Eating a Plant-based Diet

Eating a Plant-based Diet
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A version of this article was originally published on Pyure

Throughout this blog, you will see that I have posts on several ways of eating including flexitarian, keto/low-carb, vegan, paleo, DASH, and the Mediterranean diet among several others. We are all different and no one diet is suitable for everyone. As such, it’s good to have varied information on best practices regarding dietary choices.

That said, and keeping in line with my previous post on how to stay healthy during the covid-19 pandemic, today, in collaboration with my friends over at Pyure, we’re focusing on how we can enhance our general health by learning about and following a plant-based diet.

The plant-based diet trend

Nearly ten million Americans follow a plant-based diet for health, ethical, or preference reasons. Yet, there’s some confusion around the term plant-based – it’s not the same as vegan or vegetarian, though those terms sometimes get used interchangeably. We’ll break down what it means to eat a plant-based diet, as well as how sugar fits into a plant-based diet for weight loss.

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What is a plant-based diet?

People who follow a plant-based diet mostly or entirely eat plants. The majority of what they eat is fruit, vegetables, legumes – rather than animal products such as meat, cheese, or eggs.

There are many variations of plant-based diets, including:

  • Whole-foods plant-based: This diet prioritizes eating whole, unrefined, or minimally refined food that comes from plants, without any animal ingredients (meat, milk, eggs, or honey). It excludes processed foods, like boxed macaroni and cheese or meat-free vegan chicken nuggets.
  • Mediterranean diet: Named for the traditional eating habits in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts, and seeds, using olive oil as the primary fat and low amounts of animal proteins, usually fish over meat.
  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian: This diet also prioritizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, but as the name suggests, followers are flexible and incorporate meat and animal products sometimes.
  • Pescetarian: This diet cuts out red meat, poultry, and “wild game” but permits dairy products (such as cheese), eggs, as well as fish and shellfish.
  • The DASH diet: DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet aims to reduce sodium in your diet and to help lower blood pressure. Followers of the DASH diet eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, some fish, poultry, and legumes, plus a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week.
  • The MIND diet: MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet is a hybrid of the two diets mentioned above and aims to reduce the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health.

So what are the benefits of eating a plant-based diet?

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are, unsurprisingly, varied depending on what plants each person chooses to eat. For instance, one study compared the effects of a plant-based diet that incorporated whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes as compared to a plant-based diet that included potatoes (fries and potato chips), sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, and refined grains. The first group had the lowest risk for heart disease, were more active, and weighed less than the second group.

Plant-based vs. Vegan diets

So, what’s the difference between a plant-based diet and veganism?

Vegan diets abstain from all animal-based products. Often, veganism extends beyond dietary choices and into lifestyle habits. “Veganism is generally defined as living in a way that avoids consuming, using, or exploiting animals as much as realistically possible. While this leaves room for individual preferences and barriers, the overall intent is that minimal harm is done to animals through life choices,” reports Healthline. “In addition to excluding animal products from their diets, people who label themselves as vegan typically avoid purchasing items that were made from or tested on animals.”

As it relates to eating habits, many vegans still eat processed foods. Vegans can certainly eat junk food – cookies, potato chips, and some candies are vegan. If you’re seeking to eat better to lose weight, veganism isn’t necessarily a silver bullet. It’s important to consider the quality of your ingredients in addition to where they come from (plants or animals).

How does sugar fit into eating plant-based?

For those looking to eat healthier or lose weight, making the switch to plant-based is a good start – but only when you start to incorporate the right types of plant-based ingredients. “A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Kelly Plowe, MS, RD told VeryWellFit.

A whole-foods, plant-based diet will eliminate processed sugar, but be aware: alternatives like maple syrup, coconut sugar, and raw cane sugar can have the same effect on blood sugar as table sugar. Instead, research shows that stevia is a better alternative – and it’s plant-based.

Pyure Organic Stevia is one of the only organic stevia brands out there. Stevia is a sweetener that’s zero glycemic (meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar), zero-calorie, and free from any of the chemicals used to create artificial sweeteners.

If you’re interested in a plant-based diet for weight loss, don’t forget a key ingredient: stevia. Stevia is a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar – so a little goes a long way. Just by substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, you’ll be making a big difference in your nutrition.

Is following a plant-based diet right for you?

Only you can decide if a plant-based diet is right for you. The good thing is, you have a lot of choice and flexibility when it comes to this way of eating. You can mix and match the various plant-based diets we mentioned above. I myself prefer the flexitarian plant-based diet because I don’t feel any pressure about what to eat. Instead, I eat a bit of everything omitting the foods I don’t like. I include more fish and poultry and omit red meats and I abstain from sugar by using stevia-based sweeteners like Pyure.

How are you eating during the Pandemic? Are you able to sustain a healthy diet? Let us know in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Eating a Plant-based Diet”

  • Even being stuck in “lock down” does not seem to have freed up much of my working day, so to find your site about Quick & Healthy Meals could be really good for me.  I do believe that the more of a plant-based food we can consume has to be the healthier choice. I am by family circumstances very much a Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian but in all honesty, I I am more of a Pescetarian. I very much enjoy fish and seafood and don`t like meat much at all.  The fact that you highlight the health benefits of eating a more plant based diet, might just help me to persuade my partner to become more of a Pescetarian.  I have just shared your url with her.  We hardly use sugar btw, and if possible only buy pure Bolivian Stevia.  Are you familiar with that stevia?

    • Hi Trevor,

      Yes indeed, a plant-based diet is for sure better for health than a meat-heavy one. Thank you for sharing my blog with your partner, I hope she finds some value herein. About Bolivia Stevia, no I have never heard of it. Now I’m intrigued and will go to look it up!

      Stay well in these trying times,
      Dawn

  • Wow, this is a very good post you have here on being a part of a plant based diet. Personally,I have been thinking of this but there are some kinda of foods that I cannot leave that makes it really hard for me to switch like that but your post really shows me so much and I would definitely be considering switching now.

    • Hi Jackie,

      It’s not difficult at all, especially if you go to a more flexitarian plant-based diet. You can eat whatever you want, just make sure to incorporate more plant-based foods and limit too much of animal-based foods. Let me know if you have any questions and I’d be glad to help.

      Stay safe!

      Dawn

  • Hi Dawn!…your article offered so much for a healthy way of living. I and my whole family is more of a flexitarian mix with pescetarian because we are living near or along the coastline, so most of our diet includes fish most of the time with fruits , legumes, poultry products and veggies. We use stevia as sweetener for our blends and coffee. But the most important of all is the whole family enjoys exercise activity and fitness, because as a doctor by profession and a diabetes disease educator…my experience is that, diet alone is not the sole and only strategy or solution to maintain good health but it must be with regular physical exercise to produce good results. Thank you for the share.

    keep safe!

    laertesMD

    • Hi Iaertes!

      Thanks so much for your insightful comment! I fully agree that we must include physical exercise as part of our healthy living regime. Alas, it sometimes is the most difficult part for many of us. Slow and steady wins the race though!

      Take good care and stay safe,
      Dawn

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