Food

How to Switch to a Plant-Based Diet Without Health Problems

5. Starchy Vegetables Another great addition to a plant-based diet is starchy vegetables. Veggies like butternut squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are not only delicious but… Trista - August 29, 2019
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5. Starchy Vegetables

Another great addition to a plant-based diet is starchy vegetables. Veggies like butternut squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are not only delicious but good for you. Like whole grains, these vegetables can help you stay fuller longer. Starchy vegetables are also low in fat, sodium, and sugar.

Many vegetables out there are considered starchy. Beans, corn, chickpeas, parsnips, and yams are just a few. These veggies are pretty carb-heavy, but they’re also rich in nutrients. You’ll find a lot of potassium, folate, magnesium, and vitamin K in starchy vegetables. Additionally, these veggies are loaded with antioxidants like vitamins C and E.

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6. Healthy Fats

All diets should include some form of healthy fat. We must get essential fatty acids for our bodies to function. Foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the best for boosting heart health and reducing LDL cholesterol.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that assist with cell growth and brain function. You can find them in fish, seeds, nuts, and algae. Another polyunsaturated fat, omega-6, is found in some plant-based oils. Other sources of healthy fats include avocados, pistachios, walnuts, olives, and dark chocolate. Be sure to use healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil when cooking.

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7. Legumes

When you think of a food that most vegetarians and vegans eat, you most likely think beans. Legumes are incredibly versatile and full of essential vitamins and minerals. Most beans are cheap, so you can stock up on them and have plenty of food for very little money.

Lentils, peas, black beans, chickpeas, and even peanuts can provide a lot of health benefits. Legumes are the most abundant source of protein for plant-based eaters. Eating beans and other legumes can help promote muscle and bone strength. Because getting an adequate amount of protein is especially important for non-meat eaters, incorporate some legumes into your plant-based diet for a protein boost.

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8. Plant-Based Milk

As you know, someone on a plant-based diet cannot consume animal milk. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and other animal milk are all off the table. Luckily there are quite a few plant-based kinds of milk to choose from.

The most popular types of milk alternatives are soy milk and almond milk. You can find these in pretty much any grocery store, and they come in a variety of flavors including vanilla and chocolate. Other plant-based milk options include oat milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and hemp milk. You may even be able to find plant-based ice cream and yogurt!

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9. Foods to Avoid

Most vegan and vegetarian diets focus on eating foods in their most natural state whenever possible. Grains should be whole, fruits and veggies should be fresh, and processing should be at a minimum. Look for items with the fewest amount of ingredients on the label.

Because of that, most fast food options are off the table. Sugar is also minimized in a plant-based diet. Avoid cookies, candy, soda, and other items loaded with sugar. Make the switch from white rice and bread to brown rice and whole-grain bread. Even though some places offer vegan options, stick with all-natural foods. Just because Oreo’s and Duncan Hines Frosting are vegan, doesn’t mean that they are nutritious.

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10. How to Start Eating a Plant-Based Diet

If you’re ready to start eating a plant-based diet, there are some ways to get started. You don’t have to go hog-wild and eliminate meat right away. The first is by incorporating more vegetables into your diet. Try eating more raw fruits and veggies as a snack or side dish. Make sure your plate has a variety of veggies on it in a range of beautiful colors!

Trade pasta for zucchini noodles or rice for cauliflower rice. Instead of making mashed potatoes, try making mashed cauliflower and turnips. Switch out ice cream for dessert with almond milk or soy milk variety. When you go to Starbucks for a coffee, ask for coconut or almond milk instead of half and half.

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11. Look for Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are suitable for everyone, regardless of what type of diet they’re on. For good heart health, avoid saturated fats like butter, lard, and ghee. Making the switch from heavy fats to plant-based monounsaturated and polyunsaturated options is pretty straightforward.

Stock your pantry with olives, olive oil, nuts, nut butter, and nut oils. Instead of thick, processed mayonnaise, dress a sandwich or wrap with hummus or avocado. Make a salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of using heavy, creamy dressings like Ranch. Eat more plant sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds and flaxseeds.

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12. Have a Vegetarian Dinner Once per Week

Have you ever heard of “Meatless Monday?” For this trend, you go one day per week without eating meat. Choosing one day to eat no animal products can be a fun way to get your family interested in going vegetarian.

Choose some of your favorite recipes and figure out a way to make them without meat. Try spaghetti using vegan sausage in the sauce or stir-fry using tofu instead of meat. Have oatmeal in the morning with almond milk instead of cow’s milk and sweeten it with raisins and agave instead of brown sugar. Make baked apples with cinnamon and honey instead of cake or cookies for dessert.

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13. Eat Vegetables with Breakfast

One of the best ways to hit your daily quota of vegetables is by eating them with breakfast. You wouldn’t normally consider breakfast to be a veggie-filled meal, but eating them first thing in the morning is a great way to get vital nutrients before you start your day.

Make an omelet with spinach, onions, peppers, and broccoli. Blend leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard into your favorite smoothie recipe. You can even make savory oatmeal and put your favorite veggies on top. For breakfast on the go, make an egg breakfast burrito filled with tasty green vegetables. You can even dress it with fresh salsa for an extra kick!

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14. Try One New Plant Food a Week

If you and your family aren’t big on eating vegetables, it’s okay to take baby steps. Start out with choosing a vegetable or fruit you’ve never tried before and incorporated it into your weekly menu. Make it fun by putting the names of the fruits or vegetables on a piece of paper and having one member of the family select it at random.

Once you’ve chosen a plant food, you can then decide how to prepare it. For example, if you select sweet potato, you can look on the Internet for awesome sweet potato recipes. For a side dish, you can make roasted sweet potatoes with root vegetables or mashed sweet potatoes. You can take a cooked sweet potato and shape it into a burger patty perfect for Meatless Monday!

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15. Not All Vegetarian Diets Are Perfect

It can be hard to quit meat and animal products cold turkey. If your primary reason for eating a plant-based diet is weight loss, you may find that a plant-based diet is too rich in carbohydrates for you to successfully lose weight. Like with any diet, being vegan or vegetarian isn’t a foolproof way to lose weight.

This isn’t to say that you should take up and plant-based diet and expect it to work. If your diet still includes foods that are high in sugar and refined carbs, then the risk for type 2 diabetes is actually increased. This risk is even higher if it is paired with low levels of activity. Including more whole foods, such as green leafy vegetables and fruits that are high in fiber are better options and will keep this risk to a minimum.

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16. Reducing Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose, or sugar, levels are much too high. We get glucose from the foods that we eat. That means that a diet that includes a lot of processed foods and unhealthy fast food can lead to a person developing diabetes.

Scientific studies have proven that including more fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet reduces the risk of diabetes by about 23%. A reduction of sugary beverages and refined carbs further reduces this risk by an additional 30%. This is because the ingestion of these foods force the intestines to digest food more readily, focusing on the roughage and more natural substances so that the sugar created by the body is ingested and converted more quickly.

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17. Melons or Berries as Snacks

Fresh fruit is an excellent choice for those living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. So many fruits are easy to prepare and always taste delicious. The high water content of these fruits will help you stay hydrated as well as fuller longer.

One of the better foods you can snack on between meals are slices of melon or different berries. One cup of watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, or other types of these fruits only has 15 grams of carbs and adds tremendous amounts of fiber to your diet. They’re also rich with antioxidants as well, minimizing your risk for certain types of cancer. You can choose to eat these raw or add them to some healthy yogurt for a more filling snack.

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18. Chia Seeds In Everything

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is closely related to mint. These seeds date back to the time of the Ancient Mayans, who considered them a dietary staple. Chia seeds are quite beneficial to your health overall. They are high in fiber, high in healthy fats, are laced with omega-3s, and have high levels of antioxidants and calcium. Adding them to your diet can also reduce your levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

You can add chia seeds to just about anything. Blend them into a smoothie, mix them in with healthy yogurt, or sprinkle them on a salad. You can even add it to your favorite pudding recipe to make it a little thicker. Chia seeds are most beneficial when eaten raw.

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19. Improving Weight Loss

Switching to a plant-based diet will also make it easier for you to lose weight and keep it off. Losing weight overall is also beneficial for reducing the risk of diabetes, as obesity has been linked to type 2 diabetes in the majority of cases. Eating mostly plant-based foods can help you stay fuller longer because of their high fiber content.

Any diet that includes higher amounts of vegetables than meat is always more likely to help you lose weight. Some people are unable to go full vegetarian, so even reduced meat intake in each meal can help you to lose weight. If you cannot give up meat entirely, try a pescetarian diet, which allows for the consumption of fish.

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20. Beans Keeping the Pounds Off

Plant-based diets are proven to help you lose weight more quickly because of the high fiber content. Fiber makes you feel full much more rapidly so that you won’t have the temptation to overstuff yourself. Getting fuller with less food is how your stomach is tricked.

Legumes such as black and kidney beans can be added to just about any meal to help you feel full and is also an excellent source of protein if you’re trying to cut back on actual meat. They are incredibly versatile too! You can put beans in soups and salads, blend them into a dip, or serve them on their own as a side dish. The best part is that beans are very inexpensive.

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21. The Mediterranean Diet Is the First Step

There’s a reason that the Mediterranean diet is one of the highest-ranked diets in 2019. It is rich with low-fat proteins, healthy oils, and plenty of fresh vegetables. Fish is the protein of choice in this kind of diet, so you’re getting oils that are good for your joints and brainpower.

Whole grains also make up an intricate part of the Mediterranean diet. Instead of being plain carbs, fiber is added to the mix to help the body digest food more slowly, decreasing the amount of insulin being produced. Whole grain pasta, brown rice, and quinoa are just a few examples of healthy whole grains. Ease into the Mediterranean diet by switching to whole grain pasta and trading red meat for fish.

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22. Plant-Based Diets for your Heart

Studies have also shown that having a diet that is rich in vegetables and fruit reduces the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension. Because there is no fat or high amounts of salt present in these kinds of foods, there is less cholesterol clogging your arteries. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are the ideal way to get essential vitamins and minerals.

As we get older, high blood pressure becomes an additional risk that people don’t know how to control. They resort to pills to get the job done, but simply switching their diet to something more healthy could be all the change that they need. Speak to your doctor to see how a plant-based diet can improve your heart health.

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23. Leafy Greens to Help Your Heart

High blood pressure affects more than just your heart. It can lead to damage in the blood vessels that lead to your major organs as well. This means your kidneys, liver, and brain could all suffer. That’s why small changes to your diet are essential.

Adding leafy greens such as kale, spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard are all high in potassium, which helps your kidneys to remove excess sodium in your body through urine. This reduction in sodium is what keeps your heart healthy, so make your own salad or juice them up in a blender for a green drink. Go for fresh or frozen; canned tend to have too much added salt.

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24. Pomegranates Love Your Heart Too

Pomegranates are an excellent fruit that is not only rich in vitamin C but is also pretty great for your heart. They are also great for reducing inflammation in the body. You can choose to eat it raw or drink it in juice form; the benefits are still the same.

Studies have shown that drinking at least one cup of pomegranate juice once a day for four weeks lowers blood pressure. Be aware of your intake, however. Buying already-processed pomegranate juice may have too much sugar added to it, negating the overall health benefits. Pomegranate seeds are delicious on their own, in salads or mixed with yogurt.

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25. More Veggies and Fruits Means Less Risk of Cancer

There are several reasons why fruits and vegetables are great at reducing the risk of cancer. First of all, they’re filled with rich antioxidants that reduce the free radicals in your body, which are responsible for causing cancer.

Secondly, the high fiber content keeps the intestines active and regular so that there is less risk for colorectal cancer. Thirdly, they’re just more rich in all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs that you’d ever find in processed foods, increasing your health overall. Many studies have shown that a plant-based diet with minimal animal products is essential for preventing cancer.

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26. Tiny Little Trees for Your Colon

Broccoli is one of those foods that is just great for your gut. It contains a chemical called sulforaphane that is great at reducing the risk of cancer. This chemical has been shown to reduce the size and number of breast cancer cells by about 75%.

Broccoli is also very rich in fiber, which also reduces your risk of colorectal cancer. Adding it to a few of your meals each week will significantly improve your overall health. Broccoli can be enjoyed raw or steamed. Roasted broccoli with healthy olive oil and garlic for a tasty side dish. Be sure to include this delicious vegetable in your next veggie tray!

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27. Spicy Cinnamon Contributes to the Fight

Cinnamon extract has been known to produce a lot of health benefits, such as reducing blood sugar and easing inflammation inside the body. But did you know that it can also reduce your risk of cancer?

Cinnamon can actually block the spread of cancer cells altogether and induce their death. Application in a test-tube study showed that the application of cinnamon oil to cancer cells suppressed their growth and reduced their overall size. Use cinnamon in baked goods, hot drinks, and more! It’s great sprinkled on raw apples and mixed into yogurt. This spice is ideal for adding flavor to sweet foods without added sugar.

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28. Not Just for Ketchup

Tomatoes are rich in the carotenoid lycopene, which not only gives them their red color but also has high anticancer properties. Lycopene has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men as well as other forms of cancer.

If you’re not a fan of eating them raw, having tomato sauce works just as well. Adding this to whole grain pasta boosts the benefits even more, as the whole grains will fill you up and keep your gut active. Just cutting them up and adding them to chili works well. Make a fresh salsa to enjoy the delicious taste and benefits of healthy tomatoes.

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29. Improving Cognitive Decline That Comes with Age

As we naturally age, our brains start to lose more and more of their mental “elasticity.” It becomes more challenging to remember things, and we become more at risk for mental diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Berries, nuts, and other plants rich in vitamin E are especially helpful.

However, taking on a more plant-based diet has been shown to slow down the progression of such decline. Those who had a more fruit-and-vegetables-rich diet had a 20% reduction in risk of developing cognitive impairment. In addition to a plant-based diet, experts believe that keeping the mind sharp with games and puzzles can help slow the development of specific cognitive conditions.

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30. Having Nuts Will Stop You From Going Nuts

Increased nut consumption has been connected to lowered risks of dementia, which can be a quite debilitating condition to experience. Studies have shown that including nuts in your diet can improve memory function. Nuts are also a great source of healthy fat. Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts like almonds and walnuts can help protect the brain.

And this isn’t just for people who don’t have dementia; studies have also shown improved memory in those who already have Alzheimer’s. It’s not a perfect cure for an irreversible condition, but anything that can help is definitely worth trying. Create a trail mix using nuts and raisins or sprinkle them on a salad.

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31. Coffee On the Brain

You wouldn’t think of coffee as being plant-based, but it is a bean that you boil, and it isn’t animal-based in any way. But if you’re not a coffee drinker, you can get the same benefits from drinking black tea.

Anything containing caffeine improves cognitive functions, including increasing spatial and working memory. So at least try a cup of coffee or black tea a day with any meal. Avoid sugary drinks with added caffeine, as the amount of sugar counteracts these benefits. If you need to add something to your cup of java, try a splash of almond, oat, or soy milk. You can sweeten coffee with a natural sweetener like agave.

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32. Eating More Veggies and Fruits Reduces Cholesterol

Along with high blood pressure, having a more plant-rich diet reduces cholesterol levels throughout the body. Cholesterol is circulated in the blood and can get stuck along arteries if there is too much present. That puts a strain on your heart as it tries to get the blood circulating through your body.

But by making changes to your diet, your cholesterol levels will drop tremendously, making it easier for your heart to do its job. Reducing your consumption of animal products, especially eggs and red meat, will make your heart and body function better. Limiting the processed foods in your diet is an excellent way to improve your bloodwork.

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33. Oats For Your Heart

Oats, or any whole grain in general, is going to be better for your body than refined grains. Oatmeal or whole-grain cereals provide you with at least 1 to 2 grams of fiber, which binds to the cholesterol and removes it from the body before it even enters the bloodstream.

Each day, you should be trying to get at least 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day to start seeing these benefits more quickly. Try making oatmeal for breakfast or eating a quinoa salad for lunch. If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, find a recipe for overnight oats that you can make at night, so they’re ready for breakfast the next day.

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34. Plant-Based Diets are Better for the Environment

The production of meat and the meat market have enormous carbon footprints. Transporting animals to the slaughterhouse, feeding them and watering them, taking care of them, and the conditions that they’re kept in greatly affect the environment. Post-slaughter, the transportation of meat to supermarkets add to this.

Plant-based diets cut back on a lot of this. People can grow their own vegetable gardens in their backyards if the conditions are right, and there’s less transportation to and from where crops are grown. Less water is used to keep plants growing, and fewer greenhouse gases are being released into the air. For those who are looking to minimize their environmental impact, then this kind of diet is definitely the way to go.

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35. Improve Digestion

Another great reason for eating a plant-based diet is to improve your digestion. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is fantastic for your gut health. Fiber and nutrients found in veggies and fruits are ideal for regulating your digestive system.

Additionally, fiber helps to bulk up your stool as it regulates your system. This leads to frequent, smooth eliminations and less bloating. Keep in mind that if you don’t usually eat a lot of fiber, switching to a diet heavy in fiber can cause a lot of blockages. Ease into a vegan or vegetarian diet slowly and drink plenty of water!

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36. Better Nutrition

With a vegan or vegetarian diet, you have no choice but to eat a lot of vegetables. Most doctors would agree that the more vegetables a person can consume, the better. Nutritionists say to make sure that one-third of your dinner plate is filled with colorful, healthy veggies.

Vegetables and fruits contain so many vitamins and minerals we need to survive. The one nutrient that most people don’t consume enough of is fiber. Fiber is excellent for reducing blood sugar, improving heart and gut health, and helping with weight loss. Studies show that those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet have better nutrition than those who eat plants and animal products.

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37. Get Healthy Hair, Nails, and Skin

It’s true what they say: the things we put into our bodies will show on the outside. Eating a diet rich in plants can help your hair, nails, and skin look amazing. Vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables will strengthen the keratin that’s in your skin, nails, and hair.

Dairy, meat, and processed foods lead to inflammation in the body. That inflammation can be seen in the quality of your skin. Going vegan or vegetarian can help you eliminate irritation caused by animal products. After adopting a plant-based diet, you may notice that your skin begins to clear up, and your hair and nails become much healthier.

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38. Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Disease

As we mentioned before, a plant-based diet is a great way to reduce your risk of serious diseases. People who eat a lot of processed foods, along with meat and dairy, have a higher risk of developing a chronic illness. Diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease can all benefit from a vegan or vegetarian diet.

If you have a chronic disease that runs in your family, consider making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle. You may be able to prevent an unwanted condition from impacting your health. If you already have a chronic illness, a plant-based diet can help mitigate your symptoms.

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39. Boost Your Energy

If you feel tired all the time and no amount of coffee and alleviate your fatigue, your diet may be to blame. Processed foods high in fat and sugar drag us down and make us sluggish. Eating more fruits and vegetables can change that.

Because of their high vitamin and mineral content, plants are ideal for boosting energy. Plants are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which are great for improving your mood. Healthy fat and protein are excellent at giving your brain energy. Also, plants are extremely easy to digest, leaving extra energy in your body to expend. It’s no wonder that so many athletes are vegan or vegetarian.

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40. Save Animals

In addition to nutritional benefits, going vegan or vegetarian also has ethical benefits. If you’re only eating plants, you aren’t consuming any animals or animal products. You may not think that one person can make an impact on the meat industries, but that’s not true.

When most people go into the grocery store, they don’t see meat and equate it to living animals. They don’t realize the awful, inhumane conditions these poor creatures are forced to live in. By taking a stand and going vegan, you can help to change not only your health but how animals are treated all over the world.

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