Is a Plant-Based Diet for You?

There are a lot of different diets out there and all of them can help you lose weight.  The main idea behind eating healthy and “dieting” is to emphasize eating fresh, whole, natural foods- foods in their original state- and less processed foods and foods that have a lot of words you can’t pronounce.  The newest trend in the diet world is “plant-based”. 

What exactly is a “plant-based” diet and how does it differ from other diets? Plant-based emphasizes eating vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds legumes and minimizes, not excludes, eating animal products such as meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs.  Plant-based focuses on eating whole, minimally processed foods and excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils.

Plant-based does not mean becoming vegan or vegetarian. Although these can be similar, these are not the same. Vegans do not eat animal products, while vegetarians do not eat animals, but may eat products that come from them (such as dairy and eggs).  Although high intakes of red and processed meats may increase risks for certain diseases, a healthy balanced plant-based diet can still include small amounts of lean meat and reduced-fat dairy products.

There are different variations to plant-based diets which include the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both of these focus on the overall diet rather than eliminating single foods.  

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. Meals are built around these plant-based foods. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, seafood and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean Diet. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.  Other important elements of the Mediterranean diet are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active. Subsequent studies found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The DASH diet is an eating plan that is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes mostly whole grains; lean meats, fish and poultry; nuts and beans. It is high in fiber and low to moderate in fat.  In addition to lowering blood pressure, the DASH eating plan lowers cholesterol and makes it easy to lose weight. It is a healthy way of eating, designed to be flexible enough to meet the lifestyle and food preferences of most people.

But the Impossible Burger and french fries are plant-based!  Just because something is “plant-based” or vegan does not mean it is automatically healthy.  The Impossible Burger, Beyond Burger and other fake meat products are plant-based but very processed.  These are alternatives to real beef, but not necessarily healthier. Yes, they taste like real beef but have more calories, more fat and significantly more sodium.  Plant-based beef is highly processed, comprised of a variety of ingredients, colorings, extracts and preservatives to mimic the taste, texture and aroma of real beef. 

Plant-based is not necessarily a diet but more of a lifestyle.  A plant-based lifestyle is cutting out processed foods like candy, soda, fast food and refined grains as well as eating more whole foods in their most natural state.  Following this new lifestyle may reduce your risk of developing heart disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline and diabetes.

If you need help with deciding which diet is right for you, contact me.  I can help you figure out if the plant-based diet is for you or if another diet would be a better choice based on your lifestyle. 

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