What Are Plant-Based Diets?

A healthy lifestyle begins with healthy eating habits, and one of the best ways to have a good diet is to eat plant-based meals. But with so many variations available, what exactly are plant-based diets?

The most common ones are vegetarianism and veganism, which are often confused for one another. Vegetarian diets can vary but vegetarians do not typically eat animals but eat animal products like dairy and eggs. Vegans, however, don’t eat any animal meats or products, and may often avoid using other animal by-products that come from the skin, wool, or fur of animals (like leathers, clothing, and skincare products/makeup). Being vegetarian or vegan can stem from several reasons, such as ethical motivations, dietary purposes, or religious beliefs.

Other plant-based diets can include some animal products, like lacto, ovo, and lacto-ovo vegetarians who differ between eating dairy, eggs, or both, while abstaining from meat. People who still eat meat occasionally (usually a couple of times a week) but not at the level of an omnivore diet are known as semi-vegetarians or flexitarians. They focus on getting their protein intake from plants rather than meat, reducing sugar intake and eating less processed foods.

There are a number of reasons why one would become vegetarian or vegan, such as ethical motivations, dietary purposes, or religious beliefs, but you can always start small like flexitarians, especially if you’re wanting to change your diet for your health (but aren’t sure you can handle an immediate change).

It’s easier than ever to eat plant-based food, with supplements, meat-substitute alternatives, and dining options focusing more than ever on healthy, accessible, and delicious foods. As long as your diet is balanced and nutritional, you may see health benefits like lowered cholesterol levels, reduced risks of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers (a 2016 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who followed a vegan diet had a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer).

The foods you may want to focus on consuming in a plant-based diet include:

  • Protein rich vegetables like broccoli, lentils, potato, spinach, chickpeas, and asparagus.
  • Eat fruit when you have a craving for a snack or something sweet. Fruits like strawberries, bananas, watermelon, or peaches have natural sugars and plenty of vitamins.
  • Whole grain foods like cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, bread, and pastas have nutrients like fibre, vitamins, proteins, and minerals (such as iron and magnesium) to keep your body healthy.

Of course, with any lifestyle change, you should consult a doctor or nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need. And remember to have fun with your meals, don’t just relegate yourself to eating lettuce, make small changes at first and find out what plant-based diets you prefer!