Plant-based diets are often shown to be good for health. Yet Australians eat a lot of meat and are sometimes reluctant to completely cut meat from their diet. So it’s important to know that eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean becoming a vegetarian.

Plant-based diets are high in vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals, legumes and whole fruits, yet can still contain small amounts of lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products.

A survey of Australians found most (70%) thought a plant-based diet would prevent disease. But what does the literature say? And is meat really bad for you?

Health benefits of plants

Plants are rich sources of many nutrients that are important for good health, including unsaturated fats, vitamins (such as folate), minerals (such as potassium), fibre and protein.

Eating a plant-based diet has been linked to lower risk of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammation and cancer.

A recent study that followed more than 200,000 US adults for more than 20 years found that eating a diet high in plant foods and low in animal foods was associated with a 20% lower risk of diabetes compared with individuals eating a diet low in plant foods.

Well known variations to plant-based diets include the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. These dietary approaches are known as dietary patterns as they focus on the overall diet rather than single foods. Rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and reduced-fat dairy products, these dietary patterns have been linked to lower risk of obesity and chronic disease.

Is the processing of plant foods important?

Processing can remove many of the nutritious benefits of plant foods and can often result in the addition of salt and sugar. For example, whole foods, such as an orange and wholemeal bread, retain more beneficial fibre than processed alternatives, such as fruit juice and white bread.

But not all processing is necessarily bad. For example, frozen and canned vegetables can be useful additions to the diet, just check the labels to see what has been added during processing.

Is meat bad for you?

Meat is a rich source of beneficial nutrients, such as protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. But red meat can also contain high amounts of saturated fat and processed meats can be high in sodium.

Eating red and processed meats, such as burgers and hotdogs, has been linked to higher risk of cancer, heart disease and early death. In contrast, white meat intake, such as chicken and fish, has been linked to lower risk.

Cancer: Evidence is convincing for a link between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer. A review of available evidence, known as a meta-analysis, showed that colorectal cancer risk was 14% higher for every 100g of red and processed meat (about a large beef steak) eaten per day.

Heart disease and type 2 diabetes: Evidence mostly points towards higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes with higher processed meat intake.

A meta-analysis showed that each 50g daily serving of processed meat (about one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog) was linked with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.

Early death: Evidence generally points towards higher risk of early death with higher red and processed meat intake. A recent study that followed more than 500,000 US adults over 16 years showed that risk of all-cause death was 26% higher with greater processed and unprocessed red meat intake. When unprocessed white meat was substituted for red meat, risk of all-cause death was 25% lower.

There’s evidence that red and processed meats increase risk of cancer and heart disease. from www..com

What should we be eating?

Eating a variety of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Although high intakes of red and processed meats may increase risk of major diseases, a healthy, balanced, plant-based diet can still include small amounts of lean meat trimmed of visible fat (particularly unprocessed white meat) and reduced-fat dairy products.

Eating a plant-based diet is in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines to promote health and well-being.

Australians are recommended to eat a wide variety of foods from the five core food groups (fruit, vegetables, cereals, lean meat and/or their alternatives and reduced-fat dairy products and/or their alternatives), to choose lean, reduced-fat meats and dairy products and to limit processed meats.

Top five tips for achieving a plant-based diet:

  • try some meat-free meals each week – include alternatives such as eggs, beans and tofu.
  • replace some of the meat with legumes – for example only add half the amount of beef and top up with chickpeas.
  • choose wholegrain cereals more often than white varieties – such as wholemeal bread and pasta.
  • eat a variety of colours of fresh vegetables and fruits and buy fresh produce in season.
  • canned and frozen vegetables are nutritious too – choose options low in salt and sugar.

Update: The above section on early death was amended to further highlight early death, and to emphasise white meat was substituted for red meat and not the opposite.

The right plant-based diet for you

Plant-based diets can help reduce your risk of heart disease, but they’re not all created equal.

Updated: January 29, 2020Published: January, 2018


Image: © RomarioIen/Thinkstock

It’s clear that following a plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. But do all plant-based diets have the same effect? And do you really have to cut out all meat for your heart’s sake?

“For heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods, and it’s possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet,” says Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Make good choices

There are many types of plant-based diets, but they all emphasize certain foods associated with heart benefits, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil. The diets that have been most studied for their impact on heart health include the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet. These diets are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight, all of which can lower your risk of heart disease.

Yet, the types of plant foods and their sources are also important. For example, white rice and white bread are plant-based foods, so you would think they’re good to eat. But they are highly processed, and so are depleted of many heart-healthy nutrients and have a high glycemic index, which means they can make blood sugar levels spike and increase hunger, leading to overeating.

Drinking 100% fruit juice is not the same as eating the whole fruit, since juices can be high in sugar and squeeze out valuable fiber and vitamins. And many canned plant foods include extra additives, sodium, and sugar.

The look of a plant-based meal

A healthy plant-based meal should consist of proper portions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy protein, and healthy oils. What does this look like? The Harvard Health Eating Plate is a helpful visual guide created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publishing.

The meat of plant diets

The other question deals with a man’s appetite for animal products. When it comes to your heart, are all animal foods off the table? Maybe not — if you’re smart about your choices.

Dr. Satija led a study, published in the July 25, 2017, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, that examined the dietary data of about 209,000 adults (43,000 of whom were men) over two decades. The researchers compared the heart disease risk posed by these three categories of plant-based diets:

  • an overall plant-based diet that emphasized consumption of all healthy plant foods while reducing intake of all animal foods, like dairy (skim, low-fat, and whole milk; cream, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese), eggs, fish, meat (chicken, turkey, beef, and pork), and foods that contain animal products like pizza, soups, and mayonnaise

  • a healthful plant-based diet that emphasized consumption of only healthy plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and healthy oils, while reducing intake of less healthy plant foods as well as animal foods

  • an unhealthful plant-based diet that emphasized consumption of less healthy plant foods, such as fruit juices, refined grains (pasta, white rice, and processed breads and cereals), potatoes (French fries and potato chips), and sugar-sweetened beverages, while reducing the intake of healthy plant foods as well as animal foods.

No surprise, they found that the people who followed the healthy plant-based diet (the second group) had the lowest risk for heart disease. They were also more active and leaner. On the other hand, those who followed the unhealthful plant-based diet (the third group) had a substantially higher risk for heart disease.

Thus, the study found that reducing animal foods doesn’t necessarily lead to a healthier diet and greater heart protection if the resulting diet is based on less healthy plant foods.

While this study didn’t look at which animal foods, especially meat, could have an impact on heart health, other research has shown that, as with plant foods, the type and amount matter most.

For instance, a study in the January 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 3 ounces of unprocessed red meat, three times per week, did not worsen blood pressure and total cholesterol levels.

However, a 2014 study from the American Heart Association showed that men ages 45 to 79 who ate 75 grams or more per day of processed red meat, like cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs, had a 28% higher risk of heart failure compared with men who ate less than 25 grams.

Protect your arteries: Eat a high-energy breakfast

Need another reason to begin your day with a hearty, healthy breakfast? Doing so may lower your risk for atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque buildup, says a study in the Oct. 10, 2017, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More than 4,000 adults who were free from cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease were classed into three groups: those who consumed less than 5% of their total energy intake in the morning (they either skipped breakfast or had only coffee or juice); those who consumed more than 20% (high-energy-breakfast consumers who ate complete meals with more whole grains and fruit); and those who consumed between 5% and 20% (low-energy-breakfast consumers who had meals like toast or pastries and coffee).

About 28% ate a high-energy breakfast, while almost 70% had a low-energy breakfast, and 3% skipped breakfast. Breakfast skippers were between 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to have atherosclerosis compared with high-energy breakfast eaters, while low-energy breakfast eaters were about 1.15 times more likely.

Making the change

What is the right plant-based diet for you? You don’t need to go full vegetarian or vegan (avoiding all animal products, even eggs and dairy) to get the best heart health benefits. The focus should be on eating more of the right plants, avoiding the wrong kind, eliminating unhealthy foods, and moderating your intake of healthier animal products.

A heart-healthy diet doesn’t need to be daunting either. “For many men, this may be a matter of switching out their current foods,” says Dr. Satija. For instance, replace white rice with brown rice or other whole grains, and white bread with whole-grain bread. Choose oatmeal instead of processed cereal, and water instead of juice drinks.

If embracing a full plant-based diet feels intimidating, then begin small. “A moderate change in your diet, such as lowering your animal food intake by one to two servings per day and replacing it with legumes or nuts as your protein source, can have a lasting positive impact on your health,” says Dr. Satija.

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

The Plant-Based Diet Benefits Everyone Should Know

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Plant-based eating is becoming one of the most popular eating styles, for both health and environmental benefits. A 2017 Nielson home study found that 39 percent of Americans were actively trying to eat more plant-based—and, indeed, a 2018 study by Nielsen commissioned by the Plant Based Foods Association found that sales of plant-based foods increased by a whopping 20 percent in just one year.

But what does “plant-based” mean, exactly?

Truthfully, it can be kind of confusing since the term is not clearly defined.

“In the past, the definition of ‘plant-based’ (as used by nutrition researchers and organizations) has meant a diet based primarily on plants; however, the definition has emerged to mean different things to different people,” says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., The Plant-Powered Dietitian. More recently, people have been using the term to mean a 100-percent plant-based vegan diet, she notes.

It’s worth noting that, while plant-based diets come with tons of benefits, following a vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t automatically mean you’re eating healthy. That’s because most of the health benefits described below don’t simply come from reducing animal products—they come from increasing consumption of healthy, whole foods.

“Whether you’re eating a plant-based diet with plants and a smaller amount of animals or decided to go vegan, eating more plants in your diet has numerous benefits,” says Myrdal Miller. Here, some of the benefits you can score whether you decided to go full veg or just opt to eat more plants. (See: Plant-Based Diet Rules You Should Be Following)

1. Lower risk of heart disease.

Extensive research shows that people who consume the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, says Myrdal Miller.

One study by the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital looked at more than 15,000 people with no known issues of heart disease who followed one of five dietary patterns including convenience (fast food and fried food), plant-based (fruits, vegetables, beans, fish), sweets (desserts, candy, sugary breakfast cereals), southern (fried foods, organ meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages), and salad and alcohol (salad dressings, vegetable salads, alcohol). The study followed these individuals over four years and found that those who stuck to a plant-based diet had a 42-percent decreased risk of heart failure compared to those eating fewer plant foods.

Again, it’s not just about limiting animal foods; food choices matter. (It’s kind of like clean vs. dirty keto.) Another study published in 2018 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology examined the food choices of male and female health professionals and created a plant-based diet index to gauge the healthiness of their diet. Healthy plant foods (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and legumes) were given positive scores, while less-healthy plant foods (such as sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, fries, and sweets, and animal foods) received a reverse score. The data revealed that a more positive score was associated with a lower risk in coronary heart disease.

The study shows that it’s not about having any type of plant-based food (like French fries) but rather the quality of the plant-based foods you select that’s most important. Your plant-based diet should still consist of well-balanced plants like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and legumes, that are prepared and cooked in a healthful manner. (Try these plant-based diet recipes for every meal of the day.)

2. Lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Eating a plant-filled diet can also help prevent type 2 diabetes. A 2017 article published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology looked at the potential benefits of a plant-based diet on type 2 diabetes based on numerous studies. One of them examined the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in relation to different eating patterns and found that it was less common in diets with reduced animal products.

Based on this and numerous other observational studies examined in this review, scientists concluded that eating a plant-based diet may help improve insulin resistance, promote a healthy body weight, increase fiber and phytonutrients, allow for better food and microbiome interactions and decrease saturated fat. (Related: Can the Keto Diet Help with Type 2 Diabetes?)

3. Decreased risk of obesity.

Clinical and observational research shows that adopting a plant-based diet may help reduce risk of becoming overweight and obese—and even help promote weight loss according to a 2017 review article published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.

Interestingly enough, even moderate adherence to a vegetarian diet could prevent overweight and obesity in middle age, according to 2018 research by the European Association for the Study of Obesity—showing that you don’t have to go 100 percent vegan and can still lose weight including lean sources of animal protein in your diet.

“Research on populations who follow vegetarian eating patterns shows they have lower rates of overweight and obesity,” agrees Myrdal Miller. (Pssst you should also check out the Mediterranean Diet, which has a ton of health benefits.)

4. Decreased risk of cancer.

Eating a plant-based diet (along with other healthy behaviors) may actually help decrease your risk of cancer.

A 2013 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention followed about 30K post-menopausal women for seven years and found that women maintaining normal body weight, limiting alcohol, and eating mostly-plant based was linked to a 62-percent reduction of breast cancer compared to women who did not follow these three guidelines.

A report by the American Institute for Cancer Research backs that up, saying that a healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors could prevent 40 percent of cancer cases. That’s why the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) recommendations eating a plant-based diet, primarily consisting of fruit, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, with some animal foods for cancer prevention. This type of diet helps you get a variety of plant foods’ cancer-protective nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, according to the AICR. The AICR recommends filling your plate with 2/3 (or more) of plant foods and 1/3 (or less) of fish, poultry or meat, and dairy.

5. Environmental benefits.

True, eating a plant-based diet can have some health benefits for your body—but it can have some larger implications for the Earth as well. (Related: I Tried Creating Zero Waste for One Week to See How Hard Being Sustainable Really Is)

“It takes fewer inputs (water, fossil fuels) to produce these plant foods, and they do not produce outputs like manure or methane that can be harmful to the environment,” says Palmer. “In today’s agriculture, so much of our crop production goes to feeding animals, when we could just eat crops directly rather than feeding them to animals and eating the animals.” That’s one of the reasons Palmer says that the environmental impact is higher in animal foods compared to plant foods. (Here: Small Tweaks You Can Make to Effortlessly Help the Environment)

“Study after study has shown plant-based eaters have a lower environmental footprint,” she says. “This is true of carbon emissions, as well as issues like water footprint and land usage (the amount of land it takes to grow food).”

Before you demonize all animal food production, know that plant and animal agriculture are actually pretty integrated.

“Livestock upcycle much of the leftovers from crop processing, essentially taking the waste products generated from producing the plant-based foods we like to eat and upgrading them into other food products,” says Sara Place, Ph.D., senior director for Sustainable Beef Production Research. (Related: Biodynamic Farming Is the Next-Level Organic Movement)

For example, in California, juice production from oranges leaves the rest of the fruit (pulp and peel) after processing, and this citrus pulp is often then fed to cattle resulting in the production of beef and milk. Almond hulls (the portion of the nut surrounding the meat that humans eat) are also fed to dairy cattle, converting what could be waste into nutritious food. Suddenly that choice between almond milk, cow’s milk, and orange juice don’t seem so different.

Since I went 100% plant-based, I’ve noticed a much higher sense of well-being overall, along with other health benefits. I also haven’t suffered from a protein shortage or calcium deficiency either, in case you’re one of the many who worry about this issue. With athletes, celebs, and even political figures going vegan, why not the rest of us? When we consider that animal production has led to more problems in our world than solutions, it just makes sense.

Animal foods are also more processed than even some of the more processed plant-based choices people avoid at the store. Considering that animals are living creatures just like you and me, it makes no sense for us to spend our money on an industry that causes them suffering, destroys the environment, and causes us health problems. As rates of cancer and diabetes increase, one has to wonder if this has to do with the animal production being higher than ever and fast food restaurants serving up more animal foods that are cheaper per meal than whole, plant-based meal offerings. Though you and I can’t change this overnight, we can change our health by eating a plant-based diet. I’m under the belief that if more people chose the vegan route, they’d not only feel better, but animal production demand would significantly decrease.

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A plant-based diet is more economical, especially if you eat in-season and eat local produce. Check out some of these health benefits of going getting plant-powered, and start eating more plants this week. By filling your plate up with the good stuff, there’s less room for the acidic animal foods that leave you sluggish and tired.

1. Lower Blood Pressure

Most people living a plant-based diet automatically have lower blood pressure due to a higher intake of potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps lower blood pressure that leads to stress and anxiety. Most all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6 (which also helps lower blood pressure). Meat and most all animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol.

2. Lower Cholesterol

Speaking of lower cholesterol, it’s one of the main benefits you’ll receive from embracing plant-based foods. Most people don’t know that plants contain NO cholesterol, even saturated sources like coconut and cacao. While you should balance your fat intake no matter if you’re vegan or not, a plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to lower cholesterol. Consider this: one egg has twice the amount of cholesterol as a fast food hamburger and fish contains almost or even more cholesterol than meat or poultry, depending on the type you eat. Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can actually lower rates of cholesterol and heart disease. For more on taking care of your cholesterol, check out these great tips to take care of your cholesterol on a vegan diet.

3. Better Blood Sugar

The number one way to fight high blood sugar is to eat more fiber. Its slows down absorption of sugars in the blood stream and as a result can help improve how hungry you are all day long, not to mention balance your cortisol levels that cause stress. Animal foods have been found to raise blood sugar, despite the myth that they help fight it.

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4. Lower Rates of Cancer

A low fat, whole foods plant-based diet is the number one way to improve your chances at avoiding cancer risks (while also avoiding smoking and alcohol, of course). Animal foods have been linked to cancer, especially colon and breast cancer.

5. Weight Management

If you’re consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet (especially one that’s low in fat and processed sugars), you’re likely to experience better weight management. A food high in raw, clean whole foods may improve your chances at losing weight even more, even though cooked foods may help with nutrient absorption. Weight loss (if that is what you need health-wise) can naturally occur when you consume more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than you do animal fats and proteins. Kathy Freston, vegan wellness expert, says that within two weeks of a plant-based diet, most people lose five pounds without going hungry or feeling deprived.

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You’ll also likely also experience less constipation and better sleep on a plant-based diet, along with less inflammation and lower risks of diabetes, according to Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Be sure if you eat a plant-based diet you choose one from clean, whole foods to optimize all of these benefits. If you’ve tried it, what’s been the biggest health benefit you’ve received?

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We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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7 Ways to Eat More Greens that Aren’t Salad

Is eating vegan worth it? Yes! Here are 7 amazing benefits of a plant-based diet, including for your health, for weight loss and for the environment!

A lot of people who come to SQ are interested in plant-based eating. For the last 5 years, I’ve been following a primarily plant-based diet. While I’m not 100% vegan, I do eat plant-based/vegan about 95% of the time.

And you know what? I feel incredible!

I’ve talked about this before, many times, BUT I have personally seen the benefits of a plant-based diet. Not only do I feel better, but I also look healthier, I’m supporting my long-term health and I’m helping Mother Earth.

Today we’re going to talk about why a plant-based diet is so incredible. I’ll be sharing the top 7 benefits of eating plant-based and how you can make the transition to a plant-based diet if you want. Let’s get this party started!

Amazing Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

There have been countless studies done that have shown the power of a plant-based diet. Not just for immediate health, but also long-term health and chronic disease. But as the research gets more and more in depth, it’s also been discovered that eating this way goes beyond our physical health. Eating a plant-based or vegan diet is also beneficial for the environment, for animal welfare, world hunger, water scarcity and more!

1. Improve Your Digestion

We’ve been talking a lot about gut health recently. I’ve shared some of the best foods for gut health and some amazing gut-friendly recipes, but the gist of all of this is plants. Plants are amazing because they’re naturally full of fiber and fiber is the key to good digestion. Fiber helps add bulk to your stool, while also help regulate things and help everything eliminate smoothly.

One thing to keep in mind: if you’re new to this diet, go slow with your fiber intake. If you aren’t accustomed to eating a lot of fiber, it can actually do the opposite (block you up). So, just like we teach in Powered by Plants, ease in slowly!

2. Reduce Your Risk for Chronic Disease

From what I’ve read and researched, it isn’t necessarily that plant-based diets reverse disease, it’s that’s the Standard American Diet promotes disease. People with diets that are full of meat, dairy and processed foods have a higher risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Plant-based eaters, on the other hand, have been shown to do have the opposite effect. People who follow a plant-based diet have reportedly lower cases of many common chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer (colorectal being one!), Alzheimer’s, and others. So if you’re concerned about chronic disease or they run in your family, switching to a plant-based diet is definitely a good idea!

3. Naturally Boost Your Energy

Plants are super high in vitamins and minerals which are amazing for energy! They’re rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and often times healthy fats and protein, all of which are amazing for your brain and mood. Not only that but since plants are also easier to digest, which gives our body extra energy to spend. Plant-based foods are also amazing for performance. That’s why you’re seeing more and more professional athletes talk about being plant-based!

4. Get Healthy Skin, Hair & Nails

I always get asked what I do for my skin, hair, and nails, and my response is always that it’s at least 95% my diet. I’m a firm believer that what we put into our bodies is what shows on the outside. And again, because plants are so full of vitamins and minerals, they’re particularly amazing for your skin. Meat, dairy, and processed foods have all been shown to cause inflammation in the body and main times inflammation can show in our skin.

Now does that mean just by going vegan your skin is going to miraculously clear up? Potentially, but it might take some time. Be patient. And if you want more tips, here’s an article I wrote about how to get glowing skin!

5. Lose Weight Effortlessly

Ever wonder why people recommend you eat fruits, veggies and whole grains to lose weight? For one, we know they’re more nutrient-dense than processed foods. But plant-based foods also have a lower calorie to volume ratio.

Basically, if you ate the same weight/volume of food (i.e. one pound) and compared how much room it takes up in your stomach, plants would be significantly less. That means that you fill up more quickly on plant-based foods while eating fewer calories.

But you might be wondering… “but I might not get enough nutrients!” I’d argue that you’re likely getting more nutrients when you eat this way. You’ll just have to make sure that you’re still getting in proteins and healthy fats!

6. Support the Environment & Our Planet

I’m writing an entire article on how vegan diets help the environment, but long story short is that eating a plant-based diet is probably one of the single best things you can do for the planet. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. It’s also responsible for nearly 90% of the deforestation in the Amazon, and is a huge drain on our water supplies.

If you eat a plant-based diet, every single day you’d be saving 1,100 gallons of water per day, 30 square feet of forest, 10 pounds of CO2 emissions and one animal. Yes, every single day!!

7. Save Animals

And of course, animals. I think a lot of people don’t make the connection between the food they see on the grocery shelves and actual living animals. Because if they did, I have to imagine more people would stop buying that ground up cow muscle that gets turned into burgers.

Layer on top of the actual killing of these animals, but the conditions they live in are absolutely horrific. They’re riddled with disease, babies are separated from their mother’s at birth, they’re sleeping in they’re own feces. Just writing about it makes me sick.

So I’d argue, that if you are a caring, thoughtful person, you’d consider saving these animals instead of slaughtering them ❤️

Want to Try Going Vegan? Here’s How!

My best tip for transitioning to a plant-based diet is to take it slow. When we jump into things too quickly, we tend to feel deprived and when we feel deprived, we end up not sticking with it. My goal is to never share “quick fixes”. I want to help you live a healthier lifestyle for the long run!

Which is precisely why I created my program, Powered by Plants. Powered by Plants is a 6-week online training program that teaches you the ins and outs of a plant-based diet. We cover everything from nutrition, to building the perfect meal, tips for eating out and so much more. And the best part? It teaches you how to make this a lifestyle instead of a diet!

The Health Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet and How to Get Started

The idea of eating “plant-based” sounds healthy. And it is. “Plant-based” is also a buzzword we’re seeing more and more. But what exactly is a plant-based diet and what makes it healthy?

A plant-based diet means eating more whole foods and plants-fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. One of the best parts about eating a plant-based diet is that you can define your strictness. It doesn’t necessarily mean plants only. For some, a plant-based diet does exclude all animal products (a vegan diet). For others, it’s just about proportion-choosing more of your foods from plant sources than from animal sources. It’s a nice way to make plants a main part of your diet without needing to completely eliminate dairy, eggs, meat and fish (you can just eat less of these).

Related: 7-Day Vegan Meal Plan

Regardless of which variation you want to follow, there are some standout benefits to eating more plants.

Health benefits of eating a plant-based diet

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Pictured recipe: Strawberry, Quinoa & Edamame Salad

Better nutrition

Plants are healthy-you know this-and most of us don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies, so making the majority of your diet plant-based will up your produce ante, which is a nutritious choice. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that most of us don’t get enough of, and it has tons of healthy perks–it’s good for your waistline, your heart, your gut and your blood sugar (read more about the amazing benefits of fiber). But, also, science shows that people’s overall nutrition is usually better when they follow a vegetarian or vegan diet versus when they eat an omnivorous diet.

Weight loss

People who follow a plant-based diet tend to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared to their omnivore counterparts. And research shows that people who use a vegetarian diet to lose weight are more successful not only at dropping pounds, but also at keeping them off. (See more science-backed tips for weight-loss.)

Healthier hearts

Eating a vegetarian diet may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, and may improve other risk factors for heart disease by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and improving your blood sugar control. Eating plant-based can also help quell inflammation, which raises your risk of heart disease by promoting plaque buildup in your arteries.

Lower diabetes risk

Regardless of your BMI, eating a vegetarian diet or a vegan diet lowers your risk of diabetes. In fact, one study shows that meat eaters have double the risk of diabetes compared to lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans. Another study, this one published in February 2019, shows that people who eat a plant-based diet have higher insulin sensitivity, which is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Related: Vegan Recipes for Diabetes

Cut cancer risk

Research consistently shows that regularly eating plenty of fruits, veggies, legumes and grains-aka plants-is associated with a lower cancer risk. Plus, those disease-fighting phytochemicals in plants have also been shown to prevent and thwart cancer. And, don’t forget, studies also show an association between eating red and processed meats and increased cancer risk, especially colorectal cancer. So there’s benefit not only from just eating more plants, but also from replacing some less-healthy foods with those plant foods.

How to start eating a more plant-based diet

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Pictured recipe: Raw Vegan Zoodles with Romesco

OK, so you’re inspired now, right? Let’s turn that into action. Yes, you can and should up your vegetable ante-aim to make sure half of your lunch and dinner plate is always filled with vegetables, and vary the variety and color of the veggies you choose. But there’s more that you can do. Try to incorporate some of these small(ish) changes.

1. Seek out healthy fats.

Unsaturated fats-monounsaturated and polyunsaturated-are the kind that are good for your heart. Most of the good food sources of these come from plants-olives and olive oil, avocado and its oil, nuts and their butters and oils. Substitute these occasionally (or always, if you prefer) for butter, ghee or lard, and you’re automatically leaning toward more plants. Aim to include plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids too, such as flaxseeds and chia seeds.

2. Eat vegetables at breakfast.

If you want to increase your veggie intake, start with breakfast. Since it’s not a meal you’d usually think about as veggie-filled, adding some here makes it easier to hit your daily quota. Then keep lunch and dinner as is. If you’re wondering what veggie-heavy breakfasts might look like, try adding spinach to your eggs, blending cauliflower in your smoothie or eating a breakfast salad.

3. Have a vegetarian dinner once a week.

Usually we put an animal protein at the center of the plate at dinnertime, so going vegetarian one day a week is one way to cut back. And because it’s just one dinner, it doesn’t require any other investment over the course of the week. If going meat-free for a meal feels like a stretch, then shift your perception and see if you can make animal protein more of a condiment than an anchor to your meal one night a week. Try some of our 30 vegetarian dinner ideas to inspire you.

4. Try fruit for desserts and snacks.

Dessert is typically something made with an animal product-butter or eggs, or both, in cookies, cakes and ice cream. Switching over to fruit sometimes can satisfy your sweet tooth with a whole food, and also give you an extra serving of plants.

5. Try one new-to-you plant food a week.

If this is your goal, you’re not just increasing the amount of plants you’re eating, but you’re also adding variety to your diet, which means you’ll be getting a different balance of good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Some less-common veggies to try: bok choy, rutabaga, squash blossoms, celeriac, kohlrabi.

Bottom line

You’ll likely reap benefits from cutting down on meat (plant foods have less saturated fat and usually fewer calories), but it goes beyond what you’re limiting. What you’re eating and adding to your diet is significant too. Eating more plants means getting more of those good-for-you vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber-many of which are nutrients we typically fall short on.

Plant-Based Diets Made Easy

Veganism, a diet free from animal products, can seem daunting to some. It’s an idea that our culture is still adjusting to, but the trend is undeniably on the rise. Plant Life Meals, a Kirkland-based vegan meal prep and delivery service, is attempting to make a plant-based diet more accessible to a wider range of people.

Plant Life Meals began in July of 2019 by Elizabeth Medeiros and David VanGeystel, who saw the need for a business that helped people have affordable vegan meals at home. Plant Life Meals’ customers make their orders online which get delivered at the end of the week to their doorstep. With a growing customer base in Seattle, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue and Bothell, it appears the timing was right for the owners to offer this service

According to a recent Plant Based Foods Association report, the plant-based meat industry alone has grown to be worth more than $800 million. Additionally, since April 2017, total plant-based food sales have increased 31 percent, while total U.S. food sales have remained relatively flat during that period.

This upward trajectory can, in part, be attributed to findings from the Environmental Protection Agency which claim that vegan meals emit fewer green house gases and require less resources than their meaty counterparts. There’s also the health benefits: Over the past decade, reports from the American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, and others have provided detailed insight into the benefits of plant-based living, including lowered risk for heart disease and improved blood sugar, among others.

It comes with no surprise, then, when we see new vegan eateries opening while burger joints and fast food chains have had to tighten their belts.

“Reducing the selling and consumption of meat and dairy products has an enormous impact on the environment,” Medeiros said. “As a business, by not allocating our dollars to the purchasing of meat and dairy, we’re sending a huge message to the industry and taking a large step towards saving our planet.”

According to their website, Medeiros’ and Vangeystal’s friends asked for guidance and support when first implementing plant-based practices into their routine, which inspired the owners to provide a resource for others attempting to incorporate more vegan options. The menu includes innovative plant-based recipes such as vegan lasagna, a tofu breakfast scramble, and a red lentil curry, to name a few.

“The Protein-Packed Pasta is my go-to as often as I can get my hands on it,” VanGeystel said. “My other favorite is the Energy Protein Bites — these are really simple and I don’t feel bad for eating as many as I can. This is a new item on our menu and I already know it’s going to be a hit.”

Plant Life Meals is the one of the latest additions to the ever growing Greater Seattle vegan scene, a movement which has led to Seattle being named the fourth most vegan-friendly city in the nation by WalletHub’s research, and 9th most vegan state according to Health IQ’s data collection.

“Each vegan meal our customers are opting for is having massive impact on our planet,” said Medeiros. “I think they’ll be super proud of their contribution as I know we are.”

Aside from being so much better for the planet, a plant-based diet may be best for human health as well.

The importance of eating less meat and dairy from an environmental perspective has been big news lately – but what’s in it for us? I mean, aside from having enough food to feed the masses and avoiding apocalyptic climate change and stuff. As it turns out, research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that go a long way in improving and maintaining health.

In a report published in the Permanente Journal, a publication of the Permanente Medical Group, a group of doctors laid out the research in order to present physicians an update on plant-based diets. Their advice was unequivocal:

“Many physicians are not stressing the importance of plant-based diets as a first-line treatment for chronic illnesses.”

They add that a plant-based diet can, “reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates,” adding that, “Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients.”

Permanente is the largest medical group in the United States – it includes 9,000 physicians and 35,000 nurses – so suffice to say that this recommendation is pretty sweeping. The authors reviewed existing studies that included vegan, vegetarian, and Mediterranean diets – here are the findings they highlight:

1. Lower rates of obesity

From the studies reviewed, the authors point out these conclusions (note that they often use “vegan” and “vegetarian” interchangeably):

• A vegan or vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.
• Weight loss in vegetarians is not dependent on exercise and occurs at a rate of approximately 1 pound per week.
• A vegan diet caused more calories to be burned after meals, in contrast to nonvegan diets which may cause fewer calories to be burned because food is being stored as fat.
• Vegetarian diets may be better for weight management and may be more nutritious than diets that include meat.
• Vegetarian diets are nutrient dense and can be recommended for weight management without compromising diet quality.
• Epidemiologic studies indicate that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower BMI and a lower prevalence of obesity in adults and children.

2. Prevention and management of diabetes

Here are the takeaways on a plant-based diet and diabetes:

• Vegetarians have approximately half the risk of developing diabetes as nonvegetarians.
• Nonvegetarians were 74 percent more likely to develop diabetes over a 17-year period than vegetarians.
• A low-fat, plant-based diet with no or little meat may help prevent and treat diabetes, possibly by improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance.

3. Lower risk of heart disease

These are some of the thing they found when reviewing heart disease research:

• In one study, 82 percent of patients with heart disease who followed a plant-based diet had some level of regression of atherosclerosis. Comprehensive lifestyle changes appear to be the catalyst that brought about this regression of even severe coronary atherosclerosis after only one year.
• Low-density lipoprotein decrease 40 percent at one year and was maintained at 20 percent less than baseline after five years. These reductions are similar to results achieved with lipid-lowering medications.
• In one prospective, randomized, secondary prevention trial, the intervention group (at 27 months) experienced a 73 percent decrease in coronary events and a 70 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.
• A collaborative analysis using original data from five prospective studies compared ischemic heart disease-specific death rate ratios of vegetarians and nonvegetarians. The vegetarians had a 24 percent reduction in ischemic heart disease death rates compared with nonvegetarians.

4. Lower blood pressure

The authors explain that in 2010, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee performed a literature review to identify articles examining the effect of dietary patterns on blood pressure in adults, concluding: “Vegetarian diets were associated with lower systolic blood pressure and lower diastolic blood pressure.”

5. Increased longevity

• The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee also performed a review to determine the effect of plant-based diets on stroke, cardiovascular disease, and total mortality in adults. They found that plant-based diets were associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality compared with non-plant-based diets.

• Excessive consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. Low meat intake has been associated with longevity.

• One meta-analysis to investigate cardiovascular disease mortality among vegetarians and nonvegetarians looked at seven studies with a combined total of 124,706 participants. Vegetarians had 29 percent lower ischemic heart disease mortality than nonvegetarians.

As the authors explain, the purpose of their report was to help physicians understand the potential benefits of a plant-based diet, with the goal of creating a societal shift toward plant-based nutrition. They write that “these data suggest that plant-based diets may be a practical solution to prevent and treat chronic diseases.”

Along with the importance of reducing our eco impact by eating less meat and dairy, this can only be a win-win. Add in the fact that we could stop subjecting animals to our diabolical factory-farm system and the benefits are even more remarkable.

You can see the whole report here: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets.

Plant based diets health benefits

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