Kayla Slater, Columnist
Eating a plant-based diet has been growing in popularity in the United States due to continued evidence that has shown the benefits of eating a diet rich in greens. Plant-based diets include vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian and pescatarian diets.
Plant-based diets are composed mostly of plants, but vary to a certain degree. Individuals who follow a vegan diet do not eat meat, eggs or dairy products. Individuals that follow a vegetarian diet do not eat meat either, but do eat eggs and dairy products. Semi-vegetarian is used to describe individuals who eat mostly a plant-based diet, but eat meat on occasion. A pescatarian is used to describe an individual who does not eat meat, but does eat dairy, eggs and fish.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains is beneficial for many reasons. It may reduce the risk of developing health related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Diets low in fat help to lower blood glucose levels. A diet low in fat and high in fiber may have a protective effect against cancer. Since plant-based diets are generally low in saturated fat and focus on eating the “good fats,” which are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and high in fiber, that make you full longer, individuals are less likely to gain weight. Also, since plant-based diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol which is mostly found in animal products, this diet benefits your heart. A plant-based diet can lower blood pressure, which decreases your risk of developing heart disease, the number one killer in America.
Here are some tips for eating a plant-based diet or incorporating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains into your diet:
1. Try to go meatless at least once a week. In Wilsbach dining hall, we have meatless Mondays after a campaign was held by SPAR to have one dining hall go meatless at least once a week.
2. Replace meat with meat alternatives such as, tofu or beans. At Wilsbach there is the stir fry station called The Wild Mushroom. It offers vegan options and tofu is always available at the salad station to use as a meat alternative.
3. Half of your plate should contain a salad or some type of vegetables.
4. For protein sources, eat more low-fat dairy products such as cottage cheese or yogurt (if not vegan). Tofu, beans, nuts and eggs are good sources of protein as well.
5. Don’t overdo carbohydrates or high-fat foods. Eating a plant-based diet is tricky and won’t have the beneficial effects if not done right.
Should you become a vegetarian or vegan? Eating a plant-based diet is not for everyone. Some may love their meat. However, gaining the benefits of eating a plant-based diet does not mean you have to totally cut out meat. You could limit meat and eat more fish and chicken which are low fat protein sources. But eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and less high-fat dairy and meat is beneficial for your heart and body.