What does “plant-based diet” mean? Is it the same thing as being vegetarian or vegan?
What Does Following a Plant-Based Diet Mean Exactly?
Some people use the term ‘plant-based diet’ as a synonym for the vegan diet. Others may use the term in a broader way that includes all vegetarian diets, and I’ve also seen people use ‘plant-based’ to mean diets which are composed mostly, but not entirely, of plant foods.
The main idea is to make plant-based foods the central part of your meals.
Think vegetables as the main part of your meal, with a little grains or complex carbs and some protein (plant or animal depending on how strict you decide to be).
So, rather than thinking ‘We’re having steak and 3 veg for dinner’ think we’re having veggies and some steak on the side.
A plant-based diet emphasizes foods like fruits, vegetables, and beans, and limits foods like meats, dairy, and eggs. From there, more restrictions could be put in place depending on how strict you want to be. It may completely eliminate foods from animals or just limit intake depending on the individual’s interpretation.
That means meat and seafood don’t necessarily need to be off-limits — you might just decide to cut down on how frequently you eat those items.
In my Plant Based cooking workshops for both adults and kids I use only plant based ingredients to cater for vegans.
Most people who adopt this way of eating do it for the potential health benefits. There have been many cardiac benefits linked to Plant Based diets, like reduced cholesterol. Some studies suggest that eating a plant-based diet may improve fertility, and it also may reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
One study linked diets rich in healthy plant foods (such as nuts, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and oils) with a significantly lower risk of heart disease.
Another study found it can also help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, and it cites research that suggests this diet may help reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses, including cancer.
What to Eat and Drink
- Whole grains
What to Limit (or Avoid Entirely, Depending on How Strict You Decide to Be)
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Meat and poultry (like chicken, beef, and pork)
- Processed animal meats, such as sausages and hot dogs
- All animal products (including eggs, dairy, and meat if you’re following a vegan diet)
Scientifically proven benefits of a Plant Based Diet
A diet that promotes whole foods and plant-based ingredients can reduce the likelihood that you’ll need medication, lower your risk of obesity and high blood pressure, and maybe even help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A plant-based diet can also help you manage your weight and may lead to weight loss if you follow it in a healthy way. Most people also start to feel like they have more energy.
To set yourself up for success your grocery list should mainly list fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, and plant-based proteins to make sure you have plenty of options to reach for when you get hungry.
Are there any potential disadvantages of a Plant Based Diet?
Simply sticking with plant-based foods doesn’t set you up for good health.
Particular attention will need to be paid to the quality of the foods you’re consuming, because there are plenty of unhealthy foods that qualify as plant-based, such as potato chips and french fries. In fact, a visit to the vegan markets can prove this theory as there were plenty of battered and deep fried options!
Choosing unhealthy plant-based foods can increase your risk of weight gain and health conditions such as heart disease.
Also, if you decide to take the plant based diet to the next level and go vegan (completely off all animal products) you will need to keep an eye on your B12 and choline levels. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal sources, and the two best sources of choline are egg yolks and liver.
So, instead of a diet centred on meat and dairy, the starring roles are played by vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. It’s an approach to eating and lifestyle that has been shown to have significant health benefits, including weight loss and disease prevention.