Making the transition to a plant based diet can be daunting, so I wanted to share some background on my personal journey, and a few hints and tips to help you along the way.
Having been someone who always struggled with eating meat for the majority of the formative years of my life for one reason or another, and consequently enjoying periods of becoming vegetarian but then buckling under pressure to eat that bit of fish or meat 'for protein', I understand that it can be a difficult transition. For most of my life I've been in the health and fitness industry, and with that comes a hidden peer pressure to eat meat or dairy, as that is what you do to get protein, right? Chicken and rice 6 times a day, and greek yoghurt a plenty!
As my personal journey taught me though, there’s nothing wrong in transitioning gradually to a more plant based diet. Not everyone is born to be a hardcore vegan, and everyone has different reasons for eating the way they do - it's each to their own in my mind. For me, the initial trigger for being vegetarian back in the day was actually the texture of meat. As I got older however, I gradually became more aware of the health and environmental benefits of eating more plants. Ultimately I learned that every meal you eat that contains more plants and less animal based products is better for both your body's health, the health of our planet, and for animals. It's a win-win-win.
According to a survey by YouGov in 2019, there are now more people identifying as flexitarian than those who identify as vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian combined. That surprised me when I first read it, but I think it's very encouraging. It means more people than ever are recognising the benefits of eating more plants (for whatever reason). And that can only be a good thing.
So whether you’re new to being a vegan, or just starting to embrace the health, environmental or animal welfare benefits of incorporating more plant based foods into your diet, read on for some top tips.
Here’s a few examples of plant-powered foods you can incorporate into your diet:
- Vegetables: spinach, kale, cauliflower, squash, tomatoes
- Whole grains: quinoa, barley, oats, brown rice, amaranth
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, peanuts, alfalfa
- Fruits: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, bananas
- Plant-based protein: seitan, tempeh, tofu, edamame, quinoa
- Healthy fats: avocados, nuts, seeds, chia seeds
- Nuts and nut butter: peanuts, almonds, cashews
- Seeds: chia, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, flaxseed
- Plant-based oils: olive, avocado, coconut, grapeseed
- Plant-based milk: oat, hemp, hazelnut, soy, coconut
- Spices and herbs: turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander
- Supplements: protein bars, shakes & powders (hint hint!)
So, what are the key benefits of adding plant based foods to your diet?
- They support your immune system. Plants have essential nutrients that you cannot get from other foods. The vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants in plants help keep your cells healthy and your body in balance so that your immune system can function at its best.
- Plant foods reduce inflammation. Plants’ essential nutrients work to resolve inflammation in your body. The same tiny phytochemicals and antioxidants that boost your immune system also go around your body neutralising toxins from pollution, processed food, bacteria, viruses and more.
- A plant-based diet helps maintain a healthy weight. Plants are packed with fibre which helps fill you up without adding extra calories. Staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk for things like cancer and heart disease.
- Plants are high in fibre. Fibre is present in all unprocessed plant foods. It is what makes up the structure of the plant, and if you eat more of it you access a whole host of benefits, including promoting a healthy and diverse gut microbiome.
- A plant-based diet reduces your risk for other diseases too. The benefits of eating mostly plants are not only limited to reducing your cancer and heart disease risk. A plant-based diet has also been shown to reduce your risk for stroke, diabetes and some mental health illnesses too.
- It’s better for the planet. A study in 2016 reported that a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use, and 50% less water use could be achieved by shifting Western diet patterns to more sustainable, plant-based dietary patterns.
Choosing more plant based foods can only be a win-win-win.
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We would always advocate getting the majority of your diet from real, whole foods, but high quality supplements such as Bodyhero can be an extremely useful tool to help 'top up' your levels of protein and fibre, and/or meet your macro goals.
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So whatever your motivation - here's to choosing more plants.