A plant-based diet has numerous health benefits that cannot be understated. Diets heavy in plant components may help ward off disease, including some forms of cancer. And while a plant-based diet obviously includes a vegetarian or vegan diet, it doesn’t have to be exclusive to plants. A plant-based diet can include diets that lean heavily toward plants without completely cutting out meat and fish.
Advantages Of A Plant-based Diet
Research has shown there are several advantages to switching to a plant-based diet:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Prevention of Diabetes
- A Healthy Heart
- Weight Loss
- Mental Health
Types Of Plant-based Diet
There are several forms of diet you can choose. Three common ones are:
Vegan. This is where you cut out anything that comes from animals. This includes milk, eggs, fish – anything.
Lacto-vegetarian. In this type of diet, you cut out everything animal-based except for dairy products, so milk and cheese remain part of your diet.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. In this diet, dairy products and eggs will remain part of your meal, but meat and fish will not.
Other variations. The diet types above are common vegetarian diets, but you don’t need to go as far as they do. You may choose a diet that is primarily vegetarian but for the occasional fish. Others simply eat a purely vegetarian diet for most of the week, but include meat products on one day. How you choose to structure your plant-based diet is up to you.
Getting The Right Nutrients
If you intend to cut animal products completely, you will need to ensure you are getting the proper nutrients. It’s wise to consult a dietitian or nutritionist to find out what vegetables and fruits will supply the necessary range of nutrients. You may need foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12, or plan on taking a supplement. You will also need to ensure you are getting sufficient amounts of calcium and iron.
There are well known alternatives to dairy, including soy milk or almond milk.
For protein, look to lentils, nuts, or beans. Tofu is also rich in protein.
Shifting To A New Diet
Regardless of whether your goal is to be partially vegetarian or fully vegan, follow a gradual process to shift your diet. Reduce the amount of meat you consume and increase quantities of fruits and vegetables. You could for example lay out a chart which sets your goal for the next three months as reducing meat and animal products to one fifth of what goes on your plate, leaving the rest for fruits and vegetables. Or you could opt for having only one meal per day that includes meat, making the rest entirely vegetarian.
If your intention is to go full vegan, don’t leap all the way into that overnight. Instead, increase your vegetable and fruit intake while gradually reducing your meat consumption. And you may find it helpful to go through lacto-ovo-vegetarian to lacto-vegetarian before you leave the animal-based foods world behind. Remember, this is a long-term lifestyle shift. Working your way into it gradually is the key to success.