A plant-based diet is often considered one of the healthiest approaches to eating, however, its benefits extend far beyond weight loss. Whether you’re considering simply reducing your meat consumption, or giving it up entirely, the advantages are abundant.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
The primary principles of a whole-foods, plant-based diet are as follows:
- Emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods
- Limits or avoids animal products
- Focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts, which should make up the majority of what you eat
- Excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils
- Pays special attention to food quality and supports locally sourced, organic food whenever possible
The different classes of a plant-based diet can include:
- A vegan diet, which is completely plant-based and excludes all meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and essentially anything that’s derived from an animal
- A vegetarian diet, which also focuses on eating mostly plant-based, but a vegetarian’s menu may also include dairy and eggs
- A flexitarian diet, which is pretty much is a vegetarian that sometimes indulges in meat or fish but mostly sticks to plant foods
- A plant-forward diet, which is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them. While meat may be included, it’s typically not the main component of the meal
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet for Your Health
Many studies have demonstrated that a whole-food plant-based diet is effective for weight loss and weight maintenance in the long term. But that not it only advantages to your health. A plant-based diet can also lower your risk and reduce symptoms of certain chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and diabetes.
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet for Your Environment
People who follow plant-based diets usually have smaller environmental footprints. This is because adopting sustainable eating habits can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and land used for factory farming, all of which are significant drivers of global warming and environmental degradation. Additionally, reducing the number of animal products in your diet and purchasing local, sustainable produce contributes to your local economy and reduces reliance on factory farming, an unsustainable method of food production.
Foods to Eat on a Plant-Based Diet
When switching to a plant-based diet, meals should center around plant-based foods. If you intend on supplementing your plant-based diet with animal products, be sure to quality products from local farms. Your plant-based shopping list should include:
- Vegetables (including kale, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini)
- Fruits ( such as berries, papaya, apples, and bananas, for example)
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc)
- Whole grains (brown rice, rolled oats, farro, quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, and so on)
- Legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, etc)
- Healthy fats (such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, or unsweetened coconut milk)
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butters (i.e. almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, and tahini)
- Unsweetened plant-based milks (like oat milk, almond milk, or cashew milk)
- Spices, herbs, seasonings, and condiments (according to your taste preferences)
- Plant-based protein (such as tempeh or tofu)
How to Start
Whether you’re looking to go vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or plant-forward – it is easier than ever to do so these days. Just research some simple vegetarian recipes that are easy to prepare and opt for ingredients and flavors you know your family will enjoy. Start off slowly by experimenting with just one meat-free meal per week, then add more days as you get used to it. As you’ve learned about in this post, it’s a lifestyle habit that won’t just improve the health of you and your family, but that will improve the health of the planet too!
If you’re interested in exploring other ways that you can help promote a healthy planet, be sure to learn more about Spring Power & Gas and our environmentally-focused electricity and natural gas products.