Plant-Based Beginner’s Guide

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I created the plant-based beginner’s guide to help you navigate through the plant-based lifestyle and understand the reasons why its so important to add more plant-based foods on your plate. Happy reading!

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BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE

With poor eating habits, the quality of life is seriously reduced, a great number of people become overweight, and diet related diseases are expensive to treat. Many people fail to recognize that an unhealthy diet is a leading cause of disability, and bad eating habits continue to prevail.

The western diet is too high in calories, saturated fats, added sugars and sodium and lacks adequate supplies of fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber and many important vitamins and minerals that can be added into the diet by eating more plant-based foods.

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Numerous studies have shown that a diet rich in plant-based foods provides the body with enough protein, carbs, healthy fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. Other than Vitamin B12, which is neither produced by the human body, nor supplied by plants, a plant-based diet has nothing lacking in meeting an individual’s dietary needs.

So, what exactly is a plant-based diet? Let’s take a closer look.

Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants

Eating a plant-based diet simply means eating more plants. In fact, experts suggests that this style of eating is so much more than a diet; it’s a lifestyle change that can give you not just a short-term schedule of healthy eating but a lifetime of better health.

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For anyone, including more plants into their diet is always possible. Plus, plants are always available no matter where you are.

So, implementing a plant-based diet means making sure that you have the right ingredients stocked in your kitchen and kitchen tools when starting.

The must haves of the diet include plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, beans, healthy oils and a variety of nuts and seeds. All these and other food ideas will be discussed in greater detail in this post.

Now this transition to plant-based eating is all about your personal approach (with a few tips from the experts) as well as about how you may want it to happen. This includes how you wish to eat better, as well as how you wish to feel better and live better.

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To get started, you need to equip yourself with some basic facts and background knowledge about this eating style. This information can then help you stay focused and motivated about your diet and also help you maintain it.

Some ideas to increase your understanding about the plant-based way of eating can include reading books, on plant-based living. There are also documentaries available that you can view to expand your awareness as well as talk to people who may already be eating this way.

The ultimate goal is to add more plant-based foods and eventually choosing these, whenever possible.

However, most people will likely have a transitional phase where they can start to phase out other non-plant-based foods (junk food) from their diet and begin to focus on all the great whole foods that we will talk about.

Let’s begin.

Top Fiber Rich Foods

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There are many areas of nutrition that lead to controversy, but dietary fiber is typically not one of them. Instead, nutrition experts belonging to all schools of thought agree that including more fiber rich foods into the diet can lead to a number of health benefits for those who do so.

Some of the most well-known of these benefits can include lowering blood cholesterol levels, can help prevent gut related issues like bloating and addressing issues like obesity. Not to mention that when fiber rich foods are included in meals, their fiber content increases satiety and helps regulate weight.

Many whole plant foods are rich in different types of fiber. For maximum benefits, it is recommended that you include a variety of fiber in your diet.

As such the plant-based diet is all about fiber. Powering up on the following fiber rich foods is the perfect way to include more dietary fiber into your meals.

Beans: Another naturally fiber rich food is the different variety of beans. Beans not only provide excellent supplies of fiber but also a host of other nutritional contents such as vitamins, minerals as well as protein. Beans are also considered an animal protein replacement in the plant-based diet.

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Berries: Berries are not only well known for their antioxidant properties but also their generous fiber content. The reason for this is that since berries are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is typically higher than that of many other fruits.

Whole Grains: Whole grains, not to be confused with the commonly consumed refined grains, are also one of the easiest ways to up your fiber intake. Whole grains contain all the essential parts of the grains including the bran and germ and so offer more fiber. Once a grain has been processed, the outer layers of bran and germ are removed and essential nutrients are lost.

Leafy Green Vegetables: Known to offer a host of vitamins and minerals, leafy greens also provide good fiber content. There are a lot of plant species with edible leaves, some of which may be eaten raw in salads, blended into smoothies or be sautéed into stir fries.

Nuts and Seeds: An excellent source, nuts and seeds pack a punch of fiber in them. When snacking, choose to munch on healthy raw nuts and seeds to get your fill of fiber along with a bonus of healthy fats and protein.

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The Importance of Eating Leafy Greens and Vegetables

Greens and vegetables are undoubtedly one of the best foods you can eat to improve your health as well as lose weight. And the reason is simple. Leafy greens and other vegetables are not only packed with fiber but also a number of vitamins, minerals and other plant-based substances that can help protect you against many health conditions.

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And while everyone knows how important greens and vegetables are to a healthy diet, not many of us include enough of these power packed foods into our meals.

Instead, our typical diet relies more on animal-based products, leaving leafy greens and other veggies to be served in salads or as a side dish. This is where the plant-based diet makes the most significant change by making greens and vegetables the primary focus of a meal.

With greens and vegetables at the center of the meal, other plant-based foods such as whole grain foods, fruits, nuts and seeds are used as accompaniments or in dessert options to make up the remaining meal. After all, the idea is to consume more plant-based foods over time.

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Another obstacle that many people face when making their main meals out of greens and veggies is that they feel they may be highly restricted in their meal choices. However, this is not true as by putting just a little thought into it, greens and vegetables may easily be created into a variety of meal options.

Take your health to the next level and learn to cook healthy meals from scratch, from the comfort of your home with the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

As mentioned previously, some can be cut up in salads and the possibilities are limitless. Others can be grilled, broiled, baked, stir fried, sautéed or steamed in endless ways and combinations.

You can choose to serve your veggies and greens in a hearty soup, a pasta dish, in a taco or burrito, or simply as a veggie stir fry served with rice; the only limit is your imagination! Or as a quick fix, blend your personal favorites into a green or veggie smoothie.

Check out this delicious vegan salad recipe with no oil .

Some of the top recommended leafy greens to include are kale, collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard and spinach among many others. These and other leafy greens offer the best of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and loads of fiber.

As for other vegetables, it is recommended to eat the entire rainbow. Collectively, eating a range of vegetables can help with heart health, can help improve vision, beautifies the skin, and can provide a well-functioning digestive system. In addition, including a variety of vegetables into meals can also help boost your immune system and can help improve memory.

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Experts have even color-coded foods based on their predominant phytochemical group highlighting the health benefits provided by each color. As such foods that are blue or purple are helpful for healthy blood pressure, greens are good for cleansing the liver, while yellow/green are responsible for good eye health.

Likewise, red foods are beneficial for heart health and cancer prevention and yellow/orange foods can be helpful for immune function as well as skin and bone health. These details are based on information from the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

However, all this is in a nutshell and does not represent the entire scale of health benefits of eating vegetables. The idea is simply to include as many of the colorful variety of vegetables into your diet so you do not remain nutritionally deficient in any of the areas that these wonderful foods have to offer.

The Health Benefits of Eating Fruits

If greens and veggies make up the bulk of main meals on the plant-based diet, then fruits have their fair share in satisfying your sweet tooth.

Just like the color-coded health benefits of vegetables discussed in the previous posts, fruits also follow the same principles. Fruits have also been categorized into the colors of the rainbow and their benefits classified similarly.

No meal plan is complete without dessert and snacks and this is where fruits come into the picture on the plant-based diet. Not only can fruits be added to a breakfast option such as a Greek yogurt and fruit parfait, or chopped up fruit on your cereal, but can also be enjoyed on their own as a snack, be baked into goods or served as dessert.

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Fruits come with all the natural goodness of fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. They are not only delicious but also healthful since they can help boost the immune system (think vitamin C rich fruits), can help lower blood pressure, can help reduce the risk of heart disease with their potassium content such as in bananas, and offer anti-inflammatory benefits such as from cherries and other berries.

Plus, most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium as well as in calories. This makes fruit an ideal choice for people who may be trying to lose weight and keep it off.

Of course, the sugar content in fruit is still a concern, but you can easily choose from fruits that do not have a high sugar content like berries, but still offer plenty of fiber content to help keep you satiated. Different kinds of berries, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, along with peaches, papaya and avocados are all excellent examples.

And of course, there is always the convenience of eating fruit since it can be eaten as is with no need to cook or prepare it. Most fruit is enjoyable in any form whether it is fresh, frozen, dried or freshly squeezed.

Best Sources of Carbs

Carbs, in general, have long been criticized. However, the problem lies not with carbs but the stage of refining and processing that they go through before they are ready for consumption.

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Simply put, carbs are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. They are found in foods like whole grains, vegetables, peas, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. As far as vegetables, peas, beans, nuts and seeds are concerned, they can be consumed whole so there seems to be no problem. However, grains do undergo a lot of refining before they are marketed for consumption.

These refined grains are the problematic ones since their refining process strips them of their essential nutrients and breaks down their complex sugar chains leaving them as highly sugary foods with little or no nutritional value. When carbs are referred to as either “good” or “bad” carbs, it is actually talking about non-refined versus refined carbs.

Therefore, complex carbs are non-refined carbs that contain a complete source of carbohydrates like sugars as well as fiber. These complex carbs are used by the body as a primary source of energy. Since carbs provide the body with immediate energy, consuming complex carbs earlier on in the day is recommended as it takes a long time for them to burn through your system.

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Having a breakfast of whole grains helps energize the body and keep it running well throughout the day. Complex carbs consumed in the morning will prevent you from feeling tired and fatigued during the day as well as prevent an afternoon slump.

Another reason to include carbs in your meals is that they have fiber which fills you up and aids digestion. And you know enough about the benefits of fiber rich foods by now to have any doubts about this one. Most plant-based foods provide good fiber supplies and all whole food sources of carbohydrates are also excellent sources of fiber.

Carbs are not only needed for physical energy but also for mental clarity.

Complex carbs are required for optimal brain function and foods like vegetables, legumes, oats, quinoa, beans as well as seeds, nuts and fruit all have a collection of carbs that help in mental focus and can help prevent brain fog.

Check out this delicious overnight oats breakfast recipe.

Remember that while sugar can make you excitable and anxious, complex carbs have a grounding effect and lower nervousness and anxiety.

So, get your fill of complex carbs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. In fact, every meal on the menu should have complex carbs included into it.

Some complex carbs include foods like lentils, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, beans, oats, broccoli, asparagus, prunes and more.

4 High Protein Foods

Protein, as we all know, is needed for proper muscle growth and repair. In addition, it helps the slow release of carbs into the bloodstream preventing sudden sugar spikes.

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On a typical diet plan, protein is almost always sourced from meat but what would one do on a plant-based diet?

The answer is not as difficult as it may seem. In fact, there are quite a few plant-based foods that qualify as complete proteins and nearly all foods, including greens and veggies contain some form of protein. If you include a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods into your meals, you will be getting your share of protein.

In addition, plant-based protein sources, when compared with animal-based sources are more alkalizing for the body. This means experiencing less aches and pains, happier moods, better sleep and improved memory and concentration.

Some of the best protein sources that you can include in your plant-based diet can be from the following foods:

Quinoa: Where most grains are considered to be inadequate as complete protein sources because they lack sufficient amounts of certain amino acids, quinoa qualifies as a complete protein. It has all the essential amino acids making it an ideal meat substitute on the plant-based diet.

Buckwheat: Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not a type of wheat but a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb. Like quinoa, the protein in buckwheat is of a high quality containing all essential amino acids.

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Chia: Chia seeds are an excellent protein content, supply fiber, calcium and omega 3s to the diet. The seeds can be used in food, and offer great nutritional value.

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Soy: Soy is another complete protein option for people who choose to follow a plant-based diet. However, stay away from processed varieties as these do not deliver the same nutritional benefits. Along with being a complete protein, soy also provides fiber and healthy omega 3s and is naturally cholesterol free and low in saturated fat.

You can also combine certain incomplete proteins together to get the benefits of a complete protein meal.

Here is one of my favorite vegetable tofu pot pie recipes.

One of the simplest plant-based meals is a combination of rice and beans. In fact, every time legumes like beans, chickpeas or lentils are combined with grains such as rice or corn, a complete protein results. Such plant-based meals can be an excellent substitute for meat dishes!

Another food combination to make a complete protein meal is hummus and pita. Since chickpeas have a similar amino acid profile to most legumes, and the protein in wheat is similar to that of rice, the combination will have a similar effect of making a complete protein meal. This can be combined with an assortment of vegetables to further complete the meal.

Choose Healthy Fats

Another nutrient that deserves mention is the addition of healthy fats into your plant-based diet. When looking for fats that support your health it is important to choose from those that do not raise your cholesterol levels and risk of certain diseases.

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People on a plant-based diet can choose healthy fats from foods like avocados, olives, and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and cashews among others.

In addition, seeds like sunflower, sesame, flax, chia and pumpkin seeds are also good sources. Healthy nut butters are also another option for healthy fats.  Healthy nut butters include butters made from almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans.

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Traditional, cold-pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil are rich in monounsaturated fats and have been in use for many years. Oils are sometimes not included in the plant-based diet, but if you want to add oil, then it is best to consider safer options.

On the other hand, industrially manufactured oils are usually prepared from genetically modified crops and despite being labelled monounsaturated fats may not deliver all the promised health benefits.

For making the most of healthy fats on your plant-based diet, use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil to dress salads, while staying away from commercially prepared salad dressings that often contain trans-fats and are high in calories.

Avocados make for a filling and satisfying meal when added into salads, sandwiches or served as guacamole. Nuts can be enjoyed as a snack, be used in vegetable dishes or sprinkled onto salads to get a good supply of unsaturated fats.

Likewise, olives may also be enjoyed for a low-calorie snack when eaten on their own or added into pasta dishes, dipping, and appetizers or as tapenade.

How to Get Calcium with No Dairy

Calcium is important in your diet as it plays a part in bone development, along with proper functioning of your heart, muscles and nerves.

Many people turn to dairy for meeting their calcium requirement, but others who do not tolerate dairy well or may avoid it, there is the option of choosing from various plant-based foods that are also excellent sources of calcium.

Top contenders for this spot include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash and collards among others. In addition, kale, sweet potato, carrots and cauliflower are also good sources. In fact, dark green leafy vegetables of all varieties have calcium in varying amounts.

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Substantial amounts of calcium can also be added into your diet by including legumes like beans and lentils into your meals. Among these, black beans, great northern beans, navy beans and soy beans are all excellent sources of calcium.

Others like chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans and pinto beans can also be counted upon to deliver adequate calcium. And the thing with legumes is that they can easily be included in meals by putting them in salads, pasta favorites, chilies and soups.

Among fruits, figs are one of the best sources of calcium while navel oranges and raisins also have good calcium content.

When in doubt of your calcium requirement, you can also choose to get calcium fortified foods and beverages. Whole grain products like cereals are also calcium fortified, but it is important to read the labels, as the products need to be healthy types and not those filled with chemicals and sugars.

Remember that a number of factors can affect calcium loss from the body. One of these is that diets high in protein cause more calcium loss through the urine. And animal-based protein is much more likely to cause calcium loss than protein from plant foods.

To counter this, consume calcium from plant-based sources, especially green vegetables and beans to provide the building blocks for bone density.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D are closely related because to absorb calcium, your body also needs vitamin D.

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Now there are a few foods that naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D such as egg yolks and canned salmon with bones as well as fortified foods, but the biggest provider of vitamin D remains sun exposure.

Our bodies can also make some vitamin D but most of it is required in additional amounts from our diet, the sun or supplements to keep up with adequate levels.

Yet, many of us are simply not getting enough of this important vitamin to allow our bodies to perform optimally all the functions that are supported by vitamin D. In fact, statistics suggest that people worldwide suffer from vitamin D deficiencies.

However, being a fat-soluble vitamin, extra amounts of vitamin D can be stored by the body. So, adding it with supplements and fortified foods is one option, especially for people who live in colder areas and do not get a lot of sun exposure.

Foods such as milk, soy or rice beverages can have vitamin D added to them or fortified cereals can be included in meals. Once again make it a point to read labels, and choose healthy types which are not filled with chemicals and sugars.

Mushrooms are another possible option to look into when trying to meet your vitamin D supplies. Typically mushrooms grow in the dark so are not exposed to sunlight. However, like humans, mushrooms have the capacity to produce vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Therefore, to start vitamin D production in mushrooms, certain brands are grown in UV light. These mushrooms can be used in your diet to supplement vitamin D supply.

“It’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you already take medications, have health concerns or are pregnant.”

Are you Getting Enough Vitamin B12?

While other nutrients can be supplemented effectively through sensible food options, Vitamin B12 is a genuine issue for people on a plant-based diet. Since this vitamin is primarily found in animal products, it can be hard to supplement on a 100% plant-based diet.

Vitamin B12 protects the nervous system, so is essential for the human body.

A deficiency can cause brain fog, memory problems and cognitive decline on the surface, with much more serious problems like neurological disorders.

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Vitamin B12 is found exclusively in animal foods such as beef, lamb, liver, eggs, and seafood like fish, clams, crab, lobster, oysters and mussels. Dairy products like cheese also contain vitamin B12.

For people who allow dairy and eggs on their plant-based diet, B12 can be supplemented through these foods. For instance, in cheese the amount of B12 depends on its type and variety. Eggs can deliver good supplies of vitamin B12.

Milk and yogurt can also provide vitamin B12 supplies while nutritional yeast is also packed with vitamin B12.

Others who do not include either dairy or eggs in their diet need to make up for supplementing B12 through supplements.

“It’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you already take medications, have health concerns or are pregnant.”

Why Organic Matters

Once you have established your options of plant-based proteins, carbs and fats available, it is now time to think organic. Not only do healthy food choices matter, but the way the foods are grown in safe soil is also equally important.

Since questions about food safety, nutrition and sustainability all make a difference on your health and the environment, organically grown produce is very important.

The term “organic” refers to the way in which agricultural products are grown and processed. There is an absence of synthetic pesticides, GMOs and chemical fertilizers when growing organic produce. These safe practices make organically grown produce a much better option than the conventionally agriculture produce.

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When on a plant-based diet, try to include as much organic produce into your meals as possible since organic produce contains fewer pesticides, is grown in safe soil and the food itself is fresher.

The freshness of organic products can be attributed to the absence of preservatives that may otherwise make conventionally grown produce last longer.

While buying all organic is definitely better, there are certain foods where the organic label matters the most. These fruits and vegetables have been recorded to show the highest levels of pesticide residue on them when grown conventionally, so it is highly recommended to buy these products organic.

These foods include the following: apples, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, celery, grapes, summer squash, kale, collard greens, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, spinach and hot peppers.

Remember that although rinsing does reduce pesticides, it does not eliminate them completely. At the same time, while peeling may help, it also strips off important nutrients with the skin. So, the best thing is to eat a varied diet, scrub and wash all produce thoroughly and opt for organic produce when possible.

It is true that organic foods can be more expensive than traditionally grown food, but costs can be kept in check if you decide to shop at local farmers’ markets where fresh produce is directly sold. Plus, fruits and vegetables are the freshest and cheapest when in season so buy in season.

Buying organic may also be the right thing to do as it means eating healthy. This can be seen as a preventive measure since eating organic means being spared consuming foods that have been packed with pesticides and other sprays.

This practice itself can save money that may otherwise be spent on medication and is worth the long-term investment for you and your family.

Probiotics are Essential for a Healthy Gut

Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for the health of your digestive system. While bacteria is typically associated with something that causes disease, it is important to know that bacteria can be both good as well as bad.

This good bacteria helps keep your gut healthy as well as boost the immune system and is classified as probiotics.

The reason why probiotics can be added into the diet is because people tend to consume a lot of sugary foods and alcohol. Moreover, poor eating habits can promote the growth of harmful bacteria faster than that of the good bacteria causing a lack of balance in the gut.

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This imbalance can be corrected by probiotics. Plus, these beneficial bacteria can also boost your immune system, can help reduce the chance of allergies, and help with the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals by the body.

Probiotics are naturally found in the human body and can also be supplemented through foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, soft aged cheeses and sauerkraut.

Basically, these and other such foods are fermented and the good bacteria is added through the process of fermentation. The most common probiotics added to foods include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

For most people, and anyone on the plant-based diet, it is fairly easy to incorporate these probiotic fortified foods into their meals. These foods are considered safe for most people to eat and fit into a healthy diet.

Health Benefits of Sprouts

A sprout is essentially the shoot of a plant that grows from the seed. When exposed to the right moisture and temperature levels, it develops into a very young plant. Almost any nut, seed, grain or legume can be sprouted and offers a lot of nutritional value as well as easy digestibility.

When you sprout foods, you can benefit from more enzymes in sprouts than in uncooked fruits and vegetables. Enzymes help extract important vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids from foods. Plus, experts agree that the quality of protein in grains, beans, nuts and seeds improves immensely when it is sprouted.

As another bonus, the fiber content of sprouted foods also increases substantially during the sprouting process. But fiber content is not the only component that expands with sprouting. In fact, vitamin content, especially vitamins A, C, E and B complex also build up when foods are sprouted. At the same time essential fatty acid content in sprouted foods also rises.

With nutritional density of sprouts increasing on one hand, another benefit of sprouted foods is that they become more easily digestible by the body. During sprouting, the soaking process helps convert the vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easy digestion. Complex carbs are also broken down by soaking and turned into simpler glucose molecules.

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While grains and legumes are typically thought to be acid forming, sprouting them has an alkalizing effect. By sprouting grains and legumes you are making them into a more alkaline forming food that can then balance the other acidic foods that may be part of your diet.

To sprout your food, the method is pretty much the same for most grains, seeds, legumes and nuts, but the time varies. The method involves using a one third full mason jar with the desired seed to sprout. Cover it with water overnight by placing a sprouting screen screwed into the lid.

Drain the water in the morning and rinse. The sprouting screen will let you do all this easily with no fuss. Then invert your jar at an angle permitting it to drain and circulate the air inside. Rinse 2-3 times daily for about three days and the seeds will transform into sprouts.

Add some sunflower sprouts in your salads today. They are one of my favorite sprouts!

Why you Should Start Eating Whole Grains

Whole grains contain all the parts of the original kernel including the bran, germ and endosperm.

This makes whole grains a food that is packed with fiber and making them part of a healthy diet can be beneficial to reducing the risk of many types of illnesses as well as be helpful in effective weight management.

The fiber content of whole grains needs special mention as it has a lot of digestive benefits.

Firstly, it keeps bowel movements regular. It can also help prevent inflammation.

Those who consume whole grains on a regular basis are also able to better manage their weight since eating whole grains is a filling experience for all without the need to binge or snack unnecessarily.

Others, who consume refined grains, on the other hand are seen to constantly struggle with weight management issues.

Consuming more refined grains also has the effect of most probably spiking blood glucose levels since refined grains have been stripped of their essential nutrients (with the bran and germ removed completely) leaving behind a starchy food that neither satisfies hunger nor gives nutritional value.

Whole grains have the opposite effect since fiber fills you up well, and does not let your blood glucose levels get out of control.

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Fiber aside, whole grains also offer a number of other nutrients including B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals like iron, zinc, copper and magnesium.

Whole grains are also a healthy source of plant-based protein that should be part of a plant-based diet, especially foods like quinoa and amaranth that are complete proteins containing all the essential amino acids.

To add more whole grains into your diet, choose from whole grain breads and cereals. Add them to your baked goods and make them part of your snacks.

For meals you can choose brown rice over white rice and whole grain pasta over the regular variety.

Dishes like risottos, pilafs, and even salads can be made with a number of whole grains that will add nutritional value to your meals.

Try including these healthy whole grains on your menu, and eliminate as much as possible refined grains.

Here are some examples: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rye and spelt.

Look for the whole grain stamp, next time you visit the grocery store.

7 Reasons to Try a Plant-Based Diet

Needless to say, that there is a lot of evidence which shows that including more fruits and vegetables into your diet has many long-term health benefits. This means eating a primarily plant-based diet in which consumption of animal-based products is drastically reduced or completely eliminated.

In addition, people who follow this way of eating report an overall higher sense of well being, including better health and improved mood. When the diet is not restrictive but varied enough, people do not suffer from either protein shortages or calcium deficiencies since these nutrients as well as any others can easily be supplemented by foods on a plant-based diet.

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Here are the 7 Reasons:

Can help lower blood pressure: Individuals following a plant-based diet naturally have reduced blood pressure readings because they enjoy a greater number of potassium rich foods. Potassium is a nutrient that naturally assists in regulating blood pressure and is readily found in legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a number of fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, meat and other animal products have no or very little supplies of potassium and are known contributors to raising blood pressure levels.

Can help lower cholesterol: The other big concern for people following a diet with animal products is higher cholesterol levels. Most animal products have high concentrations of cholesterol and damaging fat in them and are acid forming in the body. 

Plants, however, do not have any cholesterol. So, following a plant-based diet is one of the easiest means to regulate cholesterol levels. And don’t forget their fiber content, which naturally reduces bad cholesterol.

Can help improve blood sugar: Fiber is equally capable of regulating blood sugar as it is of lowering cholesterol. Eating fiber rich fruits and vegetables helps slow down the absorption of sugars in the body keeping levels regulated.

Can help with fewer digestive problems: You are also likely to experience better digestion, greater bowel regularity, and less constipation, bloating or diarrhea when following a plant-based diet.

Can help reduce inflammation: Everyone agrees about the inflammation reducing benefits of a diet that is low in saturated fats and added sugars, and contains fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This closely resembles a plant-based diet. It is also believed that avoiding animal products can be beneficial to reducing a number of inflammatory diseases.

Can help better weight loss management: A plant-based diet that contains whole foods, especially those that are lower in fat and processed sugars will help greatly with effective and long-term weight loss. Since weight loss is greatly promoted when there is more fiber in the diet, plant-based foods are the way to go.

In addition, plant-based foods provide you with all the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep running the body effectively. And the fact that produce has way fewer calories than meat products also helps that cause.

Reasons to Add More Plant Based Foods on your Plate

While many other traditional diets build their dinner plate around meat, the plant-based diet does the same around vegetables of all sorts.

But do not limit yourself to thinking greens only, for while these may be fairly healthy, they do not have the caloric density and therefore the needed energy, to keep us going for the rest of the day.

Instead, the plant-based diet will choose from a variety of foods like starchy vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes and beans to create wonderful meal ideas.

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Fruits and greens make complementary foods that are added into meals regularly but are not the primary source of energy on the plate.

The plant-based diet also disagrees with the idea of eating one particular food for one nutrient.

For instance, we have been led to believe that we need to consume more meat for protein, calcium for dairy and fish for omega 3 fatty acids.

So, in this pursuit, people have been steered towards more meat consumption with the result that they are consuming more meat than necessary. The same can be said of dairy and other animal-based foods.

However, the danger lies in neglecting the amounts of dietary cholesterol, the acidic effect, and the synthetic ingredients that go in these foods. All of these have long term negative effects on the human body.

Remember that no food is a single nutrient and that whole foods in the plant-based diet have a number of important nutrients in them. These whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients in proportions more consistent with our needs than animal-based foods.

Turning to a plant-based diet can help prevent many of the high-risk diseases that are so typically and usually associated with eating more animal products.

Areas of the world where plant-based foods are more common show a considerably lower rate for chronic diseases as compared to others where animal-based diets are more popular.

Plant Based Meal Plan Ideas

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When you plan your day of plant-based eating, you do want to think liberally about how you can choose from a variety of meals that offer your body sufficient nutrition and variety to keep you satisfied and full all day.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Breakfast on the plant-based diet can be packed with power that will last you for the rest of your day. There are many breakfast ideas that can be included in your diet from a variety of porridge, smoothie, pancake, scramble and cereal options.

Plant-Powered Breakfast Ideas

Start off lunch and dinner with a healthy salad paired with a good serving of non-starchy vegetables served with beans or rice or a whole grain.

Plant-Powered Lunch/Dinner Ideas

Snacks on the plant-based menu can be any healthy option from kale chips to a number of dips like edamame, onion, spinach or artichoke dip served with fresh cut veggie sticks or corn chips.

Plant-Powered Snack Ideas

I hope this plant-based beginner’s guide was able to help you recognize how a healthy way of eating can change your life.

I hope you enjoyed the information given and know that eating a plant-based diet is not about limiting your eating options but rather expanding them in so many interesting ways that can help you live a healthier and happier life!

Stay healthy,

Eva

*This post contains affiliate links.


Sources:

https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/plant-based-diets

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9614169/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28630614/

http://www.whfoods.org/

https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/plant-based-diets/

https://fruitsandveggies.org/