For many Americans, the last four years especially have been a catalyst for positive lifestyle changes. Many are striving to lead healthier lives by consuming more wholesome and natural foods to benefit their overall health. They have also developed a new yearning to read labels and understand ingredients. On this path toward more conscious consumption, more individuals are contemplating adopting a plant-based lifestyle – the practice of consuming all or mostly plants. However, before jumping into a new diet, it’s important to understand the benefits of plant-based eating, your personal needs, and the diet options available to make an informed decision.
Why Is Plant-Based Eating Healthy?
A diet centered around fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods can deliver nutrients that the body uses for energy while avoiding many of the drawbacks associated with eating meats. Eating whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains is beneficial because they contain a plethora of nutrients that support healthy function across all bodily systems.
The macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) we see on nutrition labels may only scratch the surface of a food’s benefits. In addition to phytonutrients and numerous other compounds, many plant foods qualify as “superfoods.”
Vitamins and minerals found in plants, as well as phytonutrients and antioxidants, can, depending on the nutrient, keep cells healthy, allowing the immune system to function optimally. Additionally, the fiber present in all unprocessed plant foods maintain regularity.
Do You Have to Eat Only Plants to be Plant-Based?
Generally speaking, “plant-based” refers to a lifestyle in which someone eats only or mostly plants.
Another term floating around is “plant-forward”.A plant-forward diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts, but is not limited to those foods. Someone who says they’re plant-forward may be a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian, but what does following these lifestyles entail?
A vegetarian abstains from eating animal products including meat, poultry, or fish. In terms of ethics, vegetarians are opposed to killing animals for food, but generally consider it acceptable to consume animal by-products such as milk and eggs, if the animals are kept in adequate conditions.
Vegan and vegetarian diets both exclude meat and seafood. However, vegan diets go a step further by eliminating other food of animal origin. In addition to avoiding meat, vegans steer clear of dairy products, eggs, and honey. Furthermore, vegan foods never contain any byproducts of animal agriculture, such as lard, whey, or gelatin.
According to studies, plant-based lifestyles are on the rise. In fact, approximately 3% of Americans consider themselves vegan, up from 2% in 2012, while 5% are vegetarian. Additionally, almost half of Americans call themselves flexitarians.
The flexitarian diet is essentially a flexible alternative to being a vegetarian. You’re still focusing on fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, with the occasional inclusion of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. When you do incorporate meat into your diet, choose organic, free-range, pasture-raised, or grass-fed beef, chicken, or turkey. And always choose leaner cuts to minimize extra animal fat.
A flexitarian diet may be a great option for those who are just starting to experiment with a plant-based lifestyle. It’s a great way to maintain a healthy, balanced diet while helping to protect the environment by cutting down on energy and resources used to produce red meat.
Simple Steps to Get Started With Plant-Based
A plant-based diet is not a one size fits all way of eating. And while individuals’ motivations for adopting a plant-based diet vary, they are all looking to live their best lives. Here are some simple tips to seamlessly integrate more plants into your diet and start reaping the many benefits.
1. Set yourself up for success. Don’t plunge into eating fully plant-based all at once. Your taste buds are adjusted to your current way of eating, making you crave those foods. Start with one plant-based meal per day, and slowly increase to three a day over one or two months.
2. Keep it simple. You’d be surprised at the deliciousness of simplicity. There’s something about a bowl of piping hot oatmeal or a cool, fruit-filled smoothie that never gets old. Once you get the hang of it you can try out challenging recipes, but don’t let it get in the way of your success.
3. Don’t focus on the label. Focus on the food! This journey isn’t about being able to label yourself “plant-based” or “plant-forward.” It’s about filling your body with living foods that can transform your life. Start by heading straight to the source by hitting the farmers market and the produce aisle!
4. Consider supplementing. When first navigating a plant-based lifestyle, it may be challenging to meet your daily nutrient requirements which include macronutrients like protein and micronutrients like vitamins. Thus, it’s important to choose the right plant-based foods. For example, soy, quinoa, and nuts are good sources of protein, and tofu, lentils, and spinach are rich in iron, but sometimes it’s necessary to supplement. Plant-based certified products like those from the HERBALIFE® V line can help you hit your macro target. The new product line includes plant-based protein shakes in classic and chocolate flavors, formulated with 20 grams of protein (pea, pumpkin seed, and chia) and a Plant-based Immune Support* with Vitamins C and D, and Zinc to help balance and support daily immune health*. Other products in the Herbalife V line include Plant-based Digestive Support* and a Greens Booster.
5. Focus on environmental health, too! Doing your partcan create a deeper connection withyour food and the natural world.Plus, a healthy environment helps us all stay healthy! Reducing food waste is a simple action that can have a great effect. In a 2021 study commissioned by Herbalife concerning plant-based diets, 40% of respondents said that their food choices are a result of wanting to be more environmentally friendly.
To learn more about Herbalife or connect with an independent distributor visit Herbalife.com
Dr. Luigi Gratton
Dr. Luigi Gratton is the vice president of Training at Herbalife where he is responsible for ensuring the Company’s independent distributors have a thorough understanding of Herbalife products, ingredients and benefits. Dr. Gratton is also Chairman of the Nutrition Advisory Board, a global team of experts who help educate Herbalife distributors on health and nutrition.