Plant-based eating – Not what you probably think it is

When we hear the term “vegetarian eating,” it is easy to think of the terms vegetarian or vegan. But there is a key difference: plant-based eating does not exclude any food or food group.

Eating vegetarian simply means eating the most plants. It allows for an intuitive, holistic approach to eating that avoids unnecessary restrictions, allowing us to maintain our enjoyment of food while also achieving our health goals.

It is scientifically proven that this diet has more health benefits compared to the standard American diet. Plants contain essential nutrients to support our bodily processes, fiber to support the health of our gut bacteria, as well as antioxidants to protect our cells from threats that lead to inflammatory diseases and cancer.

By supporting our immune system and reducing inflammation, plant foods allow our bodies to reduce cellular stress while promoting longevity and good health.

vegetarian food:

  • Reduces the risks of heart disease and cancer. The plants are:
    • They are low in saturated fat and high in antioxidants, which can help prevent various types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
    • A good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Reduces chronic inflammation. Vegetarian diets are rich in:
    • Fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, manage insulin resistance, stabilize blood sugar, and maintain a healthy culture of gut bacteria.
    • Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, especially when vegetable proteins are replaced with red meat and heavily processed meat.
  • Helps manage weight. Plant foods are:
    • They are often lower in calories than animal products.
    • It is rich in fiber and helps us feel full for longer, which helps us eat less.

Both the USDA and the Department of Veterans Affairs recommend a balanced meal consisting of 50% fruits and vegetables, 25% grains and starches, and 25% protein using the MyPlate Meal Balancer tool. This means that at least 75% of a balanced plate is actually vegetarian, so you may be closer to following a vegetarian eating pattern than you think.

My Plate . Meal Balancer

Burger? surely! There are no laws!”

You don’t have to cut out animal protein completely (meat, eggs, dairy, meat, fish/seafood) to have a vegan diet. Alternating your protein source between plant and animal sources isn’t “violating the rules” or even incorporating them into one meal. In fact, there are no “rules!”

The beauty of plant-based eating is its flexibility, which allows you to find what works best for your tastes and health. A plant-based eating mindset focuses on what you can add to your plate that is nutritious and makes the meal more exciting rather than what you are limiting or missing out on.

Ultimately, the vegan diet evolves from the conscious choices we make for our health and satisfaction.

For a great source of healthy vegetarian recipes, check out the VA Healthy Teaching Kitchen’s recipe library. You can also reach out to your local dietitian for help making healthy food choices and building a plant-based eating pattern.

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