The Perks of Eating Plant-Based
By Danica Crouse, RDN, LD
Plant-based? Plant-forward? Plant-centric? What do these even mean and why are they important for your health? Do you have to be vegan in order to eat plant-based? Let's explore what this looks like and some of the perks of adding more plants to your plate.
A plant-based diet is one that emphasizes whole plant foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. This means that you are focusing on plants but may or may not be including some animal products as well. There is no need to even claim a label like vegan or vegetarian in order to eat this way. A plant-based diet is a diet for all!
- Plants contain beneficial phytonutrients. These antioxidants can reduce inflammation, support immune health, reduce risk of cancers and heart disease as well as promote eye, skin and bone health.
- Eating a plant-based diet may also contribute to weight loss and/or maintaining a healthy body weight. The key with this is sticking to whole plant foods rather than processed foods.
- Plants are the only source of dietary fiber which aids in digestion, lowers cholesterol, helps regulate blood sugar, and feeds the "good" bacteria in our gut.
- Plant-based diets have been linked to reduced risk for developing diabetes as well as the development and progression of kidney disease.
- Eating more plant-based may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels which can decrease your overall risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
What to do now?
Where should you start if you want to eat more plant-based foods? Consider starting small by swapping out meat for your favorite plant protein in one meal or consider having one day of meatless meals each week. Experiment with a new recipe or try a plant-based dish at a restaurant to explore new foods, flavors and see what you like best. Aim to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables and enjoy all the benefits that come with it!