What are your goals for the new year? If you are wanting to step up your health game, live longer and even help the planet, then eating more plant foods is the way to go!
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is not just another fad diet that you try for a week and “fall-off the band-wagon”. It’s a long-term, sustainable way of eating that can benefit your physical and mental health.
A plant-based diet is exactly as the name suggests: it’s a diet based on plants.
Plant foods include vegetables, fruit (including dried fruit), legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, herbs and spices.
Now when I refer to a plant-based diet, I’m not referring to a “plant exclusive” or “plant only” diet. Some people may define a plant-based diet this way (which is totally fine). But as a Dietitian – and I know many other health professionals agree – I believe a plant-based diet means a diet based on plant foods. Or another term I like to use is “plant filled diet”; a diet filled with plants.
Plant based diets are not restrictive. They don’t cut out entire food groups and they are flexible. You can still include foods like fish, meat, dairy and eggs in smaller amounts if you wish. The goal is to make plant foods the focus of every meal. You’re aiming to eat more plant foods than animal-based foods, not the other way around. Make plant foods the star of your plate!
Why go plant based?
Adopting a plant-based diet can benefit your physical and mental health, as well as be helping the planet and even your hip pocket. Here are just some of the reasons you should go plant based this year:
For a healthier, longer life – a plant-based diet can help you live a healthier and longer life. By simply eating more plant foods each day, you can improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Let’s take nuts for example. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “the consumption of nuts was inversely associated with total mortality in both men and women, independently of other predictors of death. Participants who regularly consumed a one-ounce (28 g) daily serving of nuts had a 20 percent lower death rate, compared to those who did not consume nuts.” This study is the largest ever conducted investigating the effects of nut intake on mortality.
For your nutrients – plant foods are rich in nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis. Plant foods like legumes and nuts contain plant proteins. Spices are loaded with antioxidants. Vegetables are rich in micronutrients and fruit, including dried fruits (e.g. dried figs, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, prunes and raisins), can help provide us with fibre, potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins like vitamin A & vitamin K.
For a healthy weight – if your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, swap this for the goal of eating more plant foods or going plant based! Most of us know that vegetables are beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. But did you know that even plant foods like nuts, which are an energy dense food with a high fat content, can also help you maintain a healthy weight?!
Researchshows that nuts are actually associated with a decreased risk of being overweight or obese. Those who eat nuts are less likely to be overweight than those who don’t eat nuts, and are more likely to be a healthy weight.
For your gut health – plant foods are rich in fibre, which is essential for a healthy functioning gut. Research has linked a plant-based diet to greater microbial diversification. This is because plant-based diets are rich in prebiotics – the food for our healthy gut bacteria. Different probiotics feed off different prebiotics, so enjoy eating a variety and abundance of plant-based foods is key! Click here to learn more about prebiotics, plant foods and a healthy gut.
For attitudinal immunity – eating more plant foods can help you feel good from the inside out. When we feel good from the inside out, there is nothing that can bring us down. This is the concept of attitudinal immunity – when we feel good, we are immune to the negativity around us. Eating plant foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits including dried fruits, legumes and wholegrains, can make you feel good physically and mentally and give us the real plant-based power and the attitudinal immunity we need to face everyday challenges. Grab a handful of nuts and dried fruit, boost your plant intake’ and power up your day!
For the environment – studies show that animal foods are the planet’s leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to a plant based diet can help reduce greenhouse gasses, and we can even go a step further and particularly with a focus on local, seasonal plant based eating.
It’s sustainable – adopting a plant-based diet is sustainable. It’s not just a quick fix or a 12 week challenge; it’s a long term sustainable lifestyle change. Eating more plant foods can help you achieve your health goals for 2021 and beyond!If you want to go plant based and eat more plants in 2021, remember to include a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits (including dried fruits), nuts, seeds, wholegrains and spices each day.
Rebecca, is a lover of health, fitness and summer, she is an energetic Dietitian with a powerful influence in the online health space. Rebecca is passionate about plant-filled eating and her credible, yet easy to relate to tone, has made her one of Australia’s go-to girls for professional nutrition advice. To see more from Rebecca follow her over on Instagram @nourish_naturally or check out her website.