What exactly is a plant based diet?

 Any diet that emphasizes on the foods derived from plant sources is known as a plant-based diet. Fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, and meat alternatives such as soy products are all examples of this (Torrens, 2018)

Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to improve your health, increase your energy, and prevent chronic diseases.

A plant-based diet is known to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, several heart diseases, some forms of cancer, and other major illnesses. After making the transition, several people report increased fitness gains, increased capacity, decreased inflammation, and improved health outcomes.

 What are some of the types of foods can be enjoyed in a Plant Based Diet?

  1. Fruits
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Watermelon
  • Mangoes
  1. Vegetables
  • Peppers
  • Corns
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Sage
  1. Tubers
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  1. Whole Grains
  • Grains
  • Cereals
  • Brown Rice
  • Legumes

Benefits of Plant Based Diets

“Include 1,000 calories in your daily diet from legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables. These starchy foods fill you up and keep you happy, so you’ll naturally consume less of the animal products and refined foods that make you sick.”

Dr. McDougall. 2016

There are many benefits of switching to a Plant Based Diet which are also supported by various scientific researches. These benefits include:

  1. Weight Loss

People who follow a plant-based diet are generally leaner than those who do not, and the diet makes it simple to lose weight and hold it off without counting calories.

For example: People who want a healthier and tastier alternative to chicken usually go for plant-based diet. Plant based diet helps them loose weight in a lesser span of time, since plants generally contain all the important nutrients required by our body to function properly with relatively less effort.

A large number of practicing dietitians and nutritionists too promote plant based diets for obese patients.

  1. Less Efforts

Generally, people who have a hectic lifestyle and jobs tend to opt for plant-based diet. This diet requires less meal planning and less expenditure on buying expensive food items from the grocery stores.

Multiple resources are available on the social media and internet that helps people choose various plant-based recipes.

  1. Prevent Diseases

Chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes can be prevented, halted, or even reversed by consuming whole foods and following a plant-based diet.

On average, people who ate a plant-based diet had lower blood pressure than those who ate an omnivorous diet (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014)

A plant-based diet has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 16 percent and the risk of dying from it by around 31% (Journal of the American Heart Association, 2019)

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes was decreased by 34% when people ate a plant-based diet. This is mostly because plants contain less saturated fat than animal foods, which boost cholesterol levels and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes (PLoS Medicine, 2016)

A plant-based diet reduces the risk of death from all causes by 25%. Furthermore, sticking to nutritious plant-based foods raises the protective levels and reduces mortality (Journal of the American Heart Association).

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, berries, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and some animal foods is the best way to get cancer-protective nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (American Institute for Cancer Research)

  1. Environment Friendly

The environment is much less stressed when you’re on a plant-based diet, protects our ecosystem and is kinder to animals.

Moving away from meat, milk, and eggs and toward whole plant foods improves the diet’s nutritional composition significantly, and you’ll find observable improvements in your health.”

  1. Improve Brain Health

There are several physiological advantages to eating a plant-based diet, but there are also several potential mental advantages. Polyphenols are abundant in fruits and vegetables that can help delay Alzheimer’s disease progression and reverse the cognitive decline and dementia (Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology).

Multiple studies showed that certain plants have a significant role in improving brain health such as:

  • Parsley

It contains Vitamin K, which plays a great role in blood clotting mechanism as well as bone strengthening. It has the potential to limit brain nerve damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and even help to prevent nerve cell degeneration before the onset of the disease.

  • Chamomile

Chamomile is not just an amazing herb but it also has a vital health benefit hidden under its delectable flavor. Chamomile contains compounds that help relieve anxiety by binding to specific receptors in the brain.  Chamomile tea is recommended not only to calm nerves and restore energy to the body, but the plant’s calming properties are also considered to be an effective natural remedy for insomnia

  • Thyme

The plant was once thought to be a remedy for headaches and migraines, and it has now been discovered to help slow the ageing process of brain cells in recent studies.  Thymol is primarily found in thyme oil and contains numerous antioxidants and flavonoids that help the brain and body function properly by repelling parasites and bacteria.

Thyme includes vitamin B6, which affects many brain nerve cells that are linked to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improving mood and calming the mind.

  • Cloves

Clove oil made from the plant’s bud is regarded as an excellent pain reliever that alleviates sleep issues, treats exhaustion and even cognitive disorders such as memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Clove oil helps avoid age-related degenerative diseases

It relieves toothaches, stomach discomfort, and respiratory infections thanks to the range of vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Garlic

Garlic produces compounds that protect nerve cells in the brain by activating chemicals that help cells cope with stress. Garlic can minimize brain inflammation that could impair cognitive activity, thus protecting the brain from disease-related changes.

Garlic extracts aid in the elimination of cancer cells by lowering the rate of tumor growth.

  • Turmeric

Curcumin, one of the components of turmeric, aids in the stimulation and development of immune cells known as macrophages. Curcuminoid compounds activate macrophages and aid in the removal of plaques from the brains of people who are showing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Like any other forms of diet, here are some of the myths surrounding Plant Based Diets

  1. Plant based food doesn’t provide enough proteins.
  2. People on Plant based diets are anemic and unhealthy
  3. People on Plant based diets tend to get more sick.
  4. Plant based diet is expensive.
  5. Plant based foods do not taste good.
  6. Plants based diet makes the gut weak and elicit gastrointestinal disorders

However, many people report that a whole-food plant-based diet makes them feel less hungry than a traditional American diet, which is high in sugar and low in fiber.

 Although, plants make up most of a plant-based diet, there’s still space for meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, and fish, and that’s what makes a plant-based diet adaptable to your diet preferences.

Since lack of nutrients is one of the most common myths surrounding a plant based diet, lets discuss some of them in more detail.

  1. Lentils

 Different salads, nutritious soups, and spice-infused daals are some of the few dishes that can be made with the Lentils. Lentils also have a lot of slow-digesting carbohydrates, and a single cup (240 ml) offers around half of your daily fiber needs.

  1. Chickpeas and Beans

Per cooked cup, both beans and chickpeas have around 15 grams of protein (240 ml). They’re also high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, iron, folate, potassium, manganese, and other plant compounds.  Beans too are protein-rich, health-promoting legumes that contain a range of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.

  1. Green Peas

The protein content of the small green peas commonly served as a side dish is 9 grams per cooked cup (240 ml), which is slightly higher than a cup of milk.  A serving of green peas also provides more than 25% of daily fiber, vitamin A, C, K, thiamine, folate, and manganese needs.  Green peas are also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and a variety of B vitamins.

  1. Oats and Oatmeal

Dry oats contain approximately 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber in half a cup (120 ml). Magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and folate are all abundant in this section. Although oats are not a complete protein, they do contain higher-quality proteins than rice and wheat.

  1. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds deserve to be on this list because they have 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per 1.25 ounces (35 grams). They also have a good amount of iron, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.

  1. Nuts and Seeds

Protein is abundant in nuts, beans, and their derivatives. Depending on the nut and seed variety, one ounce (28 grams) contains 5–7 grams of protein.  In addition to iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and some B vitamins, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of fiber and healthy fats. They also produce antioxidants and other plant compounds that are beneficial.

How to get started with Plant Based Diet ?

  • Start off by filling you plate with lots of green vegetables.
  • Munch those vegetables with custom made sauces such as Hummus and Guacamole
  • Grill, Steam or Sauté the vegetables to preserve their nutrients.
  • Eat an apple or strawberries by the end of the meal to satisfy the sweet cravings.
  • Learn different recipes through blogs or videos to make unique and delicious plant based meals.
  • Avoid eating processed foods, fattening carbs, and unnecessary proteins to stay in a better shape.
  • Consult a dietitian to get a custom plan before starting Plant based diet.
  • Use herbs like Green Tea, Moringa Tea, Mint Tea to keep you fresh and less bloated throughout the day.

Conclusion

Oats, whole-grain pasta, vegetables, and fruit of all kinds can all provide nutrients. Add beans, legumes, peanut butter, soymilk, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds to your daily diet to meet daily body requirements.

Plant-based foods are also high in fiber and phytonutrients, which boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, and feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Plant proteins are also much less expensive and healthier for the environment than animal proteins.

Increasing the consumption of whole plant foods decrease the carbon emissions, reduces habitat loss, and conserves water.

There’s too much to gain, isn’t it ?

References

This article was published on 25th July 2018 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 24, 2014.

Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, Fraser GE. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes

Aune D, Norat T, Romundstad P, Vatten LJ. Whole grain and refined grain consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013;28:845–858. 10.1007/s10654-013-9852-5

  1. McManus, K., 2018. What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it? – Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760> [Accessed 10 April 2021].