Paleo, Keto, Vegan … Oh my! We are bombarded with different diets regularly, many of them claiming extreme weight loss and several other alluring health benefits. Which one should we follow? How do we know which one is best for us? This can become overwhelming for even the seasoned health enthusiast. Many of these eating styles may offer several benefits, but one in particular holds the reins (in our opinion) when it comes to optimum health and wellbeing. Plant-based, baby! Plants are so powerful that they can harness sunlight and create energy, so why wouldn’t we want to load our bodies full of their plant magic?
A whole-food, plant-based, or plant-forward eating plan is a way of eating consisting mainly of unprocessed, fresh, plant-based foods with less animal products and processed food such as refined sugars and oils. Before you begin to sweat over what you might miss, let’s talk about all that you can include in this regimen. First of all, following a plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to be 100% vegan, it just means that the majority of your food comes from plant sources. Now a plant-based diet is not limited to only fruits and vegetables, but can include beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. By adding a variety of these plant-forward foods into your meal planning you will be loading up on vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (great for digestion and gut health) and you certainly won’t get bored with what you are eating! Today, we are so lucky because there are many delicious plant-based substitutes for all of our favorite provisions like cheese, milk, and burgers, hooray!
Plants are incredibly high in phytonutrients; compounds produced by plants that have antioxidant properties that help to boost immunity, promote healthy skin, bones and vision, while also reducing one of the most damaging processes to our health - inflammation. Basically, anyone and everyone can benefit in all kinds of ways from a more plant-based diet. Bonus: eating in this way will also reduce your global footprint because a plant-based diet is much less stressful on the environment (check out a couple of great documentaries: Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy for more information on this subject).
Following a plant-based diet will not only result in sufficient nutrient intake, but it is linked to a decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even cancer. Research has shown that a plant-based diet is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and weight loss as well as aids in digestion, increases energy, and can improve our overall sense of well being.
Here are just a few books and documentaries if you’d like to investigate more:
- China Study
- What the Health
- The Game Changers
- Forks over Knives (They have a few great cookbooks as well!)
- The Omnivore's Dilemma (Michael Pollan has a few books)
So now that we know how impressive eating more plants can be, how do we get started? Well, the transition can be made as quickly or as slowly as you like! It is easiest to begin by reducing animal products and processed foods. These can be replaced with legumes and whole grains, which are starchy and will allow you to feel full, and satisfied. There is no need to worry about protein, either, which can be a major concern for many people switching over to a plant-based diet. Beans, nuts, seeds, and even whole grains are all excellent plant-based sources of protein that also contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and several other vital nutrients.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can start small by making every breakfast plant-based (oatmeal, coconut yogurt with fruit, etc.) until you get the hang of it. From here you can begin to prepare meals you’ve always loved that just happen to be plant-based (like a baked sweet potato, veggie stir-fry, pasta dishes with vegetables, lentil burgers, or vegetarian chili). Also, it definitely helps if you stock your fridge and pantry up on plant-based snacks in case you are in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare anything. OHi Wholesome Bars are perfect on-the-go snacks that are full of incredible superfoods to help you power through your day, and they just happen to be 100% plant-based!
It may take a bit to get used to this new way of eating and shopping. If you feel a little uncertain when you walk into the grocery store, remember to keep it simple and stick to the perimeters for the majority of your purchases. Refer back to our May blog post, Live Life on the Fringes; Shop the Perimeter! for reference. And below are some of the staples from our shopping list:
- OHi Wholesome Bars
- Vegetables - all, especially those leafy greens
- Beans (any: black, pinto, cannellini)
- Nuts and Seeds (chia, pumpkin, hemp, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
- Any nut butters - we love them all!
- Brown or wild rice
- Nut based cheese, milks, dips
Our goal is to empower you when it comes to your health and well-being, and be sure you have the resources for success. So, here is a link for a few yummy and easy breakfast recipes to check out:
Another great way to integrate the plant-based lifestyle is following creators and influencers like @plantyou, @healthygirlkitchen, @vegan, @plantbasedonabudget and accounts like @vegnews and @vegoutla who post amazing resources, vegan recipes and plant-based substitutes.
And for your next Taco Tuesday, here is one of our favorite plant-based taco meat recipes:
- 3 cups raw walnuts
- ¾ cup sun dried tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp avocado oil
- 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 3-4 Tbsp of water
1. Put walnuts in a blender or food processor and pulse until chopped into chunky pieces. Place walnuts into a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Soak sun dried tomatoes in water for a few minutes. Then drain, and put them into the blender or food processor with garlic, jalapeno, spices, yeast, avocado oil and water (use the water that you soaked the sun dried tomatoes in).
3. Blend until you achieve a thick, sauce consistency. You may have to add an extra tablespoon or two of water.
4. Pour the sauce over the walnuts and stir to coat them thoroughly. Add this into taco shells, top with your favorite taco toppings, and enjoy!
Over time, this style of eating can become second nature. Whether you choose to follow a plant-based diet to prevent disease, reduce your global footprint, or to increase nutrients in your diet, you are sure to reap many benefits in regard to your health.