There are many reasons to transition to a plant-based diet. Whether it is for improved health or for ethical reasons, one thing that is for sure is that plant based foods have been gaining momentum in recent years.
Many celebrities are bringing attention to the plant-based diet lifestyle, like Venus Williams and Jay-Z, which may be contributing to the popularity plant-based foods.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
There are different types and degrees of diets that revolve around eating plants as a primary source of nutrition.
Let’s explore the different types of plant-based diets:
I. Vegan Diet
Vegans are those who do not consume any animal proteins. Nor do they use products made from animals, such as leather shoes and belts or toiletries that contain milk or honey. This is an ethical decision and lifestyle that speaks to the cruelty of animals.
The diet is mainly comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains, soy products, and non-animal derived fats. Some vegans go so far as to eat only raw foods.
II. Fruitarian Diet
A fruitarian takes veganism to another level by limiting all foods consumed to only fruit. Some fruitarians will supplement the diet with nuts and seeds.
It should be noted that fruits include avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other seeded foods that are often mislabeled as vegetables.
III. Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarians basically eat like vegans as their core diet. However, there are different forms of vegetarianism.
A lacto-vegetarian will consume dairy products and honey. A lacto-ovo-vegetarian adds poultry eggs to the diet.
Pescatarians are vegetarians who also eat fish and shellfish. A flexitarain is primarily vegetarian but will very occasionally eat animal flesh for extra protein.
As you can see, predominantly plant based foods come in different sizes and shapes.
The Main Reasons for Eating a Plant-Based Foods
The rising popularity of eating a diet made up of mostly fruits and vegetables varies. Choosing this lifestyle is a highly personal decision. Let’s take a look at the main reasons for eating a plant-based diet.
1. Preservation of Animals
The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”
There are many who strongly believe that it is unethical to raise animals for the sole purpose of eating the flesh, drinking the milk, or using the hides and skins for personal items. This includes raising bees to harvest their honey.
2. Environmental Impact
There is a convincing argument to be made for the negative environmental impact eating animal protein has on the planet. In the U.S. alone, consumption of commercially raised beef accounts for 50% of the country’s agricultural land use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock’s impact on the environment includes depletion of fossil fuels, contribution to toxins in the form of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, overuse of antibiotics, and release of methane into the atmosphere. This is a heavy footprint on the environment that many choose to not participate in.
3. Disease Prevention
Research suggests that a plant-based diet has numerous health benefits. Consuming more fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber, and healthy fats can protect against hypertension, high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Processed meats often contain nitrates and nitrites that are considered carcinogenic in high quantities.
The phytonutrients found in many fruits and vegetables, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, are thought to improve eye health, contribute to strong bones, and reduce inflammation.
4. Weight Loss
There is much evidence that a plant-based diet may contribute to weight loss. Reducing consumption of animal fat, while increasing consumption of dietary fiber, is believed to promote better digestion and more efficient metabolism. This is a win-win for jump starting a weight loss plan.
There is no denying that red meat, poultry, and fresh fish is fairly expensive, especially if you are sourcing these proteins from organic and free-range farms or open waters. Swapping out animal protein for plant-based protein can really impact your grocery budget in a positive way.
Good sources of plant-based proteins include nuts, seeds, legumes and beans, quinoa, darky leafy greens, tofu, and tempeh. A $.99 bag of dried lentils can easily feed a family of four.
As you can see, there are some compelling reasons to consider transitioning to a primarily plant-based diet. Even with the keto and paleo diets trending right now, vegan and vegetarian diets are growing increasingly popular. This is good news for the many small farms and farmer’s markets that are popping up in every town and city offering plant-based food solutions.