Plant-focused diets range from eating only plants to diets that include some meats and animal products. Here are some of the many you can follow:
vegan… is at the end only plants end of the spectrum. Vegans eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. But they exclude all animal foods from their diet… these include meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, etc.
Vegans replace animal sources of protein with other sources that provide a large amount of this vital macronutrient. These include beans, peanuts (as in peanut butter), tofu, nuts, peas and other legumes, and ensure that vegans, despite rumors to the contrary, do not suffer from a lack of protein.
lacto vegetarian…is a diet that excludes foods of animal origin with the exception of dairy products, such as milk, butter, cheese and other foods derived from animal milk.
ovo-vegetarian… is another diet that excludes foods of animal origin (meat, fish and dairy) except that it includes eggs.
ovo-lacto-vegetarian…is a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products and eggs but excludes meat and fish.
pescatarian…is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet that also includes fish.
Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian… encompass a variety of diets that are based on a vegetarian diet. They are plant-focused diets that may also include small amounts of red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
As you can see, these plant-centric diets range from strictly plant-based to diets that include some or all animal products, but in restricted amounts.
What are the benefits of plant-based diets?
Making plants the mainstay of your diet can:
- lower your blood glucose levels and prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D)
- lower your blood pressure
- reduce stress on the kidneys (by avoiding or reducing animal protein in your diet)
- help you lose weight, and
- prevent heart disease and stroke (by reducing the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels).
…among a host of other benefits.
This claim is supported by many recent studies. For example:
A study, conducted by Loma Linda University in California, of nearly 100,000 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which encourages a vegetarian diet, found that vegetarians had lower rates of T2D than non-vegetarians. The study also found that vegetarians tended to have healthier weights, which could explain why fewer of them are diabetic.
A 72-week study, published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, examined the differences between type 2 diabetics following a low-fat vegan diet and those following a moderate-carbohydrate eating plan. The researchers found that there was a significant decrease in HbA1C and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the vegans. A low HbA1C level indicates that you are managing your T2D well.
Two ongoing long-term studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that among 150,000 health care providers, those who ate an additional half serving of red meat daily for four years had a 50% increased risk of developing T2D.
Recent research suggests that inflammation within the body plays a role in the development of T2D. T2D manifests as insulin resistance. Both of these interrelated problems seem to decrease on a plant-focused diet.
But this positive effect may not be due solely to vegetarian diets.
Most vegetarians are very health conscious (that’s probably why they become vegetarian in the first place). But they also tend to practice other kinds of healthy behaviors, like exercising, not smoking, not being a couch potato, and getting enough sleep.
The type of lifestyle that vegetarians tend to follow will greatly contribute to their overall health and help them manage their diabetes and other health problems.
That said, meatless diets or diets that restrict the amount of animal products (of all kinds) you eat contain loads of beneficial nutrients. These diets are high in dietary fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Plus, the fats they contain are healthy…plant foods are low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.
How to switch to a plant-centric diet
Some people who need to reduce the amount of animal products in their diet resist the effort they think the change will entail. This is a misunderstanding.
Here are some suggestions…
- Don’t change everything at once. Instead, gradually reduce your consumption of animal products.
- Mentally prepare yourself by thinking of animal products as a side dish or side dish rather than the main ingredient in your dish.
- Try to have one meatless day a week at the beginning of the change.
- Create a collection of meat-restricted recipes.
- Meet the beans. Many varieties provide as much protein as meat and fish. See all the different ways you can prepare bean-based meals, prepare them in batches to create a stock, and freeze them.
- Get to know whole grains like barley, quinoa, brown rice, and couscous. Cook them in batches and refrigerate or freeze them.
- Limit your carbohydrate intake by using peanut butter, egg whites (which contain at least 90% protein), low-fat or fat-free cheese, or other fillings.
- Keep it simple. Choose things like vegetarian burritos stuffed with beans and green peppers.
protein…some people fear that if they switch to a plant-based diet they will end up being protein deficient. But this fear is completely unfounded.
Many plant foods are high in protein… beans (the best source), nuts, grains, and vegetables. Know the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) of the plants that you like to eat. You’ll find tons of verified data at http://nutritiondata.self.com/.
Note… the advice that you should mix multiple plant foods at each meal to get complete protein (ie, protein that contains all the essential amino acids) is now considered outdated and no longer valid.
umami… is one of the five basic tastes (along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). The name is a Japanese word for “pleasant salty taste” and has been described as having a pleasant broth or meat flavor.
Umami is one of the reasons why people enjoy meat so much, or why we are addicted to meat according to some people.
However, meat is not the only source of umami… this flavor is also found in grilled vegetables, mushrooms, avocado, nuts, soy sauce and cheese. It is also found in breast milk, which explains its appeal.
Including non-animal foods in your diet that contain umami will make it easier to switch to a plant-based diet.
supplements…when switching to a plant-based diet, you should be aware that your diet may be deficient in micronutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc.
Your body can make small amounts of vitamin B12, but not enough for your needs, and the only external source of this vitamin is meat. All omega-3 fats must be obtained from outside the body, and the main source is fish (although some plants contain small amounts).
Therefore, it is highly recommended to take supplements on a daily basis. This is what I take:
(2) B12 (4mcg) in a separate tablet
(3) Calcium (400 mg) plus vitamin D (2.5 mcg) together in a separate tablet
(4) High concentration cod liver oil capsule with vitamins D and E, in a separate capsule.
I urge you to do the same.