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What is a Plant-Based Diet, and How Would it Benefit me?

What you eat impacts your health and wellness. According to some research, switching from meat-heavy eating to plant-focused consumption may be a positive change you can make.    

“There are so many reasons for increased interest in plant-based eating, including personal-health-related benefits and all the research that supports risk reduction of diet-related chronic illnesses as well as improved management of diabetes,

hypertension, and cardiovascular disease,” says Maya Feller, RD, who’s based in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook.  “Diets rich in vegetables, nuts like almonds, and fruits improve overall health outcomes by supplying the body with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.”

Health Benefits of Plant-Base Diet

A high-fiber diet can be beneficial for cholesterol levels, heart health, diabetes prevention, and helping to prevent certain types of cancer.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, plant-based diets also help lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive disease, colon and breast cancers, and obesity.

A 2018 scientific review by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that heart benefits of a plant-based diet include:

  • Reducing the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%,
  • Reducing hypertension by 34%
  • Reducing death from cardiovascular disease by 40%
  • Opening blocked arteries, fully or partially, in up to 91% of patients
  • Lowering total cholesterol by 29 mg/dL and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels by 23 mg/dL

Plant-based dieting is not a fad or quick weight loss fix, but an overall healthier way of eating. The term can encompass a variety of plant-forward diets, including:

  • Vegetarian, which may include eggs (known as ovo-vegetarian) or dairy (known as lacto-vegetarian) or both (ovo-lacto vegetarian)
  • Vegan, which avoids eating and cooking with all animal products
  • Raw vegan, which avoids eating all animal products, with three-quarters of the plant food consumed must be raw—and any cooked food can’t be heated above 116 degrees Fahrenheit

A healthy plant-based diet focuses on getting all or most of your daily calories from plant sources.

Designing your Daily Menu

Plant foods provide several key nutrients. They’re typically sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are naturally free of cholesterol, trans fats, and added sugars. Most plant foods are also low in saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

Your food list for a plant-forward diet should be heavy on fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Nuts and seeds should be eaten in smaller amounts. Use healthy oils, such as olive oil, sparingly.

Nutrient-dense foods, meaning those that have high nutrients per calories consumed, help ensure your body has the energy it needs to function properly. Whole fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, are more nutrient-dense than processed versions. They contain higher amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and lower amounts of natural sugars.

Nutrient-rich whole grains include brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, rolled oats, popcorn, and quinoa. When choosing packaged grains, look for those labeled with whole-grain barley, corn, sorghum, or triticale, and whole oats, rye, or wheat.

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