Plant-based diet plans are gaining popularity among people mainly because of the health benefits like preventing diabetes, reducing the risk of heart diseases, and some forms of cancer. Having said that, many vegetarians and vegans consume processed plant-based foods believing that they are good for health. However, they are bad because they contain higher calories, sugar, salt, fat, and sodium. Instead, they must eat fresh fruits, vegetables, use minimally processed food products like whole-grain flours, and reduce the consumption of almost all processed foods. The purpose of this article is to help you with getting the best nutrition from plant-based diets.
There are mainly two categories of plant-based diets: vegetarian diet and a vegan diet. In this article, we will discuss in detail the vegetarian diet; it focuses on eating more plant-based food and less animal-based food. So, there are different types of vegetarian diets depending on the type of animal-based foods consumed, and they are the following:
- Lacto-vegetarian: In this type of vegetarian diet fish, meat, poultry, and eggs are avoided. But dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt are consumed. This is one of the most common types of vegetarian diet followed by people.
- Ovo-vegetarian: In this type of vegetarian diet, meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products are excluded, but eggs are allowed.
- Lacto-ovo- vegetarian: This vegetarian diet excludes fish, meat, and poultry, but allows eggs and dairy products.
- Pescatarian: In this vegetarian diet meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are excluded, but fish is allowed.
There is also another alternative called the semi-vegetarian diet, where you primarily eat plant-based food along with small quantities of fish, eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy products. This type of diet is followed by most people living in the blue zones, i.e. places where the average life span is higher than the rest of the world.
Planning Healthy Vegetarian Diet
To eat a balanced vegetarian diet, you must eat a plant-based meal that includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. This when combined with dietary supplements or small portions of animal-based food ensures that you get all the necessary nutrients and avoids the risk of developing deficiency diseases. Along with this, you must also reduce the intake of sweetened beverages, food products made using refined grains, and readymade fruit juices. Otherwise, they will ruin the health benefits that you get by eating more plant-based food.
Listed below is the daily amount of plant-based food that you must consume in a vegetarian diet.
- Fruits: 2 cups daily
- Vegetables: 2 ½ cups daily
- Whole grains: 6 ½ ounces daily
- Protein food sources: 3 ½ ounces daily
- Oils: 27 grams daily
- Dairy: 3 cups daily
The total calories count of the food mentioned above will come to around 2,000 calories. The more food restrictions you bring, the more difficult it becomes to meet the daily nutrient requirement. You must also know that surveys show that people who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet have a higher risk of developing deficiency diseases. This is because plant-based food does not contain certain nutrients. Not only that, but some nutrients found in plant-based food are not easily absorbed by the body.
Vitamin D And Calcium
Vegetarians and vegans must focus on vitamin D and calcium as they are required for proper bone health. The calcium found in plant-based food is not easily absorbed by the body because of the presence of oxalates. Also, vitamin D that is easily absorbed by the body is not found in them as well. So, consume vegetarian food that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium. You can also get the required amounts of vitamin D by 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin B12 is abundantly found in most animal-based food, but it is absent in most plant-based food; this is because it is produced by bacteria found in the gut of animals. People who follow a vegan diet are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, it goes undetected as it will be masked by the vitamin folate which is found in abundance in a vegan diet. Because of this risk, both vegans and vegetarians must take vitamin B12 supplements or animal-based foods.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients because they help to reduce inflammation and is important for heart health; it is abundantly found in fish and eggs. Even though nuts, seeds, soy oil, canola oil, and soybeans are good sources of essential fatty acids, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are not easily absorbed by the body. So, you must include omega-3 fortified food or eggs and fish in your plant-based meal for a balanced diet.
Eating More Vegetables
Zoodle: Replace noodles with spiralized vegetables like Zucchini.
Use Oil: Use plant-based oil instead of butter when making food.
Mimic Meat: Use plant-based food that mimics meat like raw jackfruit, tofu, tempeh, etc.
Use Cauliflower: You can replace rice with finely chopped cauliflower in tacos.
Mushroom: You can replace beef with mushrooms.
We hope this article will help you in following a healthy plant-based diet that gives you maximum nutritional benefit.