What are your goals for the new year? Are you are wanting to step up your health game, live longer and even help the planet? Then eating more plant foods is the way to go!
What is a Plant Based Diet?
A plant based diet is not just another fad diet that you try for a week and “fall-off the band-wagon”.
Plant based eating a long-term, sustainable way of eating that can benefit your physical and mental health.
A plant based diet is exactly as the name suggests: it’s a diet based on plants.
Plant foods include vegetables, fruit (including dried fruit), legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, herbs and spices.
Now when I refer to a plant based diet, I’m not referring to a “plant exclusive” or “plant only” diet. Some people may define a plant based diet this way (which is totally fine).
But as a Dietitian – and I know many other health professionals agree – I believe a plant based diet means a diet based on plant foods. Or another term I like to use is “plant filled diet”; a diet filled with plants.
Plant based diets are not restrictive. They don’t cut out entire food groups and they are flexible.
You can still include foods like fish, meat, dairy and eggs in smaller amounts if you wish.
The goal is to make plant foods the focus of every meal. You’re aiming to eat more plant foods than animal-based foods, not the other way around. Make plant foods the star of your plate!
Why Go Plant Based?
Adopting a plant based diet can benefit your physical and mental health, as well as be helping the planet and even your hip pocket.
Here are just some of the reasons you should go plant based this year:
- For a healthier, longer life – a plant based diet can help you live a healthier and longer life. By simply eating more plant foods each day, you can improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Let’s take nuts for example. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “the consumption of nuts was inversely associated with total mortality in both men and women, independently of other predictors of death. Participants who regularly consumed a one-ounce (28 g) daily serving of nuts had a 20 percent lower death rate, compared to those who did not consume nuts.” This study is the largest ever conducted investigating the effects of nut intake on mortality.
- For your nutrients – plant foods are rich in nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis.
Plant foods like legumes and nuts contain plant proteins. Spices are loaded with antioxidants.
Vegetables are rich in micronutrients and fruit, including dried fruits (e.g. dried figs, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, prunes and raisins), can help provide us with fibre, potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins like vitamin A & vitamin K.
- For a healthy weight – if your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, swap this for the goal of eating more plant foods or going plant based!
Most of us know that vegetables are beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. But did you know that even plant foods like nuts, which are an energy dense food with a high fat content, can also help you maintain a healthy weight?!
Research shows that nuts are actually associated with a decreased risk of being overweight or obese. Those who eat nuts are less likely to be overweight than those who don’t eat nuts, and are more likely to be a healthy weight.
- For your gut health – plant foods are rich in fibre, which is essential for a healthy functioning gut. Research has linked a plant-based diet to greater microbial diversification.
This is because plant based diets are rich in prebiotics – the food for our healthy gut bacteria. Different probiotics feed off different prebiotics, so enjoy eating a variety and abundance of plant based foods is key!
Click here to learn more about prebiotics, plant foods and a healthy gut.
- For attitudinal immunity – eating more plant foods can help you feel good from the inside out. When we feel good from the inside out, there is nothing that can bring us down.
This is the concept of attitudinal immunity – when we feel good, we are immune to the negativity around us.
Eating plant foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits including dried fruits, legumes and whole grains, can make you feel good physically and mentally and give us the real plant-based power and the attitudinal immunity we need to face everyday challenges.
Grab a handful of nuts and dried fruit, boost your plant intake’ and power up your day!
- For the environment – studies show that animal foods are the planet’s leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Switching to a plant based diet can help reduce greenhouse gasses, and we can even go a step further and particularly with a focus on local, seasonal plant based eating.
- It’s sustainable – adopting a plant based diet is sustainable. It’s not just a quick fix or a 12 week challenge; its a long term sustainable lifestyle change.
Eating more plant foods can help you achieve your health goals for 2021 and beyond!
If you want to go plant based and eat more plants in 2021, remember to include a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits (including dried fruits), nuts, seeds, whole grains and spices each day.
Here is one of my favourite plant based recipes for you to try: Stuffed Baked Pumpkin with Cranberries and Mixed Nuts.
Recipe: Stuffed Baked Pumpkin with Cranberries and Mixed Nuts
Makes 4 serves
- 2 small butternut pumpkins, washed, halved and seeds removed
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 1 small bunch of kale, chopped
- ¼ cup mixed nuts, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- ¼ cup slithered almonds
- 1 brown onion, diced
- ½ cup cranberries
- Extra virgin olive oil for cooking
- Preheat oven to 190C.
- Line a large tray with baking paper. Lay out pumpkin halves and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for approximately 40min or until cooked through.
- While pumpkin is baking, cook couscous according to packet instructions.
- Heat 1 Tbs olive oil on a pan and sauté garlic and onion.
- Add nuts to pan and toast.
- Then add kale and a dash of water and sauté.
- Add in cooked couscous and cranberries. Mix through.
- Remove pumpkin halves from oven. Scoop out a small section from each (place in fridge for later use). Fill each pumpkin with couscous mixture.
- Serve and enjoy.
Looking for more healthy plant filled recipes? Click here to try my World’s Easiest Fruit and Nut Bread Recipe.
Editor’s Note: This article was written as part of my work with INC. To learn more about the health benefits of nuts and dried fruit, click here.