Plant Based Diet For Healthy Living

The plant-based diet is becoming increasingly popular as it promises good health and better living. Find out what it’s about and how you and your family can easily adopt these eating habits.

By Amrita Gracias

Plant Based Diet For Healthy Living
Plant-based diet is good for health

Diets, meal plans, weight reduction plans – you can find these by the dozen. But how effective and safe are they really? Having said that, whatever the diet you follow, it is always better to make sure that the foods you consume are safe and that they contribute to your wellness. That is possible if you consume food which is fresh, wholesome and provides the right nutritional value.

A plant-based diet does exactly this! It includes fresh, unprocessed foods that are mainly from plant sources, paving the way to improved health and even stimulating weight loss. And more interestingly, this diet has no restrictions on protein and ‘carbs’ intake or the calories consumed.

Difference between vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diets

Although the three are quite similar in the types of food that are consumed, there are subtle, but significant differences among them.

A plant-based diet is often easily confused with vegetarianism. While a vegetarian diet obviously does not include meat and meat products, it does include animal-based products like dairy and even eggs. A plant-based diet, on the other hand, avoids or limits meats, dairy, eggs and other similar animal by-products. This diet also restricts the consumption of processed foods and encourages whole plant foods that include (mostly organic) fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.

A vegan diet too, strictly disallows any meat and animal-based or animal-derived products like dairy, eggs and even honey. Additionally, veganism is a philosophy or a lifestyle that extends further from just food habits to everyday things – shoes, clothes, make-up, accessories and toiletries. Those who practice veganism also avoid any materials that are animal-based like leather, silk, wool or beeswax. This lifestyle is also motivated by animal rights issues and the ethical treatment of animals. 

Foods allowed in a plant-based diet

A plant-based diet excludes foods like refined sugars, white flour and processed oils. If you cannot avoid meats altogether, have smaller quantities on the side and not as a main dish.

  • Vegetables: These form a major portion of meals and can be included in breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Vegetables of any size, shape and colour are encouraged!
  • Good fats: Fats or oils from seeds like mustard and sesame, nuts, avocados, coconut.
  • Whole foods: Foods that aren’t processed, meaning those that are whole, unrefined or only minimally refined – whole wheat, oats, barley, millets, rice, quinoa.
  • Fruits: All types of fruit are allowed.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, black-eyed beans.
  • Tubers: Root vegetables like carrots, yams, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Others: Nuts, seeds, whole wheat breads, tofu and plant-based milks like soy or almond. 

A plant-based diet excludes foods like refined sugars, white flour and processed oils. If you cannot avoid meats altogether, have smaller quantities on the side and not main. 

Ideal meals in a plant-based diet

There are several options for plant-based meals. Here are some:

Breakfast:

  • Idly, dosa or pongal with sambhar and coconut chutney
  • Multigrain or whole wheat parathas
  • Smoothies with plant-based milk
  • Oats porridge with fruits
  • Pancakes (made from whole wheat and plant-based milk)
  • Hummus on whole wheat toast

Lunch and dinner:

  • Rotis made from whole wheat or multigrain flour
  • Dals
  • Vegetable curry
  • Vegetable pulao
  • Whole wheat pasta with vegetables
  • Kichidi made from lentils, oats or millets

Snacks:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetable sandwiches (without butter or cheese)
  • Boiled and seasoned chickpeas
  • Whole wheat muffins
  • Salad

Plant-based diet and children

Parents whose children have been following a plant-based diet believe that their children thrive on this diet. In fact, they find that the kids fall sick less often and the diet augments both physical and mental capabilities. 

Children also get the right amount of calorie intake and nutrients required, that is proteins, calcium, omega 3 fats, iron, vitamin B12. Plant-based foods are high in both proteins and calcium, which are believed to be healthier than those obtained from meats. While Vitamin B 12 and Omega 3 are usually found in meat, fish and eggs, plant-based foods are also highly fortified in these. Foods like chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts have high contents of omega 3. Iron intake can be substantiated by intake of green leafy vegetables, whole grains and dry fruits. 

Fruits that are high in Vitamin C also help in the absorption of iron. If your child’s diet includes these foods, you can be assured that he will get the adequate amount of nutrients. There usually is no need to give him additional vitamin or iron supplements, and it is advisable to consult a paediatrician if you feel the need to. 

Benefits of a plant-based diet

A plant-based diet is high in dietary fibre, low in saturated fats and rich in phytochemicals, and therefore has several benefits such as:

  • Fewer chances of high cholesterol levels and chronic diseases
  • Low risks of high blood pressure and associated heart diseases
  • Prevention or reversal of type 2 diabetes
  • Prevention of certain forms of cancer
  • Reduction or prevention of obesity
  • Reduction of cognitive decline in old age
  • Prevention or slowing down of diseases like Alzheimer’s

The plant-based diet is becoming increasingly popular owing to the several benefits and well-being associated with it. With increasing health problems and consumption of several unhealthy foods, this diet is sure to boost your physical health and capabilities. 

About the author:

Written by  Amrita Gracias on 24 March 2019.

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