Yet another concept in the world of nutrition and diets. But let’s start from the beginning: what is a plant-based diet? A plant-based diet is a diet based on plant-derived products that it can or cannot include animal products. People on a plant-based diet mostly consume fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, oils, whole grains and legumes; and some may occasionally eat fish, poultry and red meat, dairy and eggs.
Some examples of plant-based diets are the Mediterranean, flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets. These are not diets intended to lose weight per se, rather they are healthy lifestyle choices. The Mediterranean diet is a diet based primarily on whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Fish, seafood, dairy and eggs is consumed in moderation (a few times a week), while meat, either poultry or red meat, is only consumed occasionally. Flexitarian comes from the fusion of the words flexible and vegetarian, and people who follow a flexitarian diet eat primarily a vegetarian diet, occasionally eating meat or fish. The vegetarian is a plant-based diet that includes eggs and dairy foods, but no meat, poultry, ﬁsh, or seafood. And the vegan diet is 100% a plant-based diet, no meat or meat products at all.
There has been extensive scientific research showing that plant-based diets are good for our health. It has been shown that plant-based diets are effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, overall mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. The studies supporting these affirmations are well designed, executed (given the limitations of any nutrition study) and published in some of the best scientific journals out there, so there is no reason to doubt about these findings.
If you would like to move towards a more plant-based diet here are some tips that might help you in doing so:
1- Prepare a vegetarian meal once or twice a week.
2- Always include a vegetable dish in your meals and slowly make it the center of the meal.
3- Look for interesting vegetarian recipes- they don’t have to be fancy or difficult, but you need to enjoy what you cook, it will make a big difference. Plain boiled cauliflower is just not that exciting…
4- Prepare more legume and whole grain-based meals. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, barley… they all are great healthy filling meat substitutes for a meal.
5- Snack on vegetables, nuts and fruit. Sliced pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, jicama, carrots are a great to go snack. Have a trail mix handy all times.
6- Eat fruit as dessert at every meal.
7- Start slowly, it is not a race. Introducing small changes at a time will yield to better results.
For some plant-based recipe ideas you can check out my vegetable lasagna; zucchini, cashew, thyme soup; zucchini and eggplant tortilla; butternut squash soup; first quinoa salad; whole wheat pasta salad; asparagus vichyssoise and my gazpacho.
- Appleby PN, Key TJ. The long-term health of vegetarians and vegans. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 Aug;75(3):287-93.
- Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013 Spring;17(2):61-6.
- Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Mantzoros CS, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Mediterranean diet and incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke in women. Circulation. 2009 Mar 3;119(8):1093-100.
- Lopez-Garcia E, Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Li TY, Fung TT, Li S, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Hu FB. The Mediterranean-style dietary pattern and mortality among men and women with cardiovascular disease. AJCN. 2013 Oct 30;99(1):172-80.
- Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Lamuela-Raventos RM. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. New England Journal of Medicine. 2018 Jun 13.