Eating more plants and less meat is becoming more popular than ever, thanks to celebrities, best-selling books, and increasing amounts of research into our nutrition. While vegetarian and vegan diets are defined by what they exclude, a plant-based diet is defined by what it includes — lots of plant foods! This means eating more veggies, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds instead of animal products and processed foods.
Need some motivation to try a plant-based diet? Here are three good reasons to consider.
Improved digestive health
Fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre promote a healthy digestive system and keep the body running efficiently. Vegans have healthier levels of total cholesterol, LDL and HDL in their blood compared to vegetarians, who in turn have better levels than meat-eaters. US research has indicated that eating 10 grams of fibre a day reduces the risk of heart attack by 14 per cent and the risk of dying from heart disease by 27 per cent. A medium-sized apple contains around 3.0 grams of fibre, a slice of wholemeal bread contains 1.5 grams and a small portion of broccoli about 2.7 grams. Rice bran is an excellent source of fibre and has been shown to lower cholesterol. Buy it from health food shops and sprinkle it on breakfast cereals and use in stews and soups. Switching to healthy plant-based fats is also hugely beneficial. Omega-3 essential fatty acids help to protect your heart, and flax seed (linseed) oil is an excellent source. Keep it in the fridge and add to dressings, sauces and cooked food only as heating destroys its beneficial properties. Other sources include walnuts, soya beans, rapeseed and hemp seed oils and green leafy vegetables. Both hypertension (high blood pressure) and the chance of developing cardiovascular disease can also be lowered by eating a well-balanced plant based diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds.
A misconception about eating a plant based diet is that you will suffer from a lack of energy due to low protein. This is not true: the following foodstuffs provide all the protein needed:
Soy products - Soy is one of the best-quality vegan protein sources. Soy milk, soy yogurt, soy cheese, and tofu are all examples of great protein sources.
Pea protein - Pea protein comes in a variety of forms, the most popular of which is probably powdered plant protein supplements you can add to water, shakes, smoothies, or rice, soy, hemp, or almond milk.
Beans - Beans are another fantastic source of protein and nutrients. You can incorporate beans into meals in a variety of ways. Try mashing your favorite beans and forming patties from them or using them as meat substitutes in casseroles. Add them to salads, soups, or stews to ramp up the dishes' total protein content.
Lentils - An excellent, nutritious addition to soups and stews, lentils are a simple and inexpensive food that can help you add more protein to your diet.
Nuts - Nuts are a good source of protein and fat..
Certain grains - Whole grains such as quinoa contain protein and complex carbohydrates that help you stay full while supplying healthy doses of plant protein.
Can help maintain a healthy weight
Choosing to eat a diet consisting of fruits and vegetables makes maintaining a healthy weight/body fat level much easier. Plant based foods naturally have a lower calorie value, and contain fewer saturated and trans fats than meat and processed food, therefore making it easier to maintain a healthy level of body fat, alongside regular exercise.