-linolenic acid, is also low in vegans. Sources of good fats in a PBD include ground flax seeds, flax seed oil, walnuts, avocados, avocado oil, olives, light olive oil, rice bran oil, & coconut oil.

Here’s a list of food choices to stock up on before starting a plant-based diet —

  • Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas, etc.
  • Vegetables: Kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, etc.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, etc.
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, etc.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado oil, light olive oil, rice bran oil, & coconut oil.
  • Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter.
  • Unsweetened plant-based milk: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, oat milk, etc.
  • Spices, herbs, and seasonings: Basil, rosemary, turmeric, curry, black pepper, salt, etc.
  • Condiments: Salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.
  • Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, lentils, legumes, quinoa, etc.

A healthy, plant-based diet requires careful planning, reading labels, and discipline. The recommendations to follow a plant-based diet includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that may include beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains and avoiding or limiting animal products, added fats, oils, and refined processed foods. 😊


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