Let me preface by saying, a plant-based diet is the most nutritious food you will ever eat in your life. There’s no denying it. I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years of my life. I occasionally used to eat goat cheese and a piece of salmon. In the summer, three years ago, I adopted a vegan/plant-based lifestyle because it’s lighter and easier on the body. I transitioned to a completely plant-based diet as a lifestyle choice for me.
After reading Dr. Neal Bernard’s book, “The Vegan Starter Kit, “Victoria Moran’s “Main Street Vegan,” and African American Tracy MCQuirter with Mary MCQuirter’s Ageless Vegan,” I was on my way to a healthy new beginning. These books are my go-to books on a plant-based vegan lifestyle.
A plant-based diet is becoming more popular in the United States and around the world. More people now identify as vegetarian or vegan. Burger King is now carrying the plant-based burger, the “Impossible Burger” and Dunkin Donut is carrying the plant-based sausage, along with White Castle and Kentucky Fried Chicken also previewing plant-based products.
However, the United States is still lagging behind many other countries when it comes to swapping animal protein for plant-based protein. A study conducted by the Netherlands looked at almost 6,000 people, and the team found that those who ate a high ratio plant-derived protein in comparison to those who ate an animal-derived protein were at a lower risk developing coronary heart disease later in life.
Another study looked at South Asian people living in the USA found that vegetarianism was associated with fewer risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. It does not mean you have to become a vegetarian to reap the benefits. A diet rich in plant-based foods and low in meat, without strictly following a vegetarian diet may offer protection against obesity and other heart health challenges.
What is the right plant-based diet for you? For me, it is going vegan. A vegan diet is entirely plant-based. It excludes meat, fish, dairy and eggs, basically anything that comes from an animal. I take a vitamin B-12 which is an important supplement when you are on a vegan plant-based diet.
You don’t need to go vegan or vegetarian to get the best heart health benefit. You should focus on eating more of the right plant-based foods. For example, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and healthy oils are healthy plant-based foods to consume. An unhealthy plant-based food includes fruit juices, refined grains, (pasta, white rice, processed bread, and cereals) french fries, potato chips and sugar-sweetened beverages. The focus should be on the more healthy plant-based foods, avoiding the wrong kind, and eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet, to live a more healthy lifestyle.
If you find that a plant-based diet is intimidating, you should start small. By lowering the intake of animal food by one to two servings per day, and replacing it with more legumes or nuts as your protein source. Researchers concluded that even if you’ve eaten a poor diet half your life, by adding more healthy plant-based foods now, you will help to reduce your risk of heart health challenges.
Considering eating less meat or giving it up entirely will decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 disease, and many cancers. Meat is loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat which result in poor health. A plant-based diet, in the end, will result in a healthy new you with all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health and are higher in fiber and phytonutrients.
Some tips to help you get started on a plant-based diet include:
- Eat lots of organic vegetables by filling up your plates at lunch and dinner with plenty of colors in choosing vegetables.
- Eat less meat. Have a smaller amount or not eat it at all. Try joining the movement Meatless Mondays by not eating meat on Mondays.
- Choose good fats like olive oil, olives, nuts, and nut butter, seeds, and avocado.
- Cook a vegetarian or vegan meal at least one night a week by having beans, whole grains, and vegetables. I love beans with cauliflower stir fry vegetables and quinoa.
- Have whole grains for breakfast. Have steel-cut oatmeal with almond milk or oat milk with cinnamon and nutmeg. My favorite breakfast. Also quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
- Have a fresh salad for lunch. Have a bowl of romaine lettuce, spinach or leafy greens along with fresh herbs, beans or tofu.
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert. Watermelon, apples, peaches, blueberries, bananas, cherries are all favorites of choice.
When you continue to eat a plant-based diet, over time it will become second nature to you to live a healthier lifestyle.
Join other trailblazers…the movement is now!