A plant-based diet is essentially what the name says, a diet that is focused on getting the majority of your nutrients from plant food sources.
In a plant-based diet, you’re going to get most of your nutrients from plant sources, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Where they differ is type of plant-based diet. Vegetarians, for example, can add in some animal sources of food, such as eggs and dairy products.
Vegan is a little bit more strict, where it eliminates all sources of animal products. So you’re not eating dairy, or eggs, or meat.
Eating a plant-based type of diet, you do have to be a little bit more creative because you’re not eating as much of a variety, particularly with the protein sources, but using different resources to help with grocery shopping lists and cookbooks to give you different ideas can be really helpful.
Breakfast could be something like avocado toast, or overnight oats with some nut butter and chopped up fruit.
Lunch and dinner could be things like a three-bean salad with different vegetables chopped up, a kale salad with Tempe and some sunflower seeds, or something like sweet potato enchiladas.
The health benefits to a plant-based diet are numerous. Metabolically speaking, it will lower your cholesterol, decrease your blood sugar and lower your risk of diabetes.
It can help you lose weight. It can help with body composition. And it can also have a lot of mood benefits as well.
It’s my number one thing to discuss with patients to help treat a number of chronic diseases, as well as lower their risks of certain diseases and even some types of cancers.
On average, I would say if you are following the diet pretty well, you could potentially lose about five to 10% of your body weight. Over a course of three to six months; you can expect to start to see the weight come off.
Protein is definitely one of the things you have to be a little more conscious of. Some of the best plant-based sources of protein I recommend are soy-based products, like edamame and tofu. Other protein sources can be things like nuts, seeds, and legumes, or beans.
That’s another thing that I love about this diet. It’s really low risk and really effective for a wide range of people.
Because it is a little bit more restrictive, there are some deficiencies that we have to look out for, mainly vitamin B12 and Omega-3, as well as iron. Those are things that I will monitor, and we can always supplement if need be.
I really don’t have a lot of restrictions for it. The one thing that I would encourage patients to do is to work with your provider, particularly in cases of things like pregnancy, where we need to make sure you’re getting all the micronutrients that you need.
With aging, protein also becomes very important. In the later decades, making sure that you’re getting enough protein is essential.
What I would say is consider the lifestyle and the changes you’ll need to make to be able to prepare food that takes a little bit more planning and more skills in the kitchen to potentially put these meals together.
Also, get a baseline assessment with your healthcare provider to make sure that you’re going to be getting all the micronutrients you need.
I would encourage most people to consider a plant-based diet. It can help lower your risk of heart disease, strokes, colorectal cancer, diabetes can help you lose weight. I really encourage you to contact your health care provider and get more information.
Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Chronis discussing if a plant-based diet is right for you.