So, you have just finished watching the latest plant-based documentary or maybe you had a convincing conversation with bonafide grass muncher who looked outstandingly fit and healthy.. It triggers the curiosity doesn't it, Oxygen Crew?
There are several reasons that people decide to transition to a plant-based diet and it is a pattern of eating that can have several health benefits. The first step is getting a good understanding of what it means to 'go plant-based' and making a plan to transition.
Generally, a plant-based diet can mean any approach where plants make up the majority, or all, or the diet. However, going plant-based can mean a few different things.
There are many different ways you can achieve a plant-based diet ranging from including one or more meat-free days per week, right up to excluding all animal products from your diet.
Here are some of the common formats that a plant-based diet can take:
- Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: Excludes animal flesh, but includes animal products such as eggs, dairy and honey.
- Ovo-Vegetarian: Include eggs, but no other animal products, including dairy, are consumed.
- Pescatarian: Fish, eggs and dairy are consumed, but no animal flesh.
- Flexitarian: A mostly plant-based diet, but some meat is consumed on occasion, such as at social events.
- Vegan: No animal products are consumed, including no honey and leather clothing, accessories, and footwear.
So, the good news is, there is a plant-based diet format that will suit most people interested in trying it.
The benefits of including more plants in your diet are many. Research has shown that vegetarian diets can help reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic disease, diabetes and certain cancer. And the high-fibre nature of a plant-based diet makes it beneficial for promoting healthy gut bacteria.
However you do it, the important thing to know is that including my plants in your diet, regardless as to the extend, is going to benefit your overall health long term. However, when planning a strict vegan diet, further planning and understanding are required.
When removing whole foods groups from your diet, it is important to recognise that you may be limiting access to some essential nutrients.
Strict vegan diets can limit the amount of protein in the diet, as well as key nutrients such as B12, iron, zinc, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids, all of which are rich in animal products.
However, with careful monitoring and some strategic supplementation, these nutrients can all be accounted for. When starting on a plant-based diet, it is a good idea to consult with a nutrition professional to discuss your specific nutrient requirements in more detail, and there are some practical ways that you can make a start, without needing to dive in headfirst.
You might like to start by making small steps, like having a few days a week that are planted based only. Then you can look at specific foods swaps you might, such as trying soy milk in place of regular milk and experimenting with plant-based protein sources such as tofu in place of your regular meat.
Small changes tend to stick better than going all in all at once, and it allows you to build up your confidence with a new way of cooking so that the change is more sustainable.
In a world where there is a new dietary approach, plan based diets stand strong as some of the healthiest patterns of eating. It does not have to be all or nothing either, it is possible to experience the benefits of increasing your plant intake without cutting out all animal products, and if you do want to go all the way, ensure that you seek out professional advice upfront to make sure that the diet you achieve is as balanced as possible.