Are you interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet but don’t know where to start? This guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the switch. We’ll cover everything from a plant-based diet to the benefits of eating this way to tips for making the transition easier, including using wellness supplements to your advantage. So whether you’re a total beginner or just looking for some tips to make the transition smoother, this guide is for you.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet focuses on foods derived from plants, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, legumes (beans), lentils and peas. This type of diet can be altered to also include small amounts of dairy and eggs and fish, but it would then not be plant-based, but flexitarian.
A plant-based diet is also sometimes called a vegetarian or vegan diet, but they have different motivations. Vegetarians and vegans are concerned with animal welfare, the environment and animal cruelty, as well as health. Only vegan diets and lifestyles are genuinely, by definition, 100% plant-based at all times, as far as it is practicable.
What Isn’t on the Menu?
You won’t be eating any meat or poultry on a plant-based diet. This includes red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb, and chicken and turkey. You also won’t be consuming any fish or seafood. And, if you’re following a vegan lifestyle, you’ll avoid all animal products, including dairy, eggs and even honey, as well as animal-derived ingredients in household and personal care products, and clothing made of leather and wool, among other concerns.
It’s important to remember that animal products are hidden in many foods, so when you’re making the switch to a plant-based diet, it’s essential to read labels carefully. In addition, animal products can be found in some unlikely places, such as:
- Marshmallows – Gelatin is made from animal bone marrow.
- Worcestershire sauce – Anchovies are in there unless it is a vegan brand.
- Many types of bread – Anything that uses eggs, honey or milk would not be plant-based.
The Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet
There are many benefits to eating a plant-based diet. Here are our top three explained.
1) Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet’s health benefits are numerous for various reasons.
First, plant-based diets are often lower in calories and unhealthy fats than diets that include animal products. This can lead to a lower risk of obesity and related health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Also, studies have shown that those who follow plant-based diets tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI).
In addition, plant-based diets are high in fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. As well, they contain many vitamins and minerals essential for good health.
For example, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins C and A, which are important for immune system function, and potassium, critical for maintaining healthy blood pressure. In addition, grains contain B vitamins, necessary for energy metabolism. Legumes are a good source of iron, which is needed for making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
Plant-based diets are suitable for your physical health, but they can also improve your mental health. For example, one study found that vegetarians had a lower risk of suffering from depression than non-vegetarians. Another study found that people who ate a primarily plant-based diet were less likely to suffer from anxiety and sleep problems and had better cardiovascular health.
2) Environmental Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
The average person cannot imagine the environmental impact of factory farming. While CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) provide an abundance of food to feed hungry populations worldwide, the environment suffers as a result.
The United Nations has called factory farming one of the biggest threats to the environment and think it may lead to increased pandemic risks. Factory farms generate a massive amount of pollution from animal waste, which often finds its way into rivers and lakes, causing water contamination. The air around factory farms is also polluted with methane gas from all the animals confined in small spaces.
All of this pollution takes a toll on the environment, and it’s estimated that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 45% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the entire transportation sector.
Eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the environment. According to researchers from the University of Michigan and Tulane University, if Americans switched up their dietary habits by just reducing their overall calories and relying less on meat, “the one-day greenhouse-gas emissions reduction would be equivalent to eliminating 661 million passenger-vehicle miles.” So imagine the benefits if everyone went full-blown plant-based.
3) Ethical Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
In addition to the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, there are also ethical benefits. Industrial farming has been called one of the worst crimes in history. Animals raised for food on factory farms are often kept in cramped, unsanitary conditions. They are given hormones and antibiotics to keep them alive in these conditions. These animals usually live short, painful lives before they’re slaughtered.
On the other hand, plant-based foods do not come from sentient beings that have been treated inhumanely. Therefore, for people who oppose animal cruelty, a plant-based diet is an obvious choice.
Making the Switch
Transitioning from an omni-diet to a plant-based diet may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to make the switch:
- Start Slow – You don’t have to go from eating meat at every meal to being a vegan overnight. Start by incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet and gradually phasing out meat. Eventually, you can transition to an entirely plant-based diet if you desire. Meatless Mondays can help.
- Find Recipes You Love – Don’t force yourself to eat foods you don’t like just because they’re vegan. There are endless recipes for delicious plant-based meals, so take some time to find ones that you’ll enjoy.
- Educate Yourself – Learning about the benefits of a plant-based diet will help you stick to it. Read books, watch documentaries and talk to people who have made the switch. The more you know, the easier it will be to stick to your new diet.
- Use Supplements – Any drastic change in diet is accompanied by gut realignment as the body gets used to new types of food. This can often lead to bloating and other digestive issues. To help your body adjust, consider taking a daily natural probiotics supplement to help maintain healthy gut flora.
- Don’t Worry About Protein – Too many people believe in the myth that you can only get protein from meat. This simply isn’t true. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources and including them in meals becomes easier with time. There are also supplements like plant-based protein powder that you can add to smoothies and other recipes to ensure you’re getting enough protein.
The Beginning of a Great Journey
Making the switch to a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health, the environment and the animals. It may seem daunting at first, but you can make the transition easier with a bit of preparation and patience. There are plenty of recipes and resources available to help you. So what are you waiting for? Start making changes today that will benefit you, your loved ones and the planet we all call home.