What You Need To Know About Plant-Based Diets

    What You Need To Know About Plant-Based Diets

    We often think that a plant-based diet is the same as the vegetarian diet. However, there are many variations to this plant-forward eating pattern. What are these variations and how can you proceed with this regimen?

    What Is a Plant-based Diet?

    A plant-based diet, also called a plant-forward eating pattern, focuses on eating foods that come from plants. Aside from fruits and vegetables, the other food choices include whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some oils.

    When you are in a plant-forward eating pattern, you can also decide on your calorie limits. For instance, you can have a plant-based diet with 1400 calories. Or if that’s too low, you can go for 1,500 calories. The limit, of course, depends on several factors like your gender, age, and activity level.

    One thing to clarify about this regimen is the misconception that you cannot eat meat or dairy. Remember that the goal is to focus more on plant-based foods; hence, if you’re not comfortable with eliminating meat and dairy products, you can still choose to eat them, at least, minimally.

    The Different Types of Plant-Based Diets

    To further prove the point that you can still eat meat and dairy while in a plant-forward eating pattern, let’s discuss this diet’s different styles:

    • Flexitarian. This is also called the semi-vegetarian diet. In this regimen, you can have eggs and dairy as well as small amounts of fish and seafood, poultry, and meat.
    • Pescatarian. In this plant-based diet, you can have fish and seafood, eggs, and dairy. However, you should exclude meat and poultry in your meals.
    • Ovo-vegetarian. Another unique type of plant-based diet, ovo-vegetarian, allows you to include eggs in your meals. However, there should not be fish and seafood, meat, poultry, and dairy in your diet.
    • Lacto-vegetarian. If you opt for the lacto-vegetarian diet, you can include dairy in your eating pattern. However, you should exclude fish and seafood, eggs, meat, and poultry.
    • Vegetarian. The famous vegetarian diet includes dairy and eggs but does not have fish and seafood, as well as poultry, and meat.
    • Vegan. The vegan diet is the most extreme plant-forward eating pattern as it excludes seafood and fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

    Now, the next question is, how are you going to choose which type of plant-based diet is for you? The best course of action is to consult your doctor or dietitian. You can talk to them about your preferences and medical or nutritional needs for your age and level of health.

    Who Should Try a Plant-Based Diet?

    Before following the plant-forward eating pattern, you must be wondering: what benefits can I get out of this regimen? Will it be able to help me if I am experiencing a particular health condition?

    Since the diet focuses on plant-based foods, expect that your meals are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as proteins. Additionally, each plate will probably be low in calories and saturated fats. It can even be cholesterol-free!

    Thus, the plant-forward eating pattern can help:

    Boost brain health

    Studies have shown that saturated and trans fats can potentially increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is, a plant-based diet avoids these types of fats. Furthermore, it is rich in brain-protecting nutrients like folate, vitamin E, and other anti-oxidants.

    Reduce the risk of cancer

    According to reports, reducing the amount of high-fat foods and animal products in your diet can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

    For example, the abundance of fiber in a plant-forward eating pattern can address the excess hormones that may lead to prostate and breast cancer. On top of that, fiber is a great way to “clean” the digestive system; hence, it can also help protect you against colorectal cancer.

    Manage diabetes

    A plant-based diet has the potential to:

    • Improve the ability of the beta-cells to regulate blood sugar levels
    • Improve the function of insulin

    These two, along with weight reduction, can help manage diabetes. Some reports also state that with a plant-based diet, it is possible to “reverse” the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.

    Manage heart diseases

    Did you know that a plant-based diet can help improve some of the risk factors of heart diseases including hypertension, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol? This makes a plant-based diet a great way to manage heart-related conditions.

    Boost Weight Loss

    And finally, because there’s a significant change not only in your caloric limit but also in your choices of food, a plant-forward eating pattern can boost weight loss. Some experts even say that with this diet, you can lose weight even without exercise.

    Tips for Getting Started on a Plant-Based Diet

    To start with a plant-based diet, take note of the following tips:

    • Consider having whole grains for breakfast.
    • For lunch and dinner, be sure to fill half of your plate with green, leafy, and other colorful vegetables.
    • To avoid the feeling that you are deprived of meat, try to change your mindset. Instead of thinking of meat as the centerpiece of each meal, consider it as a garnish.
    • Try to enjoy the salad as a meal.
    • For desserts, consider having different fruits.
    • When it comes to oils and fats, focus on healthy choices such as nut butters, avocados, and olive oil.

    Reminders and Precautions

    As a reminder and precaution, understand that not all plant-based food items are healthy.

    For instance, in the market, there are items like sweets and hot dogs that are plant-based but are processed. Experts say that these processed, plant-based products might have more salt and sugar than their regular, non-plant-based counterparts.

    In the end, if you are planning to go for a plant-based diet and want to try out readily available products in the groceries, learn to check food labels. Most importantly, consult your doctor or a dietitian for guidance.

    Learn more about Special Diets here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 20, 2022