What is a plant-based diet?

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A plant-based diet is a way of eating that is centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

It eliminates all products derived from animals including meats, dairy and egg. A plant-based diet is different from a vegan diet in that the main focus of eating in this way is for health benefits as opposed to ethical or environmental concerns. The surprising news is that for those who choose not to eat animals for environmental and ethical reasons, it is now quite simple to replicate the standard American diet without using animals. However, although there are many health benefits to avoiding meat, dairy and egg, a highly processed diet can still be harmful regardless of the source. Did you know that oreo cookies and diet coke are vegan?

If you choose to center your diet around whole, minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, not only are you eating a diet that is health promoting, but you are also decreasing the burden on the planet and the animals. However, it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. If you already have chronic disease such as diabetes or heart disease, trying a low-fat, whole food plant-based diet for at least 30 days could change your life. But if you are a healthy person already at a normal weight and are looking to prevent disease, eating in this way for at least 75-80% of the time could yield tremendous benefits and disease risk reduction.

If you are curious about a plant-based diet and wonder if it is right for you, there are probably many foods that you eat already that are plant-based and others that would be relatively easy to convert. When you are first trying a plant-based diet, simplicity is the key. Start with 2-3 breakfasts, 2-3 lunches and 3-4 dinners that you can rotate. Over time, as you become more experienced, you can add more variety if you desire.