What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils. Plant-based eating, also known as “plant-rich dietary patterns” or eating “plant forward” is “a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them (American Heart Association, 2021). A Plant-based diet “prioritizes plants.”
Plant based diets are:
- Cholesterol free
- Low in saturated fats
- Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
In general, plant-based diets emphasize whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas and lentils, soy, and soy products.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Eating
Following a healthy, plant-based eating pattern has many potential benefits. Choosing to eat a plant-rich may reduce risk of a variety of chronic diseases and health related concerns like:
- breast and colon cancers
- hypertension, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease mortality
Plant Based Eating Patterns
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 highlights a few healthy plant-rich dietary patterns including the Mediterranean Diet, The DASH Diet, and the Healthy Vegetarian Diet. Below you will find a brief introduction to each of the healthy plant-rich eating plans a few links to quick reads and resources.
Healthy Mediterranean-Style Dietary Pattern
The Mediterranean Diet is identified plant-rich dietary pattern that includes, fruits, vegetables, and grains (especially whole grains), beans, nuts and seeds, legumes, olive oil, and including herbs and spices, and fish and seafood at least a few times per week. Only moderate intake of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt is recommended. Other meats and sweets should be consumed less often. Wine is acceptable in moderation and water is encouraged. You may find several versions of a Mediterranean Diet; however, this eating plan it is truly a lifestyle. It is the way people living in the Mediterranean countries eat, move and play. The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits including reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, some forms of cancer and dementia.
The DASH Dietary Pattern
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension dietary eating pattern recommends vegetables, fruits, low fat or fat free dairy products, and whole grains. In addition, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. The DASH Diet limits sodium, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats. Following this eating pattern, you would limit saturated and trans fats and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils. DASH focuses on increasing foods that are high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Like the Mediterranean and DASH eating patterns, the Healthy Vegetarian eating pattern emphasizes whole grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts, and seeds. It may include dairy and eggs; however, most of the protein sources recommended come from plant sources. This eating plan is typically is higher in soy and soy products. Other plant proteins include beans, peas, and lentils. Also known as “pulses”, this protein source is a low-cost, nutrient-dense plant-based food.
The Mediterranean, DASH, and Vegetarian eating plans are all great ways to implement a plant forward diet and a healthy eating pattern. If you are just starting out with plant-based eating, choose one meal to transition. Add fruits or vegetables, pulses, whole grains, seeds, or nuts. Once you feel confident in adapting a meal and preparing your plant-based selection, choose your next snack or meal to adapt. Another great resource to seek the guidance of a Registered Dietician to ensure you are choosing nutrient dense meals and snacks, meeting your protein needs, as well as other essential nutrient needs.
- American Heart Association
- North Dakota State University
- Produce for Better Health Foundation
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