Plant-based diets for beginners
There are more and more people in the world choosing a Plant- based diet, and doing so for a variety of reasons, including concerns about the treatment of animals, health reasons, environmental issues or because of taste and social pressure.
So what are the benefits of choosing this lifestyle and how can you get involved.
Plant-based diets focus on foods that derive primarily from plants. Obvious food sources in this diet includes fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Eating a primarily plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.
Mediterranean and vegetarian diets
For example, there has been a lot of evidence gathered over the years that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest around - packed with nutricianal benefits. A Mediterranean diet has its foundation of plant-based foods, but also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often. The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
As for a Vegetarian diet, health benefits include a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity.
A well planned plant-based diet offers all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fibre and phytonutrients.
There is, however, a lack of the Vitamin B12, which is naturally found in animal products,including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. This vitamin is not present in plant-based foods, which if not repalced can cause Anaemia, shortness of breath and possible heart pulpitations. For vegetarians, fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12, otherwise supplements can be taken.
The problem is that eating lots of vegetables and greens is hard and if you’ve never rally cooked with them before, quite boring.
Below are my top 3 tips on how to eat more vegetables and be healthier without a brigade of chefs in your kitchen responding to your very whim.
Tips on how to introduce more plant-based foods to your diet.
Blend Your Veg
Belding your veg into a smoothie is a great way of introducing more plant- based foods into your diet. Smoothies are a great way to start the day, they can be absolutely delicious, cater for your own tastes and take less time than making a coffee.
Drinking smoothies from supermarkets isn’t the same, they’re pasteurised to extend shelf life thus killing most of the health giving benefits. There are recipes abound online so try as many as you can until you find one that suits your tastes - It will be something to look forward to every morning.
Choose Whole Foods
It’s a hippy dippy vegetarian cliché, all those boring, worthy whole food stores, but there is real science behind it. Most of the nutrients in plants are in the bits we throw away, we strip out all the goodness to leave the sweet, starchy, sugary bits. All of a potato’s vitamins and nutrients are in the skin, the same goes for apples, white flour has almost zero vitamins or minerals, to the extent that they have to add it back in by law. If you want to be healthy, eat more vitamins and minerals and if you want to do this without changing your diet too much choose whole grains over white ones and buy organic veg and stop peeling it.
Move the Meat to the Edge of the Plate
If you can’t bear to give up the meat then maximise your veg by making them the centre of your plate. Having a roast beef Sunday lunch? Fill your plate with carrots, broccoli and potatoes, cover them in gravy and have a little bit of beef on the side
for flavour. Chicken with stir fry? How about stir fried veg with a chicken garnish?