A plant-based diet is a way of eating that mainly comprises vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It encourages a high intake of plant-based, high-nutrient-dense foods and minimizes or eliminates animal products.
The Mediterranean Diet, for example, is considered a plant-based diet, but it also allows a small amount of eggs, chicken, fish/seafood, and occasionally red meat. It also includes a high intake of olive oil,
Other forms of plant-based diets can be variations of vegetarians diets such as:
Excludes all animal products
Includes milk and dairy products but excludes meat, fish/seafood, poultry, and eggs
Includes eggs but excludes meat, fish/seafood, poultry, and dairy products
Includes eggs, milk, and dairy products but excludes meat, fish/seafood, and poultry
Includes fish/seafood but excludes meat, egg, and poultry
While many people are plant-based or vegetarian diets for ethical, religious or cultural reasons, more and more people are adopting plant-based diets to improve their health.
Health benefits associated with a plant-based diet include:
- Weight loss.
- Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Preventing and improving type-2 diabetes, liver, and heart diseases
Many literature reviews and studies have found that a plant-based diet reduces mortality rate, ie. improving longevity, compared to a non-plant-based diet.
However, there is more to this if you want to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. Here are a few things here that may be sabotaging your effort to improving your health:
1. Replacing eggs and seafood with bread and pasta
One common mistake that more people make is amplifying their carbohydrate intake while trying to go plant-based. The food list often includes refined carbohydrates such as white rice, noodles, pasta, white bread, pancakes, and processed cereals high in sugar. Refined carbohydrates are usually of little fiber and nutrients. Avoid these, and make sure you go for whole grains instead.
Opt for whole grains, brown rice/noodles, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and starchy root vegetables in reasonable amounts. Eat what you need according to your lifestyle and activity level; being plant-based does not mean that you can eat carb-rich foods in unlimited quantities.
2. Adding processed foods to your menu
Guess what? The bag of potato chips is also plant-based, but it is not exactly healthy. The same applies to many other processed foods. The reality is that plant-based junk food is still junk food, which is mostly overly processed.
Chips, chocolates, sweetened beverages, pre-packed pastries, ready-to-go snacks may all be plant-based; they are also high in salt, seasoning, artificial flavoring or coloring, additives, and stabilizers. Most mock meats are high in fat, salt, sugar, and additives to create texture and flavor. Some of these additives may be the reason when you have indigestion and bloat. The same applies to ketchup and other bottled seasonings if you are a fan.
In a healthy plant-based diet, one important thing to note is to always go for wholesome, unprocessed food.
3. Having too much fruit juice
“Isn’t fruit juice healthy and refreshing?” Yes and no. Freshly made juice taken immediately does offer a mega-dose of nutrients, but it’s also a concentrated source of fructose, ie. sugar. Without the fiber, sugar is absorbed instantly, causing blood sugar to spike.
Many studies found a relationship between fruit juice consumption and type 2 diabetes. This 2013 paper in The British Medical Journal found that eating more whole fruits is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but having more fruit juices is associated with a higher risk.
Furthermore, most packet juices are juice drinks with more added sugar. All the more reason for you to stay with enjoying whole fruits as they are.
A whole plant-based diet does wonders for your body, especially the liver. Even if you are not ready to go full plant-based, a 3-day or a 7-day plan is an excellent way to start. Give your body a break from your usual foods, and you may be pleasantly surprised!