Before jumping into the benefits of plant, it's important to understand the variety of plant-based dietary approaches.
Vegetarians: exclude meat, seafood, dairy, eggs and poultry. There are also slight variations that may allow dairy and eggs.
Vegans: exclude all animal products and all animal-derived sources.
Flexitarians: are an alternate approach, which allow both animal and plant-based sources, but is predominantly plant-based. Regardless of dietary approach, all three are revolved around incorporating more plant-based dietary sources. Let's take a look at three key benefits of adding more plant to your diet.
Fiber is found in a variety of plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. It's an essential nutrient classified as a carbohydrate. However, unlike most other carbohydrates, the body cannot digest or absorb fiber after consumed. This unique characteristic allows fiber to add value in several ways. Fiber may help to lower cholesterol, promote satiety and even help with regular bowel movements. Many whole-grains are considered a good or excellent source of fiber. Look on ingredients list for "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain". All grains start out as whole grains, but may lose fiber the more they are refined. Some products may be enriched - meaning fiber and other nutrients are simply added back in. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are also a good source fiber. Be sure to aim to select whole fruits and vegetables that include the skin or peel.
These fats are found in a variety of plant-based foods, some examples include vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Unsaturated fats are essential and when consumed in moderation can help to improve blood cholesterol levels and play a role in overall heart health. Unsaturated fats
include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids fall under polyunsaturated fats. Interestingly, omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body, therefore must be consume through dietary sources. Good sources of plant-based unsaturated fats include oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and flaxseed oil. Note that coconut and palm oils are plant-based, but are actually high in saturated fat. Additional sources include nuts and seeds such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, walnuts, nut butters, ground flaxseed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and soy products.
This refers to nutritional composition. Nutrient-dense foods contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients when compared to the amount of calorie from saturated fats and added sugars. Many plant-based foods
are considered nutrient dense, including whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. As mentioned earlier, select diet types may restrict foods and/or food groups. More specifically, restricting dairy and animal-based dietary sources may remove essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D and more. It's important to appropriately plan when pursuing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle to ensure adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. The transition may take time, but can be achieved if practiced responsibly. Consume a variety of foods each day to help ensure sufficient intake of essential vitamins and minerals.