If I was a betting man, I’d wager that the three words that will carry the dietetics field into the future will be “Eat More Plants”.
No, I don’t mean the petunias in your garden (although they do look quite healthy, I wouldn’t recommend trying them.)
In all seriousness, pretty much each and every one of us could benefit from increasing our consumption of whole, unprocessed plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes nuts and seeds.
Eating more of these types of foods, especially in place of foods of animal-origin, is being increasingly recognized as the singular most important component to good health.
What happens when to your diet when you effectively incorporate more plant-based foods into it?
#1 You get less of the stuff that you DON’T need more of:
- Saturated Animal Fat
- Animal Protein
#2 You get more of the stuff you DO need more of:
- Plant Protein
- Antioxidants + Phytochemicals
And what happens to your body when you get more of the stuff you need, and less of the stuff you don’t?
People who eat more plant foods and less animal foods tend to have:
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Better blood glucose control
- Lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, prostate & colon cancer
That’s a whole lot of benefits.
Don’t overlook those benefits
- High blood pressure and blood cholesterol are two of the most common and avoidable reasons that people are prescribed medication for.
- Heart disease is the #1 killer of North Americans that has a significant dietary component (and second to lung disease overall.)
Oh, and you will be doing the environment a favour as well.
Diets higher in foods of plant-origin use fewer natural resources and do less damage to the environment.
And what about those people out there that say you NEED significant amounts of animal-based foods in your diet to get enough vitamins and minerals?
The American Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics, the largest network of nutrition professionals in the world, says the following:
“[Well planned plant based]-diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes.”
I’m guessing by now that I’ve convinced you that eating more plants and less animals is a smart move, but how does one get started on that path?
My 5 Quick + Easy Tips To Eat More Plants
- Learn what a serving of vegetables is: A serving of veggies is either 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup cooked. Figure out how many servings you eat in a day, and strive to double it. This is your first step towards a healthier you. I love potatoes, but do me a favour and don’t count them in this list as they are nutritionally more similar to a grain than a vegetable ( I’m thinking more leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli etc).
- Try fortified soy or almond milk instead of cow’s milk: I’m not necessarily anti-dairy, but this is an easy way to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet whether you are just making a recipe or enjoying the milk as is.
- Try making a tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs: I promise you will never look at tofu the same way again. Recipe link here.
- Use Avocado anywhere you’d previously used butter: Whether that is spread on toast, or in a recipe of any kind, avocado is an exceptional replacement. Don’t like avocado? Peanut or nut-based butters are an easy alternative as well.
- Understand that lentils & chickpeas are meat alternatives: Many people I encounter tend to think of lentils and chickpeas are some sort of grain. You need to understand that these foods are packed with protein and intended to be used as a replacement for meat at meal time, not necessarily as a compliment to it.
The final point I will say is that, if you are in the mood for meat, opt for fatty fish such as salmon or trout most often. Being exceptionally high in both Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids, these fish varieties pack both protein and a serious nutritional punch.
Everyone wants quick, sexy solutions to the worlds nutrition problems. Although no such solution exists, eating more plants and less animals is the one piece of wisdom that , if widely adopted, can have a profound role in improving quality of life and reducing risk of disease in North America and around the world.
Until next time, keep your diet firmly planted on (in) the ground. ( ha ha!)
Andy De Santis RD MPH