Plant-based diets and veganism have reached mainstream awareness and became one of the biggest dining trends of 2019 in the US and the UK. There are more and more research and documentaries about the benefits of following such a diet, including the 2016 Leonardo DiCaprio’s COWSPIRACY, and more recently The Game Changers, produced by bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hollywood icon James Cameron.
Today, more and more people are switching to this type of diet. Some are just following trends, and most because they recognize the proven health and environmental benefits of the plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is one that centres on whole plant foods, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and whole grains. While plant-based eating is often used synonymously with a vegan or vegetarian diet – they are not the same. A vegan diet represents a diet that is devoid of animal products; however, veganism is not synonymous with a ‘healthy diet.’ I know some unhealthy vegans, that consume French fries, beer and soy-based products, which are incredibly high in estrogen, regularly.
There are numerous reasons to follow a plant-based diet, including the betterment of the environment, animal rights and prevention of animal abuse. The most significant benefit is that a plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to not only prevent, but to reverse, advanced-stage cardiovascular illnesses, type 2 diabetes, and other more complex diseases. Moreover, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts that plant-based diet is healthful, nutritionally adequate and appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and especially for athletes.
Here are five simple strategies to jump on the plant-based bandwagon.
Start slow. Pick a few plant-based meals and rotate them throughout the week. Try smoothies, and homemade meal replacement shakes. They are incredibly nutritious and very high on the satiety level (bonus, see my morning smoothie recipe below).
Cut down meat. Limit meat dished to once or twice a month, and make sure (as much as possible) that they are from sustainable sources, organic, or grass-fed. And gradually work on swapping animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives in your favourite recipes. For instance, if you love bacon, try the fermented miso-tempeh available at Villa Market – it’s delicious!
Skip breakfast and experiment with intermittent fasting (IF). Once you’ve tested the waters, you can take the next step by skipping breakfast. Bulletproof coffee is an excellent pick me up. IF increases energy, promotes cellular repair, reduces insulin resistance and protects against type 2 diabetes and finally, promotes longevity.
Know your food. You can eat chips and drink Diet Coke and call yourself a vegan. Understanding how to make your food taste great while still being healthy and wholesome is extremely important. To learn about nutrition, I recommended these books: “Thrive: The Plant-Based Whole Foods” by Brendan Brazier and “The Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon.
Stock up on healthy foods. There are so many incredible products on the market today that make a plant-based diet much easier. From homemade almond milk to kale chips, to flax crackers, there’s something for every budget and every palate.
Lastly, keep in mind that any transition takes time. Much of this is about trial and error, finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. So be gentle with yourself as you find your rhythm to incorporate plant-based foods.
Morning smoothie recipe
- 1,5 cup almond milk
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 medium-sized banana
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 scoop chocolate pea protein (recommend Sunwarrior or Vega protein brands)