For meat lovers, plants serve only one purpose: as sideshows to juicy steaks, roasted chickens, and succulent slices of ham.
It turns out that this set-up is all wrong.
Your plate should hold more of the good stuff — the green stuff, that is — and less of the meats, cheeses, and other edibles that come from animals. This is what’s called a plant-based diet, and it turns out that it’s an extremely healthy choice for you and the world around you. You can get all the plant based protein you need to lower your blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Read on, my carnivorous friends, for your guide to a plant-based diet.
What exactly is a plant-based diet – Vegetarians & Vegans?
A plant-based diet is just as it sounds: a diet that mainly consists of plants. Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, grains and more will build the foundations of everything that you eat. Some who follow a plant-based diet eat only products from plants; you probably know them by their more commonly used name, “vegans.” For some, though, it’s extremely difficult to give up every last animal product. A plant-based diet can still incorporate some eggs or cheese, for example, but it will always feature fruits and vegetables at its core.
How does it improve my health outcomes like heart disease?
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There are plenty of reasons why you should start to eat a plant-based diet. For one, it’s great for your body. Plant-based products can help you reduce your cholesterol, improve your heart health, and diffuse your high blood pressure — it just so happens that these are the side effects of eating too much meat. Many converts also note that they have higher energy levels, too.
A plant-based diet is also great if you’ve got a guilty conscience when it comes to eating animals. Many people struggle with the idea of eating pigs, cows, chickens, and other otherwise cuddly creatures that can become the center of one’s diet. A plant-based diet helps you to cut down or eliminate your need for these products. If enough people make the same change, it would have a real impact on the world’s livestock population. If that idea makes you feel good, put down the steak knife!
Finally, your plant-based diet can help improve the environment, too. Animals require a huge amount of resources. They require land on which to live and food to eat; they also produce a lot of waste that can have detrimental effects on the environment around them. Even after they’re taken to slaughter, they continue to require resources, as they must be transported across the country or world in order to be bought and sold. By cutting out animal products from your diet, you can cut down on the damage you do on the earth. You can even take it a step further and grow your own vegetable garden.
Okay, so how do I get started?
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Now that you’re on board, it’s time to upturn your entire life.
It’s rather easy to start a new plant-based lifestyle. Perhaps the easiest method is to start out slowly. Do like the Norwegian military did and start by following a meatless regimen once a week. During this time, you can experiment with new plant-based recipes that get their heartiness from protein-packed beans so that you don’t feel hungry or unsatisfied. Once you get the hang of it, add another day to your weekly animal-free schedule. Continue until you’ve converted your entire diet to one that’s heavy on the plants and easy on the mind and body.
You can make things even easier for yourself by scoping out vegetarian versions of the recipes that you already love. There are also plenty of meat-like products, like seitan and tempeh, that vegetarians eat when they want the flavor and texture of meat without actually eating an animal. When spiced and prepared properly, you might not even know that you’re eating a plant-based protein. Do some research and find the recipes and foodstuffs that will make your transition as easy as possible.
Is there anything else I should know about what foods to eat?
Image credit: Brian Ambrozy
There’s one common mistake that many plant-based dieters make despite their good intentions. Often times, it’s easy to reach for carbohydrate-laden snacks after converting to a plant-based diet — these crackers, chips, and cookies don’t have any animal products in them, right? Before you pat yourself on the back, think about the benefits of a truly plant-based diet: Heart health. Increased energy. Environmental health. Unfortunately, mass-produced food products don’t help with any of this.
In order to be a true member of the plant-based community, you have to stick to a regimen that consists mainly of whole, real plants. Think crisp, juicy apples bursting with flavor. Bright green romaine lettuce that crunches with each bite. A sunny pineapple that looks so perfect and delicious that you don’t want to eat it (but you do, because you’re only human). This is the crux of the plant-based diet. You’ll flood your body with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that will have you feeling amazing. Fresh fruit, leafy greens, hearty beans, flavorful nuts… you name it. If it comes from the earth — and not from a bag or box — it’s probably great for your health.
Main image credit: Mike Haller