August 4, 2021
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Lynda Rosini, MA, RDN, CNSC, ADCES contributes to topics such as Nutrition.
Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular. But what exactly are these diets, and why might they be right for you?
What Are Plant-based Diets?
“Plant-based diet” is a bit of an umbrella term, under which many diets (the Mediterranean diet, for example) may fall. A plant-based diet can be similar to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is not exactly the same. Those who follow strict vegan diets abstain from consuming any animal products at all, while vegetarians may still consume things like eggs, milk and honey. Plant-based diets focus primarily on foods from plants. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. To have a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you never eat meat, rather you are choosing to make plant sources the central parts of your meals.
Benefits of a Plant-based Diet
There are many health benefits to following a plant-based diet. Expanding the amount of plant protein in your diet can boost your immune system, reduce inflammation and increase your fiber intake. Research suggests that plant-based diets may also reduce risk for certain cancers and chronic diseases.
“Those who follow a plant-based diet can lower their risk of certain health conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” says Lynda Rosini, MA, RDN, CNSC, ADCES, pediatric oncology, bone marrow transplant and pain and palliative care dietitian. “This is also a way to reduce calorie intake and could potentially lead to weight loss.”
What to Include in a Plant-based Diet
Since plant-based diets are such a broad category, they can vary greatly from person to person. Most who follow plant-based diets may eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, beans and lentils. Some who follow a plant-based diet choose to limit or avoid consuming things like meat, seafood, dairy, sweets and refined grains, such as white pasta and white rice. Others may choose to eat meat and sweets every now and then. It all depends on the individual, but the emphasis of a plant-based diet is on using fresh, whole ingredients while reducing your intake of processed foods (for example, chips, snack foods, pies and pastries, cake, cheese, breakfast cereal and meat alternatives).
Next Steps & Resources:
- Learn about nutritional counseling at Hackensack Meridian Health
- 4 tips for healthy vegan kids
- Spinach and bean soup recipe
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.