So, anyway, let's talk some about plant-powered nutrition...
What does it mean to eat "plant-based" ?
"Plant based" is a general term to describe an eating plan that is based upon whole and natural plant-based foods rather than foods that are processed or animal-based foods.
Emphasis is on fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, beans and plant-based proteins. A plant-based diet does not strictly exclude animal-products, but the emphasis remains on plants.
What are some benefits of consuming a "plant-based" diet ?
Research has shown that a plant-based diet can impart the following benefits if followed on a consistent basis:
People who eat the most fruits and vegetables have a 20% reduced risk of heart disease and a 27% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, especially stroke.
Further research shows that each 10-gram increase in daily fiber from sources such as whole grains is associated with a 27% decreased risk of dying from heart disease.
What types of "plant-based" diets are there ?
Primary Plant Based: Plants are the main focus but there is no strict exclusion of any animal products.
Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: Excludes meat but includes dairy and eggs.
Lacto-Vegetarian: Excludes meat and eggs but includes dairy products.
Vegan: Strict exclusion of all animal-based products, including meat, dairy and eggs.
How do I get started, and what will I eat ?
Most people fear what they will give have to give up in following a plant-based diet rather than focus on what they can gain. That being said, there are many meat and dairy alternatives on the market that can ease the transition to a plant-based diet:
Soy-based cheeses (bricks, slices, or shredded)
Soy, rice or almond milk
Tofu (silken, firm, or extra-firm)
Tempeh (fermented soy)
Seitan (wheat protein)
Edamame (soy bean)
Nuts & Seeds
Beans & Legumes
Whole grain bread
Also, check out this great article for some of the top vegan-vegetarian protein sources!
My biggest tip for making the transition? Focus on adding plants into your diet rather than on removing animal-products. Experiment with vegetarian and vegan dishes throughout the week. Choose to go meat-free for one meal per day or one day per week and see where that takes you!
Honoring "Meatless Mondays" is one great way to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. Check out their website for a lot of great recipe inspiration: meatlessmondays.com
Cooking Demo: Asian Chopped Salad
Get the recipe here.
Whether you choose to eat a plant-based diet or not, be kind and open to change. Be curious. Stop striving for perfection and instead focus on improvement!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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