Living a plant-forward lifestyle is about eating an abundance of whole, minimally processed foods. The goal is to fill your plate with more produce and plant products, but it’s not meant to feel restrictive. There’s no clear definition of what constitutes the diet, which can vary depending on whether an individual consumes animal products. In general, the regimen focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, and excludes refined foods such as added sugars, processed oils and white flour. If you’re wondering how to transition to a plant-based diet, it may be easier than you think!
The Advantages of Plant-Forward Consumption
You may think twice about running away from that stalk of broccoli when you consider the dramatic health benefits of a plant-based diet. Along with more energy, better weight management, improved digestion and a healthier gut microbiome, following this eating plan decreases the risk of:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Certain cancers
- Cognitive decline
Aside from warding off chronic diseases, a plant-based diet also is considerably less expensive when compared with the standard American diet (SAD), which is filled with processed meats, prepackaged foods, fried fare and refined grains. When you buy seasonal produce, you support local farmers and save money because the crops are more abundant and assessable. Plus, they retain more nutrients than off-season produce that must travel a great distance.<br /><br /></span>A plant-based diet benefits you in other ways, including being chock-full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. Adopting this low-carbon diet not only can boost your quality of life, but also can help the planet by slashing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing deforestation — both impacts of animal agriculture.
How You Can Integrate More Plants Into Your Diet
It’s not all about wheatgrass shots and green smoothies. How strictly you follow a plant-forward eating plan is up to you. Try incorporating small changes as you transition, such as eating vegetables for breakfast by adding spinach to your eggs or eating a breakfast vegetable bowl. Experiment with a new-to-you plant food or recipe each week. You’ll add variety to your diet and find out which vegetables and grains you favor. If you’re inspired to increase your vegetable intake, aim to fill half of each lunch and dinner plate with them. Be sure to “eat the rainbow” by including a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure that you’re getting plenty of antioxidants. Cultivate a garden for convenient access to inexpensive fresh herbs and vegetables. Opting for fruit desserts and snacks can satisfy your sweet tooth as well as refined cookies, cakes and ice cream.
Veganism vs. Vegetarianism
While several eating plans promote a plant-based lifestyle, veganism and vegetarianism are more structured. Vegans eschew all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs and seafood, and instead get their protein from legumes, nuts and seeds, and certain vegetables. Vegans may need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12, which is found in animal products, to ensure they’re receiving all the nutrients required for good health. Vegan protein benefits include avoiding the added hormones and antibiotics found in many meats and eating sources of plant protein that contain or combine to contain all nine essential amino acids.
Vegetarians also abstain from the consumption of meat while following a plant-based diet, which may or may not include dairy, eggs and fish. Plant-forward, in contrast, is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them and may include meat.
You don’t need to embrace a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle to reap the benefits of adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals. Regardless of which lifestyle you practice, simply basing your diet around more nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods can significantly improve your health and well-being. Experimenting with ingredients, flavors, spices, produce and meatless meals can get you into the habit of adopting a plant-forward lifestyle.