Just what is a Plant Diet?
A plant diet is simply a diet of plants, right? It’s actually not as simple as that. There was a time when vegetarianism was one thin euphemism away from just plain weird. Subsisting on plants seemed like some kind of a kooky fad and was discussed with an eye roll and hushed tone. Vegetarianism marked the rare dietary restriction at a dinner party and we weren’t quite so hungry then for solutions. We all know now that more people have become fatter, but less nourished, and that we face a public health crisis, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. One-third of children alone are overweight or obese and for the first time in history may have a shorter life span than their parents.
Blame it on a sedentary lifestyle coupled with the consumption of cheap, processed food. In any case, the prognosis has us scrambling to literally save our lives by learning how and what to eat. Meanwhile, food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances, and about a million other complicated factors, from health concerns to culture and ideology has created the idiosyncratic diet. However, as data increasingly points to the protective and restorative power of so-called plant-based diets, many of us are turning to the whole fruits and vegetables. However, vegetarians represent just 5 percent of the adult population, and a mere 2 percent identify as vegans, according to a July 2012 Gallup poll.
Today though, a plant-based diet means a diet with mostly, not exclusively, plants. Replacing red meat with plant sources of protein such a nuts or legumes improves blood cholesterol fractions and is associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. According to the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, we’re consuming nearly triple the recommended limit of solid fats and added sugars while getting only 15 percent of the whole grains and 59 percent of the vegetables we need.
Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs. When it comes to what kind of plant-based diet one should follow, well, that’s where things get complicated. There’s not enough evidence to say that a vegan diet is healthier than the Mediterranean diet.