​How to Maintain a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

“Plant-based nutrition is superior when it comes to most diseases.” - Dr. Kim Williams, chief of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Research has indicated that plant-based diets lead to a healthier lifestyle and reduces the risk of heart disease, inflammation and many other ailments. But a plant-based diet alone doesn’t imply that all that you eat is healthy. What you don’t realize is that plant-based diets can also be very unhealthy; especially if you’re consuming refined sugars and carbs, high sodium and very oily foods.

Switching to a plant based diet often causes some confusion on nutrition and how to make a plant based diet work optimally for your lifestyle. As a result, during this transition, many people end up eating what we call, plant based junk foods.

According to a research carried out by Ambika Satija and her team, they studied the diets of nearly 210,000 nurses and other health professionals based on their answers to food frequency questionnaires every two years for an average of 23 years. The outcome lead to researchers defining three versions of a plant-based diet:

  1. A healthful plant-based diet that emphasizes the intake of healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  2. An overall plant-based diet that involves consuming large amounts of all plant foods and reduced the intake of animal foods.
  3. An unhealthful plant-based diet; which is the intake of less-healthy plant foods, such as refined grains.

Those who followed a healthful plant-based diet had a 25 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, while those who followed an unhealthful plant-based diet had a 32 percent increased risk.

So how to eat plant based and eat healthy?

To have a healthy plantbased diet is to mostly consume plentiful amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats, legumes, and soy products in their natural forms; sufficient amounts of healthy fats (flax seeds, nuts, and other seeds) and minimal amounts of refined carbohydrates, harmful saturated and trans fats. Embracing a whole food plant based diet will help you achieve a healthier lifestyle. Here are some tips:

1. Eat Whole Plants

Eating substantial amounts of a variety of any whole, unrefined plant-based foods will fill you up and regulate nutrients into the body, as they are packed with fiber. Feeling uninspired? There are so many healthy plant based recipes and bloggers out there who can inspire you to cook healthy, delicious meals.

2. Avoid Refined & Processed Foods

Processed and refined foods like - sweets, sugars and processed grains lack their original fiber, vitamins and minerals. These processed foods convert to sugars in the blood, increasing the risk for insulin resistance, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and weight gain.

3. Avoid Oil

Even the finest olive oil, is 100% fat, calorically-dense and nutrient-poor. As Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. MD explains, oil injures the innermost lining of the artery, and that is the gateway to vascular disease.

4. Drink More Water More Often

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day provides you with nutrients, oxygen and electrolytes for your body’s vital functioning- including muscular movement and toxin removal. Signs you’re not drinking enough water are fatigue, fluid retention and constipation.

5. Read Ingredient Labels Carefully

If you’re purchasing pre-packaged food, make sure to carefully read the labels. Purchasing products with a few, recognizable plant-based ingredients is a good indicator of healthier, less processed items. The less processed the better. Avoid added sweeteners and additives including oils and fats.

6. Invest in Quality Vitamins and Supplements

A very common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs. It is possible, yet many times we aren’t able to easily achieve certain nutrient requirements. Hence, investing in supplements such as Vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, as well as organic, whole food supplements that retain nutrient density is a good idea. Supplements however, should be used as the name suggests- a supplement rather than as a substitute to your diet.

Keep these few tips in mind to have a healthy plant based diet!