A plant-based diet for beginners might be a good start if you’ve been tempted to eat less meat or if you want to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Being plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean giving us meat or animal products completely, but it does mean focusing more on plant-based foods, including whole grains, nuts, legumes, and beans.
A plant-based diet for beginners is also useful if you want to lead a healthier lifestyle or lose weight. Studies have shown that those who follow a plant-based diet tend to have a lower BMI and are less at risk of heart disease or developing chronic health conditions.
Switching to a plant-based diet can be difficult to navigate, so we’ll go over what foods you can eat, along with best vegan protein powders to give you a hand. We also chat with the nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert (opens in a new tab) on how switching to a plant-based diet can be beneficial for the environment and our health.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is one that focuses on consuming plant-derived foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Whether you choose to follow a plant-based diet for only a few months, or you want to cut meat and eat more plant-based food to feel healthier, this way of eating is different from a vegan diet. Plant-based diets normally eliminate processed foods and focus on whole plant-based foods, but you also have the option to eat some animal foods. Vegans eliminate everything that comes from an animal, including meat, poultry, and dairy, without necessarily eliminating processed foods from their diets.
“A plant-based diet focuses on foods primarily from plants,” Lambert says. “This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. It does not mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy products. Rather, choose proportionately more foods from plant sources ”.
Of course, one plant-based diet can differ from the other, depending on what your food preferences are. However, Lambert says take it slowly if you’re switching your diet to a plant-based one. “Small, gradual changes are often the best way to avoid nutritional deficiencies or digestive upset due to a potential increase in fiber,” he says. “Try swapping animal products for plant-based protein alternatives like beans, legumes and tofu and gradually introduce different types of vegetables to each meal.”
Why consider a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet can have many benefits for our overall health. According to U.S. dietary guidelines, eating a plant-based diet and occasionally eating lean meats can help you lose or maintain weight. If losing weight is a problem, a study (opens in a new tab) showed that those who ate no meat had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who ate meat.
“A well-balanced, plant-based diet low in saturated fat can help maintain a healthy weight,” adds Lambert. “This can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers.”
Saturated fat is found not only in meats like bacon and sausages, but also in dairy products like cheese and butter. There have been many studies done in recent years on how saturated fat affects our health, but the results are mixed. Some say that excess saturated fat can raise our cholesterol, which could lead to heart problems, but others Education (opens in a new tab) claiming that when saturated fats are consumed in moderation, such as on a plant-based diet, it can greatly reduce health risks.
“There is also a lot of evidence that points to a reduction in blood pressure when we omit animal products from our diets,” adds Lambert. A 2018 study (opens in a new tab) found that plant-based diets, which included some animal products, were the most effective in lowering blood pressure, while another similar study saw blood pressure drop significantly in two weeks when participants ate a plant-based diet. .
Of course, eliminating animal products from our diets and switching to a plant-based diet can also be good for our surroundings. “These diets are also beneficial to the planet, suggesting that a reduction in animal products will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” says Lambert.
Indeed, a Report 2019 (opens in a new tab) from the United Nations suggested that our obsession with meat and dairy products was fueling global warming. The research, prepared by 107 scientists for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that if we use the earth more efficiently, rather than for livestock, we could store more carbon emitted by humans.