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Plant-Based Diet— Essential to Superior Health

Although I have been writing about food and plants for quite a few years, I have never written an article about a plant-based diet even though I have focused on eating a plant-based diet for a long time. Fifteen years ago, with increasing health challenges, I searched out healing modalities in Continue Reading

Plant-Based Diet— Essential to Superior Health

Although I have been writing about food and plants for quite a few years, I have never written an article about a plant-based diet even though I have focused on eating a plant-based diet for a long time. Fifteen years ago, with increasing health challenges, I searched out healing modalities in addition to eating a healthier diet and am happy with the increased health and stamina it has brought me.

What is a plant-based diet? Is there a reliable definition?

Unfortunately for those seeking easy answers, healthy eating patterns are not a one size fits all, and individuals need to search for and choose a plant-based diet that work best for them. I’m sure everyone reading this is looking for support in decreasing their health risks.

Some resources to help navigate this complex issue

Harvard Medical School has a website called Harvard Health Publishing with many resources and articles.

Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Contributor wrote:  Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.

Nuts and seeds are an important part of any plant-based eating plan.

Nuts and seeds are an important part of any plant-based eating plan.

McManus continues, “What is the evidence that plant-based eating patterns are healthy? Much nutrition research has examined plant-based eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.

The Mediterranean plant-based diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression and the diet also improves mental and physical function.

A greener version of the Mediterranean plant-based diet

A news brief about research on the Mediterranean diet appeared on the Harvard website February 1, 2021 and, in a study focused on weight loss, a “greener” version of the diet had better results for weight loss, and more declines in insulin resistance, blood pressure and other markers.

Green tea can be an important addition to a plant-based diet

Green tea can be an important addition to your diet.

A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, and olive oil, and it’s associated with lower risks for heart disease and diabetes. And a “greener” version of the eating style might be even more effective, according to a small, randomized study published online Nov. 23, 2020, by the journal Heart. Researchers — some from Harvard — about 300 sedentary, middle-aged people (mostly men) were recruited with high cholesterol or abdominal obesity and were divided into three groups. One received guidance for exercise and a healthy diet; another received exercise guidance and was assigned to eat a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet; and one group received exercise guidance and was assigned to eat a “greener” calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet with less animal-based and more plant-based proteins (including walnuts and a type of duckweed — an aquatic plant), plus lots of green tea.

After six months, people on the “green” diet had lost more weight and inches around their middles, and had bigger drops in cholesterol, than people in the other two groups. “Green” dieters also had steeper declines in insulin resistance, inflammation markers, and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number in the measurement), compared with the other two groups.

Can I still eat meat on a plant-based diet?

Lauren Manaker, RD, who is based in Charleston, South Carolina and a nutrition expert says, “The idea is to make plant-based food the central part of your meals. A plant-based diet emphasizes foods like fruits, vegetables, and beans, and limits foods like meats, dairy, and eggs. From there, more restrictions could be put in place depending on how strict you want to be. It may completely eliminate foods from animals or just limit intake, depending on the individual’s interpretation.

meats assorted

Meat can be an occasional choice in small quantities.

“That means meat and seafood don’t necessarily need to be off-limits — you might just decide to cut down on how frequently you eat those items, according to Harvard Health Publishing.”

The MD Anderson Cancer Center includes nutritional information on their website. “No one food can reduce your risk for cancer, but there is an overall diet that can. Learn what it means to eat a plant-based diet and see all the ways it can help your body. Eating plant-based does not mean you can’t eat meat. It means your meals are mostly plants: vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Beans, seeds and nuts are also included.

“Fill two-thirds of your plate with these plant-based foods. The remaining one-third should be a lean protein like chicken or fish, or a plant protein like tofu or beans.”

choose my plate

Choose my plate has replaced the food pyramid as a recommendation on how to eat.

Types of plant-based diets

Everyday Health is a website created by a team of medical and wellness experts, including board certified physicians, other health professionals. Because Everyday Health looks at the whole person when it comes to health and wellness, it has included articles on many areas of health and wellness.

So in an article about the types of plant-based diets they write, “Think of ‘plant-based’ as a broad category, with other more specific diets falling under its umbrella. For example, the Mediterranean diet is a version of a plant-based diet because even though it incorporates fish and poultry, the emphasis is on plant-based foods, Manaker says.

Plant-based diets include:

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Pesco vegetarian
  • Semivegetarian or flexitarian
  • Ovo vegetarian
  • Lacto vegetarian
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian
  • Raw veganfruits and veggies on platter in plant-based diet

Whole30, a popular diet and lifestyle plan, doesn’t usually qualify. “The Whole30 diet traditionally is heavier on animal proteins, though it is possible to follow this diet in a plant-based way,” Manaker says.

Why eat a plant-based diet?

Because plant-based diet foods are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, contain no cholesterol, and are low in calories and saturated fat, eating a variety of these foods provides all the protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients your body needs. So most nutritionists advise including a reliable source of vitamin B12 in your diet. You can easily meet your vitamin B12 needs with a daily supplement or fortified foods, such as vitamin B12-fortified breakfast cereals, plant milks, and nutritional yeast.

If we eat a plant-based diet, we can lower our risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. Research also shows that a plant-based diet can be less expensive that an omnivorous diet.

8 ways to get started with a plant-based diet from Harvard Health Publishing
  1. Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
  2. Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
  3. Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
  4. Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
  5. Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Then add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
  6. Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens each day. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to preserve their flavor and nutrients.

    plant-based TG red kale, lettuce bok choy

    Go for greens!

  7. Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, Bibb, or red leafy greens. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
  8. Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.

Get started on a healthier path today!

Here are a few additional blogs about healthier eating. And consider adding a REAL FOOD supplement like Juice Plus to your diet if you have a lot of time constraints and want an easy way to add more fruits and vegetables.

Lemons for your health and your tastebuds

Cauliflower Piccata from the NY Times newsletter

Can It Really Be That Easy to Grow Vegetables?

Tips for Better Health from Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side

Top 7 healthy vegetables


Gwen O’Neill has been a gardener for over 40 years and has always been a passionate cook. Her own health challenges led her to experiencing a variety of healing modalities. After finding that her health improved with eating more whole food and improving her nutrition using a real, whole food-based supplement called Juice Plus, she committed to sharing this experience with others. The Tower Garden by Juice Plus makes it easy to grow produce right outside your kitchen door.

Juice Plus real food!




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