The Ultimate Plant-Based Diet Guide for Beginners
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Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most powerful steps that one can take to prevent some chronic diseases, boost energy levels, and improve health. Not only does it allow you to reduce the risks of getting sick, but it also helps the environment.
If you’re planning to move to a plant-based diet, you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll discuss everything you need to know about a plant-based lifestyle, its pros and cons, and how to get started with it. So, let’s jump into it.
What is a Plant-Based Diet Anyway?
Many people confuse the WFPB (Whole Food Plant-Based) diet with a vegan diet, but both are different. A plant-based diet is a straightforward and pretty simple way of eating, and it can vary from person to person. The following are the basic principles you’ll need to follow if you want to switch to a plant-based diet.
1. Use minimally processed or unprocessed whole foods.
2. Nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and plants should make up the central part of your diet.
3. Avoid or limit animal products, especially anything from an industrialized feedlot.
4. Remove processed oils, white flour, and other refined foods items, such as sugars, from your diet.
5. Try to use organic food sourced locally as much as possible to include in your plant-based whole food diet.
6. Pay special attention to the quality of food that you eat.
Plant-Based vs. Vegan: What's The Difference?
The principles of a whole food plant-based diet are pretty similar to a vegan diet, and that’s why many people confuse them with each other. The most significant difference between the two is that a person following a plant-based diet can include some (minimal) animal products. On the other hand, the vegan diet eliminates animal products.
Benefits of Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet brings a range of benefits to the table, and we have compiled a list of some of the most significant ones.
Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet not only helps you reduce the risk factor of falling victim to some chronic diseases, but also benefits your waistline.
Prevents Heart Disease
A plant-based diet keeps your heart healthy, and it’s probably the most essential and well-known benefit of this lifestyle. However, it’s important to note that the type and the quality of the foods you include in your plant-based diet matter a lot.
An NCBI study shows that following a plant-based diet consisting of healthy foods including nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables decreases the risks of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, another study shows that an unhealthy plant-based diet that includes refined grains, fruit juices, and sugary drinks increases the risk of heart diseases.
Reduces the Risk of Developing Cancer
Studies suggest that a plant-based diet can reduce cancer risk in humans. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 22 percent. Additionally, following a plant-based diet that includes fish products decreases the risk of colorectal cancer by 43 percent.
It shows that following a plant-based diet of healthy foods, including fish, is more beneficial than a vegan diet.
Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
According to an NCBI study, a whole food plant-based diet consisting of nuts, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, along with no or minimal intake of animal products and refined foods, is beneficial for treating and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Of course, we are all advised to inform our doctors when we take these synthetic nutrients. But unfortunately, these supplements are not regulated and tested like pharmaceuticals are. Therefore, it is almost impossible for any doctor to stay up to date on every supplement created.
Great Source of Vitamins
A whole food plant-based diet is an excellent source of consuming vitamins. Other than that, it also equips your body with antioxidants, fiber, and various minerals. These substances are essential for your body, especially vital organs, and cells, to perform their jobs optimally. They also support normal development and growth, boost your immune system, promote healthy aging, reduce stress and anxiety, keep your bones strong, improve eyesight, and much more. In addition, staying away from processed food items allows you to eliminate the consumption of chemical additives that can harm your body.
Helps Lose Weight
Eating more dietary fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting processed food items and animal products keep fat and calories consumption down. Not only does it boost your metabolism and promote digestion, but it also helps you to lose some weight.
A Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute study shows that people who follow a plant-based whole food diet are leaner than people who don’t. It’s the caloric density that helps plant-based eaters achieve their ideal weight. Highly processed food items and dietary products offer more calories, and they’re also low in fiber.
On the other hand, a plant-based diet is deficient in calories, which means that you can eat more food without crossing the limit of your overall calorie needs. So it’s yet another benefit of a plant-based whole food diet that it allows you to eat until you’re completely satisfied without needing to worry about portion control or calorie count.
Other Benefits of Plant-Based Diet
Besides health, a plant-based diet offers some environmental benefits, including the following.
Preserves the Environment
Following a plant-based diet allows you to contribute to the environment positively. The use of antibiotics, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers in the livestock industry significantly affects the environment. Not only does it release methane into the atmosphere, but it also leads to the depletion of our natural fossil fuels.
The plant-based whole food diet allows you to reduce your environmental footprint. The consumption of land and water used for industrial farming and the greenhouse gas emissions are some of the most dangerous factors responsible for environmental degradation and global warming.
You can reduce the impact of these factors by switching to sustainable eating habits, and the best way is to switch to a plant-based diet. Multiple studies show that plant-based, pescatarian, and vegan diets containing minor animal products bring the largest environmental benefits.
Studies also show that switching to plant-based and sustainable dietary patterns from western diet patterns can reduce land use and greenhouse gas emission by 70 percent and water consumption by 50 percent. Better yet, purchasing sustainable and local products and limiting the consumption of animal products can reduce the reliance on industrial farming and improve the local economy.
You can also help reduce the cruelty and exploitation of animals by eating a plant-based whole food diet. It also allows you to express what’s more important to you morally to combat these ethical concerns.
Offers a Range of Food Choices
Unlike other dietary plans, a plant-based diet allows you to eat the food that you like the most. As a result, it offers a wide range of food choices, and you can choose the ones that serve your taste buds the best. First, however, you’ll need to make sure that all your meals revolve around plant-based foods.
If you like to eat animal products, you’ll need to make sure that you eat them in minimal quantities and they must not be the main focal point. You’ll also need to pay extra attention to meat’s quality to ensure healthy eating.
Foods like seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy must only be used to complement your plant-based whole food meal. You can make a food items checklist by using the following before going to the grocery store.
You can use almost all types of vegetables such as peppers, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, kale, and so on. A plant-based diet also includes starchy vegetables, including butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.
A plant-based diet mainly revolves around fruits and vegetables, and you can eat all types of fruits, especially bananas, pineapple, peaches, pears, citrus fruits, and berries.
You can eat all types of starches in complete form, including barley, brown rice, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, farro, rolled oats, popcorn, etcetera.
Unsweetened coconut, olive oil, and avocados are excellent sources for consuming healthy fat in a plant-based diet.
All the plant-based protein sources such as lentils, legumes, and some soy-based products like tofu are great options for plant-based eaters. However, you’ll need to make sure that you choose products that don’t contain any artificial ingredients and added sugar.
A plant-based diet includes beans of any kind like black beans, peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, peas, pulses, etcetera.
Nuts and Seeds
If you like nuts and seeds, a plant-based diet will be no less than a treat for you because you can include tahini, natural peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, cashews, and almonds on your list.
You’ll need to use unsweetened plant-based milk types such as cashew milk, almond milk, and coconut milk.
Herb, Spices, and Condiments
You can use salt, black pepper, curry, turmeric, rosemary, basil, lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard, salsa, and more.
If you want to supplement your plant-based whole food diet with some animal products, consider buying them directly from local farms that feed the animals a natural diet, prohibit the use of hormones and antibiotics, and provide plenty of open land for the animals to graze on. If it’s not possible, make sure to purchase quality items from a renowned grocery store. Because most of the health benefits of plant-centric diets come from their low inflammatory profile, it is best to stick to the following food groups if animals are still on your plate:
1.Dairy: Try your best to avoid dairy products. They can be highly inflammatory and full of added hormones and antibiotics. However, if you simply can’t imagine life without dairy, opt for A2 milk and dairy products, or try sheep and goats milk.
2.Poultry: Use organic and pasture-raised poultry products.
3. Eggs: Use eggs acquired from pasture-raised animals.
4.Seafood: Use seafood acquired from sustainable fishers who catch wild fish.
5.Pork and Beef: Use pork and beef acquired from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.
As you can see, a plant-based diet doesn’t have too many restrictions, and you can start following it easily without sacrificing the food items you like the most.
You can cook most types of plant-based food more quickly than other food. You can also go to the grab-and-go section of your local grocery store to buy already prepared plant-based foods. Not only does it save time, but it also reduces the effort that you need to put in to make recipes that include meat in a non-plant-based diet.
A plant-based whole food diet not only includes the food items that are most sustainable and healthiest, but these food products are also the most affordable.
According to the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, a plant-based diet allows you to reduce your grocery bills by 746.46 US dollars annually per person. In addition, plant-based food items will enable you to prepare a meal for your entire family for just a few bucks.
Are There Any Disadvantages of a Plant-Based Diet?
Like anything else, a plant-based diet also comes with some of its downsides, listed below.
Protein Deficient Diet
One of the biggest challenges of plant-based diets is getting enough protein. This becomes especially difficult if you are avoiding soy-based products. A common argument against plant-based diets is that most plants (individually) don’t make for a complete protein source. But, this has been disproven by several studies that eating a diversified plant-based diet can provide all the essential amino acids required for building and maintaining lean body mass. For example, peas and rice contain complementary amino acid profiles that fill the shortfalls of the limiting amino acid in the other. So, for those seeking to gain weight and build muscle, a plant-based protein supplement can be a vital tool in helping you achieve your training and body goals.
Lacks Essential Nutrition
Essential nutrition is critical for your body to perform some vital body functions. An essential nutrient is a substance that your body cannot produce naturally, and you need to consume food that contains it. Vitamin B12 and calcium are some most notable examples.
Additionally, the iron that a plant-based diet offers isn’t as bioavailable as the iron you obtain from animal products, which means that you may need to supplement your meals with a little bit of poultry, fish, meat, and other food sources that are rich in iron.
To consume the required amount of vitamin D and calcium, you’ll need to consume dark leafy vegetables and mushrooms. However, consuming the required amount of vitamin B12 by eating a plant-based diet is very difficult, and you’ll need to consume nutritional yeast, nori, or other B12-containing foods that aren’t common in most cultures. That’s why many vegans and plant-based eaters use supplemental B12.
Vitamin B12 is essential for your body to prevent anemia, loss of appetite, fatigue, and weakness. Omega-3 fatty acids and folate are two more essential substances that a plant-based diet doesn’t offer in sufficient amounts. You can eat fish and meat to deal with these deficiencies. However, if you don’t want to consume animal products, you can also opt for vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Can Increase Sugar Consumption
While a plant-based diet comes with many health benefits, you’ll need to be careful about your sugar consumption. Otherwise, you will end up consuming more sugar and fatty foods than required. This is why the distinction of “whole foods” becomes very important. Just because something is labeled as being vegan or plant-based doesn’t mean it is healthy. There are a lot of junk foods that are suitable on a vegan diet but don’t pass the test of being real whole foods…A superior benchmark for determining the healthfulness and nutritional value of food than simply being vegan.
Getting Started with Plant-Based Diet
You can use the following tips to get started with a plant-based diet.
The first and probably the most crucial step is to look for easy options. The best way to get started is with as little as one plant-based meal per day. For example, swap out your standard American breakfast for a nutrient-rich plant-based smoothie, and you're well on your way to reducing your consumption of animal products and living a healthier lifestyle.
You can go to the grocery and buy a lot of vegetables that you can easily store. It’ll allow you to cover more than half of your meal with vegetables. Choose vegetables in different colors to ensure that you consume all the required nutrients. However, you must not buy more than you can store and cook to minimize wastage.
You’ll need to change your perception of meat. Plant-based eaters only eat animal products to consume essential nutrients that they can’t find in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. So, use meat only as a side dish to complement your meals rather than being the primary food group on your plate.
Eat Vegan Diet as Well
Consider eating a completely vegan-friendly diet at least once a week if you're a beginner. It’ll allow you to add a plant-based diet to your life gradually, and very soon, it will become the way you live. In fact, following a plant-based diet is a lifestyle that changes the way you eat, live, and perceive things.
Eat salads as a base and start with romaine lettuce and spinach. Then add a range of different vegetables to your salad like beans, tofu, peas, and fresh herbs.
Change Your Breakfast
If you want to become a plant-based eater, consider starting your day with barley, buckwheat, oatmeal, and quinoa. You can also add some fresh fruits, seeds, and nuts to make your breakfast tasty.
Change Your Desserts
Most desserts contain dairy and you’ll need to be mindful of that. Consider eating fruits for desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you can eat a crisp apple, a slice of melon, or a ripe mango to satisfy yourself. And don’t forget about chocolate! Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, but be sure to check labels and avoid anything with dairy and added sugar.
Get Professional Help
Probably the best way to get started with a plant-based diet is to contact professionals for guidance. You can easily find a comprehensive transformation program that allows you to become a healthy and passionate plant-based eater within days.
A plant-based whole food diet is not only a way to transform your health, but it’s a lifestyle that allows you to change the way you live. In addition, it offers a range of health and environmental benefits to make the world a better place by following healthy eating habits.
It also has some downsides, but you can easily overcome them by managing your diet plan with supplementary and quality animal products.
Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on https://lyfefuel.com/. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.