Picking the “right” diet for you can become a mundane but also confusing task. There is a lot of information out about what is the best diet, and diets are not a one size fit all model. Plant-based diets have become increasingly popular in the last 10-15 years. Although plant-based diets aren’t new, you couldn’t tell from the revamped marketing in supermarkets and commercials. So what exactly is the hype? Why are consumers eating more plant-based diets? Plant-based eating has become a way of life for many consumers, especially during the pandemic. Individuals are looking for ways to fortify their nutrition and boost their immunity. A 2019 Food and Health Survey, done by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that 24% of consumers claim to be eating more plant-based foods and proteins than they were a year ago. Last year, the plant based-food market grew over 10% to become a 5 billion dollar industry. Many people chose to follow a plant-based diet that extends far beyond health reasons. There has been a growing acknowledgment of ethics and environmental concerns relating to meat scarcity and lack of overall resources.
What does plant-based actually mean? Many people confuse a plant-based diet with a vegan or vegetarian diet, they are not the same. A plant-based diet is a way of eating that focuses on, well, plant derived foods. These include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts and seeds. It is not a vegetarian or vegan diet that avoids meat & dairy, instead it de-emphasizes meat and its contribution to our daily meals. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, milk, and milk-based products. Many follow a vegan lifestyle, meaning they don’t usually use any animal-based products like leather or wool; this is not typical of a plant-based diet.
The idea is that a plant-based or plant-forward diet aligns with other ways of healthier eating. At the same time, some vegan/vegetarian diets are still high in unrefined, highly processed foods and sugar. Plant-based diets features minimally processed plant-sourced foods. With an increasing need for sustainability and emphasis on conserving resources, plant-based diets have become favorable for many. There are a variety of plant-based diets. It can become overwhelming when we start to use plant-based alternatives, meat substitutes, dairy alternatives etc. To keep it simple let's focus on perhaps the most studied and universally noticed plant-focused diet, the Mediterranean diet. Research reveals that The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large epidemiological studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), mood fragility, and depression. Concomitantly promoting better mental and physical function. Still on the fence? One study and meta-analysis published in October 2018 in the British Journal of Nutrition aimed to prove that the Mediterranean diet is associated with prolonged life. Those who closely adhered to this diet had a 5 percent lower risk of death from any cause. 2. If you are looking for a change and need somewhere to start, give the Mediterranean diet a try!
Eat this, not that! Some plant-based meal ideas to help get you started.
Breakfast: instead of having a breakfast high in saturated protein fats in processed cereals try rolled oats with walnuts, a variety of berries, and cinnamon, or an acai bowl.
Snack: fruit, hummus, and celery sticks
Lunch: vegetarian chili with orzo salad.
Dinner: Grilled veggie skewers with tofu, quinoa, and kale salad.
Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013;17(2):61-66. doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085
Bonaccio M, Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, et al. Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: a prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition. 2018;120(8):841-854. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002179