What is a plant-based diet?

When people hear “plant-based,” they often think of piles upon piles of leafy greens. In fact, when I tell people that I have switched to a plant-based diet, I am pretty sure they imagine me eating bowl after bowl of raw broccoli or gigantic salads without dressing.

If that’s what people think, I can see why the idea of plant-based eating is so unappealing.

The truth, thankfully, is much different.

A plant-based diet is not solely based on vegetables, and you don’t have to go completely vegan or even vegetarian. A whole-foods, plant-based diet is made up of a variety of foods found in nature. The idea is to consume them as close to whole as possible, not processed beyond recognition — but not only eaten in their raw, natural state, either. These foods form the ingredients for some of your favorite dishes — soups, breads, burritos, you name it. When made from scratch instead of consumed in processed, sugar- and chemical-laden, ready-made, store-bought packages, your favorites become some of the healthiest foods you can eat. All it takes is a little slicing, dicing, blending, and sauteing, and voila!  Nature’s most delicious offerings become your new family favorites.

The other day, for example, I ate onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, vegetable broth, white beans, and kale for dinner. But I didn’t eat them like this:

veggies

Photo Credit: Minimalist Baker

 

 

I ate them like this:

Soul-warming-1-Pot-Veggie-and-White-Bean-Stew-with-potatoes-kale-and-tomatoes-vegan-glutenfree.jpg

Photo Credit: Minimalist Baker

All those delicious and delightfully healthy ingredients combined to make tomato and vegetable white bean soup (recipe and photographs courtesy of MinimalistBaker.com). It was utterly scrumptious.

That’s what a whole-foods, plant-based diet is all about: Taking the best of what nature has to offer and combining it to make homemade dishes that are full of nutrients and mouthwatering flavor.

Here’s a look at the foods that make up plant-based eating:

  • Fruit such as mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, etc.
  • Vegetables such as lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrots, etc.
  • Tubers and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, yams, yucca, winter squash, corn, green peas, etc.
  • Whole grains such as millet, quinoa, barley, rice, whole wheat, oats, etc.
  • Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, cannellini beans, black beans, etc.

The whole-foods, plant-based diet was popularized through the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” and through the subsequent website and books. Doctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman define a whole-foods, plant-based diet as being “centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”

So why go plant-based? As Pulde and Lederman put it, “A diet high in animal-based and highly processed foods makes people sick and overweight. But many of these sicknesses can be prevented, halted, and often reversed by eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. There is medical proof. There is living proof. We have experienced it ourselves. We have seen the smiles to prove it.”

Need more proof? Here’s what the folks at Forks Over Knives believe. And for what it’s worth, I believe it, too — and I invite you to learn it for yourself.

We believe…

  • That nature knows exactly what our bodies need.
  • In science – and in the undeniable evidence behind the benefits of whole-food, plant-based nutrition.
  • In sharing stories to celebrate personal transformations and achievements.
  • That our bodies have the power to ward off or reverse chronic disease when nourished with whole plant foods.
  • That natural, healthy, food should be delicious and satisfying.
  • That a plant-based diet is more humane and requires fewer natural resources.
  • That a healthy community can be a powerful, positive influence on the world.

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