A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like. It consists of eating foods primarily from plants such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes and beans.
Plant-based diets are much healthier than other diets and have proven to improve people’s health by reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and diabetes. A study of over 200,000 people found that those who followed a healthy plant-based diet were at a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who did not follow a plant-based diet. Studies have also shown vegetarians had a 22% lower chance of developing colorectal cancer than non-vegetarians. Plants and vegetables also have a high number of antioxidants which leads to a strong reduction in cognitive decline and diabetes.
Plant-based diets can also facilitate weight loss by excluding processed foods and including high fiber content. A study of 65 obese adults found that those who were assigned to a plant-based diet lost more weight than the control group that weren’t, and they were even able to keep the weight off in the long run.
In addition to a healthy diet, plant-based diets also benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land used for factory farming—All severe factors causing environmental degradation. Multiple studies reported that diets containing the least amount of animal-based foods showed the largest environmental benefits. If plant-based diets became the new Western pattern, 50% less water would be used and greenhouse gas emissions and land use would decrease by 70%.
If you still have no idea what you could possibly eat on a plant-based diet besides fruits and vegetables, here are some options:
Whole Grains: Quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, farro
Healthy Fats: Avocados, Olive oil, coconut oil
Legumes: Peanuts, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas
Seeds and nuts: Almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Plant-based milk: coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk
Here are the foods you will have to avoid:
Processed Animal Products: beef jerky, bacon, sausage
Processed vegan-friendly foods: plant-based meats, vegan butters
Added Sugars: soda, juice, pastries, cookies, candy, sugary cereals
Fast Food: chicken nuggets, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, french fries
Refined Grains: white rice, white bread
Artificial Sweeteners: Splenda, Sweet’N Low
Due to the health benefits outlined above, I would like to propose that, a the very least, it is worth it to try to avoid these foods, or at least try to eat them less… even if we don’t adopt a full-on, plant-based diet entirely.
You don't have to completely change your diet today, but taking small steps and eating more plant-based foods can both help your mental and physical health, as well as benefit the environment.