Photo: Veggie Kebabs

by Sabra Leomo, RD

How many people do you know are enjoying plant-based diets? Plant-based diets (PBD) have continued to gain popularity and awareness over the past few years. This popularity is more than the latest diet fad since accumulating research supports the health benefits of a high-quality plant-based diet.

Research to support PBD is plentiful because of what they include: phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. What PBD are low in also provides health benefits, this includes saturated and trans fat, added sugars, and highly processed foods.

The health benefits of plant-based diets are well-documented and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. On a PBD you will enjoy minimally processed whole-foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds.  Herbs and spices make the perfect addition to plant-based recipes for additional flavor and satisfaction.

Below are a couple of the most recent studies that support the health benefits of a whole-food plant-based diet:

Quality Counts - A 2017 study looked at the effect of diet and risk of heart disease. The study evaluated three diets and found that a diet based on healthy plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Whereas animal foods and less healthy plant foods, including refined grains and sweetened foods and beverages, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.[1] Research supports nourishing your body with a high-quality plant-based diet![TB1] 

Weight and Cholesterol Levels - The BROAD study, published in 2017, focused on a whole-food plant- based diet as a safe and effective way to lose weight and reduce cholesterol without increasing exercise.  This small study evaluated a PBD without mandated exercise or calorie reduction. At 6 months the participants that followed a whole-foods PBD saw significant improvement in BMI, cholesterol, and other risk factors.[2]

While it is important to find an exercise routine you enjoy and will take part in daily, this study emphasizes the importance of what you eat. A PBD can be an effective tool to help manage your weight!

Looking to make the switch to a plant-based diet? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Start with a Plant-Based Breakfast - It is important to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Fortunately, plant-based breakfast foods are easy to make! Oatmeal with nuts and fruit, smoothies, and tofu scrambles are all great options. Once you master the plant-based breakfast you can move on to lunch and dinner.
  2. Surround Yourself - Clean your kitchen and pantry and either give away or throw out unhealthy foods. Fill your pantry and fridge with healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds so you have healthy options on hand. Also keep some easy items like canned beans on hand for quick meals. Preparation is key to success!
  3. Sustainable Swaps - You don’t have to throw out all your favorite tried and true recipes. Think instead about making swaps for plant-based ingredients. Chili is easy to make plant-based, so are curries, stir-fries, and burritos. Add new recipes to your repertoire as you become accustomed to cooking with plant-based ingredients. 

The food we eat daily not only fuels our bodies but also contributes to our overall health. Research supports why PBD are a winning option to help prevent disease while nourishing our bodies.

 

Footnotes: 

[1] Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/70/4/411. Accessed 9 September 2018.

[2] The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes. Accessed 9 September 2018.