Have you ever thought about following a Plant Based diet? Here’s our low down on how, and why, plant based foods can help you towards good health.
Healthy plant based diets, including vegetarian and vegan diets, have been given the thumbs up by professionals for being nutritionally great for all stages of life. Whatever your inspiration for eating more plant based foods, be it health, ethical or environmental reasons, adding more vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds into your diet can positively influence your health, energy, skin, hormones, immune system, weight and digestion!
Plant foods boast a variety of nutrients, from phytochemicals to fibre, plants contain many compounds that are anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective and immune supporting. They provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to the body to support health and wellness.
Studies show that plant based diets are great for heart health, helping to support healthy blood pressure, blood sugar balance, weight loss, cholesterol levels, and be supportive in managing inflammation in the body.
Healthy Blood Sugar Balance
Dietary choices play a huge role in healthy blood sugar balance. Carbohydrates have a bit of a bad reputation, rightly so if we are talking about the refined white bread and pastries (simple carbohydrates). However, a healthy diet including complex carbs such as whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables have been found to help maintain healthy blood sugar balance.
So where do I start?
Many people think they can’t get all they need on a plant based diet, but just like any way of eating, you can do it healthy and well, or eat junk food all day! At first it may seem overwhelming to change your eating habits, but you will soon see how easy it is to make wholesome delicious plant based meals and see the positive changes for yourself!
Have one plant based meal a day
It could be a vegetable stew, a lentil cottage pie or a chickpea curry, if you want to ease into plant based eating slowly, one plant based meal a day is a great way to start.
Fill half your plate with Veggies…
I’m not talking a bit of lettuce and a stick of cucumber..lets get a bit creative here! A lot of the dishes you make at home now can easily be made plant based, it’s all about finding some good recipes and, like you would to any meal, adding a variety of herbs, spices and sauces. Get creative!
Don’t forget about nuts and seeds
These small additions to your meals might not seem a lot, but don’t leave them out! Seeds, such as hemp seeds, sesame, pumpkin and flax are packed with healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Go slow on the fibre
Depending on your current diet, you may need to ease in with the fibre, building it up slowly. For example, start by adding in a small amount of rinsed legumes to a meal. Your digestion will start to adapt and benefit from the increase in fibre.
Variety – Change how you see plant foods
There is an abundance of different types of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds that can be eaten in their whole form, added together and mixed up to create something delicious. Variety is key in ensuring that you not only get a good mix of nutrients every day but that you are always finding new ways to enjoy healthy food.
With the increase in people following PBD’s came a huge increase in plant based substitutes, all supermarkets stock anything you can think of! It is up to you if you want to incorporate these foods into your diet, just like any packaged food, be mindful of the ingredients.
Below are some most common nutrients that are worth considering when eating more plant based foods.
Protein: Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, Peanuts), Nuts, seeds, Soy (Tofu, tempeh).
Iron: Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, peanuts), leafy greens, quinoa, dried fruit, soy, potatoes, seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin) Tahini.Tip: Eat these foods with foods high in Vitamin C to increase non-heme iron absorption. Avoid drinking tea/coffee with these foods. Heme Iron (animal sources) may be better absorbed, however studies have found that too much heme iron has been linked to type two diabetes and certain cancers.
Omega 3:Hemps seeds, Chia seeds (ground), Flaxseeds, Walnuts, wheatgerm, soy.
People often eat fish or take fish oils to get omega 3, the fish get their omega 3 from algae.You can get algae in supplement form to avoid ingesting heavy metals found in fish.
B12: Nutritional yeast (has a cheesy taste), fortified plant milks, supplement. Animals are often given supplemental B12 which is how humans obtain it. Many people opt to take a B12 supplement on a PBD to ensure adequate amounts.
Iodine: Sea Vegetables (e.g seaweed sheets), iodized salt
Zinc: Legumes (Beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), oats, nuts and seeds, soy.
Folate: Leafy greens, avocado, beetroot, asparagus, almonds, enriched grains, quinoa, nutritional yeast, oranges.
Vitamin K: Leafy greens, avocado, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, natto, peas, lentils.
Selenium: Brazil nuts (just 1-2 a day fulfills requirements!)
Calcium: Broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, kale, tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, blackstrap molasses, figs.
Choline: Legumes (Beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), broccoli, oats, bananas, soy, quinoa.
Enjoy this beginners guide to eating more plant based. Write and tell us how you got on!