Plant Based Diet: What is it exactly?

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The words “plant-based diet” have been bandied about for a few years now. We know that this is the healthiest diet to follow to reduce the risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes & other chronic diseases. This is based on scientific research. I have recommend a plant-based diet or moving towards a plant-based diet on this Blog many times. So what exactly is this diet & what does plant-based mean?

The USNews & World Report publishes the Best Diets Rankings at the beginning of each year. They have what I consider the best working definition of a plant-based diet: Best Plant-Based DietsPlant-based diets are good for the environment, your heart, your weight and your overall health. U.S. News defines plant-based as an approach that emphasizes minimally processed foods from plants, with modest amounts of fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy, and red meat only sparingly. The reason I like this definition is because it follows current scientific research & it is practical for everyone. I believe that the confusion comes from those of us who describe ourselves as being a vegetarian or a vegan, as being plant-based. Both definitions are accurate even though they seem to be conflicting.

There is no such thing as a universal quick fix when it comes to diets. The answer is to find a common ground that we can all benefit from. Because of it’s versatility the plant-based Mediterranean diet appears to be that common ground. It will work for cultural differences, food preferences, allergies, food sensitivities & more. It is easy to understand & according to all the research it is the one way of eating that people can maintain for a lifetime. 

Even though I have been a vegetarian or vegan for 50+ years, I understand that when confronted with the with the words plant-based, most people would just tune out. Do I think that the vegan diet is the best one for overall health? Yes, I do, but it isn’t a diet for everyone. It requires time, energy & planning to make it a nutritionally balanced diet. 

For example, people who have a medical diagnosis that requires more calcium; osteopenia or osteoporosis, would do better as a vegetarian who eats dairy or on the Mediterranean diet where they would get more dietary calcium then on a vegan diet. As a vegan you can get the recommended amount of calcium in your diet but it has to be well thought out. As a lacto-vegetarian or on the Mediterranean diet it is not a problem at all to up your dietary calcium intake.

Many do not want to give up their dairy, meat & fish, but they would consider cutting down on it to have a healthier lifestyle. This is why I feel that the first definition, by the USNews group, is the one that would get more people to consider a plant-based diet such as the Mediterranean. 

Being more plant-based or moving towards the plant-based diet would simply mean to add more vegetables, whole grains & fruits to your plate each day & downplay the dairy, poultry, fish & seafood. Red meat, & pork would be eaten in small amounts once a month or phased out as would processed food. This approach is doable. 

My absolute favorite site to learn about the Mediterranean diet & how to apply it to your meal plan is on the Oldways website: Mediterranean Diet. The page has the Mediterranean Pyramid & the following informational tabs:

  • 8 Steps to Getting Started with the Mediterranean Diet
  • Our 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan
  • Our Mediterranean Diet Email Newsletter
  • Our “Mediterranean Diet 101” brochure: Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet
  • Foods & Flavors of the Mediterranean Diet
  • The Mediterranean Diet and Health: Proven Benefits in Countless Studies 
  • The Healthy Pasta Meal

Oldways also has a Mediterranean Recipe page. There are pages of recipes that are quick & easy to more complicated. When you click on the link I provided it takes you to all the recipes. On the left you can use the filters to get more specific recipes. I use the vegan filter. There is even a filter for more affordable meals. 

From the Mayo Clinic: Mediterranean diet recipesExperiment with eating the Mediterranean way with these recipes. By Mayo Clinic Staff, “People who follow the Mediterranean diet have a longer life expectancy and lower rates of chronic diseases than do other adults. Indeed, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans point to the Mediterranean diet as an example of a healthy-eating plan.” This site has a few recipes to get you started.

Even AllRecipes has a list of healthy recipes: Mediterranean Diet Recipes  Find recipes that fit the Mediterranean diet, using lots of olive oil, fresh fruit and veggies, beans, and fish.” I scrolled through & found that they varied from traditional to heart healthy. Take a look!

Our NUT friend Suzi sent me this link to a Natural Food Store that is very special. Unfortunately for those of us in California, there are no stores in the state. The reason I am sharing this link is because of the recipes & the list of ingredients they refuse to sell in their store. Lots to learn from them.

Natural Grocers: What We Won’t Sell and Why  This is an amazing list with information about the problems with each food, supplement & body care ingredient. What an amazing store! 

You can search by specific ingredients or by diets. I found some interesting recipes for vegans. Natural Grocers: Recipe Finder

Thank you for sharing this with us Suzi! If any of you want to share a website or a recipe with us, send it to me!

So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the Oldways website link: Mediterranean Diet, & see how you can make changes in your way of eating to fit into a healthy plant-based Mediterranean diet. Once you get the hang of it, it is a simple, tasty way to becoming a healthier you. Plus, your family will love you for it 🙂

Information from our Resource page to help you.

  • Good Fish Guide: Great information about specific fish you may eat. This site is out of the United Kingdom but is relevant information. Lots to learn about fish!
  • Monteray Bay Aqaurium Seafood Watch: This is the best site to keep an eye on the seafood that you eat.
  • Eat Wild: This site tells you where you can buy healthy meats by state.
  • Harvest Calendar: For San Diego & Southern California
  • San Diego Farmer’s Markets: Look at the menu on the left under “Buy Local”. Lots of good information.
  • Shelf Life Advice:  Wondering about how long those Easter eggs will last? How about those veggies you have had for two days? This site is really nice to find out the shelf life for specific items. 

 Next week it is time for the March Nutritional Nuggets. Interesting information to share. Until then…Mary 🙂