What is a Plant-based Diet?A plant-based diet is quite simply one that focuses mostly on food from plants. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you only eat plant-derived foods and never eat meat, fish eggs or dairy (that is a Vegan diet), but that the majority of what you eat is plant-sourced, including lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and oils.
Plant-based can include vegans and vegetarians, and it can also include the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on a foundation of plants with smaller amounts of fish, poultry, yogurt included and meat and sweets only very seldom. It’s a catch-all term that reflects a growing and beneficial movement to reducing or even eliminating animals from our diets.
Plant-based diets, when done right, offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients as a larger portion of your food intake comes from nutrient rich fruits and veggies.
Why go Plant-based?First off, it’s just better for you. Plants contain phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals not found in other food. They help keep cells healthy and your immune system functioning to fend off infections. Plant-based eating reduces inflammation (the root of most disease) in the body, and can help maintain a healthy weight, and prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for so many diseases. Plants are also high in fibre, which improves gut health, further supporting the immune system and inflammation reduction.
A plant-based diet is associated with reduced risk of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. It can also be more cost-effective, and is easier on the planet.
How to get started
- Make sure your plant-based choices are healthy ones – avoid sugar and processed foods and opt for fresh or frozen vegetables, fruits, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Avoid (or at least minimize) anything deep-fried, and anything “white” (white bread, regular pasta, white rice).
- Make at least one meal a week completely plant-sourced, with whole foods. Salad or grain bowls with quinoa or brown rice are a great way to start, then add legumes, seeds, maybe some tofu, more veggies, and a homemade dressing or sauce. Yum!
- Include healthy fats – avocados, olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butter, seeds are all good and will help with satiety
- More greens! Include leafy green vegetables every day, like collards, kale, chard and spinach.
- Change your thinking around meat. If you are including it, think smaller amounts – it doesn’t need to be center stage on your plate, it can be in a smaller, supporting role. When you do include it, ensure it is high quality, organically and locally raised. Yes, that will cost more – but it should.
What about supplements?
If you are doing plant-based carefully and correctly, you are, in theory, covering most, if not all, your nutritional needs. But most of us aren't eating exactly how we know we should every day.
I’m a big believer in protein at every meal, and for me the easiest way to get that done in the morning, and know it is a complete protein with a full amino acid profile (which just means your body can use it effectively), is to add a scoop of Niyama Plant Protein to a smoothie with frozen fruit, water or plant milk, and a healthy fat source (flax seeds, nut butter or avocado all work well) and blend well. Sometimes I use less liquid and make it into a smoothie bowl and top it with granola, nuts, seeds and more fruit for a change. It’s an organic pea protein that is super smooth and never gritty or gross and also includes a plant-sourced multivitamin powder right in it.
Many people believe that even with a great diet, our soils are no longer as rich as they were historically, making our plants less nutrient dense. If you want to ensure you are getting what you need each and every day, even on the days when you are rushing or eating less than ideally, check out Niyama Goddess Greens. I get asked a lot if it’s like AG1 (Athletic Greens) and I always answer that it’s probably the closest Canadian product. Goddess Greens is an all organic greens and superfoods powder that you mix with water and drink daily. Each scoop provides the nutrient equivalent of 6-8 servings of fruit & vegetables and minimum 50% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs. And it has organic inulin as a source of prebiotics for gut health and extra fibre. Made in Canada, with love and care.
I should note that all Niyama supplements are vegan friendly – so they contain absolutely zero animal ingredients. They are plant-based to the max. My believe is that by providing your own body the plant-based nutrients it needs, it can do a better job of making anything you are short on. Our Glow & Flow Vegan Collagen Booster takes that approach and provides all the building blocks for your body to make more of its own collagen, as opposed to taking that made by another species (cow or fish or chicken). But that is only our approach; at Niyama we don’t believe in dogma, but want to make the most effective products that are suitable for the most people – including specialized diets. Niyama Wellness supplements are vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free and made in Canada without artificial sweeteners, flavours or colours.
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