A plant based diet for beginners summons the timeless thoughts of a historical Greek physician. Hippocrates once famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
These days, many people eat for pleasure and pay no mind to their nutrition’s health aspect. Walk such a dangerous path at your peril. One of the greatest burdens on our modern healthcare systems is obesity. A poor and gluttonous diet has adverse consequences too many to count.
To feel good and live a long and fulfilling life, we need to pay good attention to what we put into our bodies. It’s a universal law that is well understood, but equally difficult to follow.
Let’s review the plant based diet for beginners – what benefits it offers, how to get started, and what foods you can (and can’t) eat.
Let’s dive into it.
What Are Plant Based Diets And What Benefits Do They Offer?
A plant based diet is one where the foods grow from various plants, or are from plant-based foods. And plant-based foods come from plants, and have no animal-source foods. They also contain no artificial ingredients. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, natural oils, and other similar foods. Everything else is off-limits (1).
A plant based diet offers many health benefits, including:
Reduced Risk of Various Diseases
An overwhelming number of studies show that basing our nutrition around plants boosts antioxidant capacity and reduces the risk of various diseases.
Improved Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Plant based nutrition has been shown to boost brain health and improve cognitive function in various activities and tasks.
Boost Athletic Performance
A good plant based diet can boost athletic performance, slow down time to fatigue, and help us recover faster.
Promotes Skin Health
A notable benefit of plant based diets is skin health. Our skin renews more quickly, appears more healthy, and regains its elastic properties.
Due to many plants’ high antioxidant properties, such a diet can help lower systemic inflammation and prevent oxidative stress (2).
Improve Gut Health
A diet rich in fiber has been shown to promote a more diverse gut microbiome, which is linked to incredible health benefits.
✦ Thanks to the University of St. Augustine for their infographic!
Plant Based Diet for Beginners: How to Get Started
Getting started with a plant based diet can be challenging, especially if you’re used to consuming various animal products. The best thing you can do is transition slowly.
Many people make the mistake of making large and sudden changes that overwhelm them and force them to give up in a week or a month. By taking it slowly, you give yourself enough time to get used to smaller changes before introducing larger ones.
For example, if you’re just getting started, you might not want to cut off any animal products. Instead, aim to start having more plant based foods in your diet. Once you establish the habit, take your time to remove animal products one by one. For example, you might start by cutting out dairy one week, then meat, and then eggs.
To make the transition a bit easier, you can also plan ahead (for example, try meal planning), explore plant based recipes you’ve never tried before, and join an online community for support and motivation.
In any case, transitioning fully won’t be without its challenges. But, the benefits are worth it. The question is, do you want it bad enough?
What Foods Can And Can’t You Eat On a Plant Based Diet?
You can eat the following on a plant based diet:
- Whole grains
Together, these categories offer dozens of delicious food options.
You cannot eat the following:
- Refined sugars
- Saturated fat
1. Sissons, B. (2019). Plant based diet: A guide for health and nutrition. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326176.
2. Xu, D.-P., Li, Y., Meng, X., Zhou, T., Zhou, Y., Zheng, J., Zhang, J.-J., & Li, H.-B. (2017). Natural Antioxidants in Foods and Medicinal Plants: Extraction, Assessment and Resources. International journal of molecular sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5297730/.