What Exactly Is A Plant-Based Diet & Is It For You?

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Now that fall has officially arrived, you may already be planning your upcoming holiday menus — which are undoubtedly filled with more than one fat- or sugar-laden dish. While there’s nothing wrong with splurging once in a while, there’s never been a better time to set your body and mind up for success by adopting a plant-based diet. Experts will tell you that this form of eating is more of a lifestyle change than a “diet” per say, as it’s designed to get you on the healthy (not deprived) eating path for life. So, what exactly is a plant-based regimen you ask? Read on to find out — trust me, you’re going to want to give this one a whirl.

The Lowdown

A plant-based diet is also known as a WFPB diet — Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet — which is a good indicator as to what you’ll be eating. While meat is not off limits, quality is key. The majority of the diet focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Animal products are avoided or limited.
  • There’s a great emphasis on eating whole, minimally processed foods — think the outside perimeter of the grocery store.
  • Excludes refined foods like white flour, added sugars, and processed oils.
  • Emphasizes food quality, such as being organic, locally sourced, etc.

What A WFPB Diet Is Not

Vegan or vegetarian. Despite the emphasis on veggies, it’s not a requirement to eliminate dairy, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or honey from this type diet, though eating from these food groups should be enjoyed in small doses.

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Benefits Of A WFPB Diet

  • You could shed some pounds: Copious studies suggest that a plant-based diet is an excellent catalyst for long-term weight loss. It’s likely that you’ll see results quickly if you were previously eating a diet filled with processed foods, sugar, soda, excessive alcohol, etc.
  • You could avoid — or slow the progress — or major health issues: We’re talking about a reduction in cognitive decline and a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.
  • You’ll be helping the planet: Studies show that plant-based diets comprised of local ingredients are more environmentally friendly than those mass-produced — from animal products to processed foods to produce.

Suggested Foods To Get You Started

Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different plant-based recipes (there are a ton of them online!) so that you don’t become bored. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, so don’t succumb to the same salad every day or you’ll be running to the nearest pizzeria in no time.

  • Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas, etc.
  • Vegetables: Kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, peppers, romaine — pretty much anything goes here!
  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, rolled oats, farro, quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, etc.
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, etc.
  • Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, etc. If going for the canned varieties, be sure to rinse before consumption to remove the excess sodium.
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, tahini, etc.
  • Unsweetened plant-based milks: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc.
  • Spices, herbs and seasonings: Salt and pepper aside, try to get fresh herbs and spices whenever possible, but dried will work in a pinch, too.
  • Condiments: Salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, hot sauce vinegar, lemon juice, etc.
  • Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein sources or powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
  • Beverages: Coffee, tea, sparkling water…basically anything that’s not laden with sugar and/or calories. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, too.

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For Those Adding Animal Products…

  • Eggs: Pasture-raised when possible.
  • Poultry: Free-range, organic when possible.
  • Beef and pork: Pastured or grass-fed when possible.
  • Seafood: Wild-caught from sustainable fisheries when possible.
  • Dairy: Organic dairy products from pasture-raised animals when possible.


 

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