Plant based diets continue to grow in popularity. Folks are finding good reasons to shift their eating lifestyle in drastic ways. Whether it’s in response to health news or environmental quality or concerns of the heart for animals, the marketplace has jumped in to provide more diverse choices than ever before. Whether you’ve been doing the plant-based thing for years, or are completely new to this side of the table, here are 5 ways to Boost Your Plant Based Diet:
1 -Fermented Foods
In our germ-phobic culture, we carry hand sanitizers in our cars and handbags, we bleach our houses and we take antibiotics when we get ill. But the reality is that our body is made up of hundreds of thousands of bacterial cohorts that actually provide us great benefit for immune function and overall health. With gut disorders beginning to increase, it isn’t hard to see that our goal for a pristine bacteria-free living environment may be more about false ideas than true health. At this point, fermented foods are definitely worth your time and attention. It can provide your diet with foods that have an increased vitamin content, rich in enzymes and flavor, and it’s a great way to gently introduce pre and probiotics into an ailing gut. Whether your exploration leads you to sauerkraut or coconut kefir, if you’re looking for a boost in your plant-based diet, this is a great place to start.
2 – Choose Healthy Fats
Fats provide your body with stable and necessary energy, and essential building blocks for so many vital chemicals of life. Of the science that’s currently emerging about the importance of fats for health, there’s no reason to think the only way to benefit is the inclusion of animal products or rancid vegetable oils.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports what nutritionists and doctors have known for over 15 years: when it comes to dietary lipids, quality and source are hugely important. In that case, isn’t it worthwhile taking a look at some of the kinds of fats that have traditionally been in use as well as those that are fast becoming recognized as nutritional, health promoting superstars? After all, one of the benefits of a Plant Based Diet is the opportunity for diversity, especially if you know where to look.
The thing about any kind of plant-based fats is their delicate quality. Many of them do not do well at high-temperatures, even if they have been refined in order to withstand heat. Studies show that these fats do not stay stable at high heat, and many of them, due to processing practices, are rancid before you even open the bottle. In those cases, fresh, whole fats are preferable. If you’ve been following the canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil bandwagon, it’s time to get off. Here are some good places to start:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – studies conducted in 2010 revealed that quality olive oil reduces the risk of cancer, from the breast and lungs, to the entire digestive system.
Whole Fat Coconut – A great source of medium chain fatty acids (similar to what is found in mother’s milk), studies show that in populations where coconuts are a dietary staple, people do not suffer from high serum cholesterol or heart disease.
Avocado – high in fiber, vitamin K, C, and E, it’s no wonder that anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well documented.
Hemp – one of the only food based sources of (Gamma Linoleic Acid) GLA, which is a direct building block of good anti-inflammatory hormones. Also offers access to essential minerals including zinc, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron
Chia – perhaps you’ve already caught on that these seeds make for more than terra cotta pet projects. These tiny gelatinous seeds are popping up in everything from chocolate to kombucha. They’re quite the powerhouse: good sources of fiber, protein, omega 3 – and more easily assimilated into the body than even flax.
Nuts + Seeds – Walnuts are good for the brain, pumpkin seeds are good for digestive health, brazil nuts offer selenium and manganese, in addition to the healthy monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower risk of heart disease, stroke etc.
3 – Go Nutrient Dense
It’s really easy these days to go “plant based” and still be a junk-food junkie, with processed cheese and meat substitutes that aren’t really providing you solid nutrition. After all, even poor quality potato chips and coke are vegan. If you’re new to the plant-based lifestyle, think of it as an adventure and an opportunity to explore the realm of nutrient dense foods. Seek out kale, asparagus, dark leafy greens, watercress, and cabbages to name a few. Not only will you be providing amazing building blocks for your whole body to utilize, you’re also providing your blood good opportunities to clear out and oxygenate with all these amazing green chlorophyll-rich foods. In fact, did you know that our blood and chlorophyll have a lot in common? One of the only differences between our blood plasma is that we have iron at the center of the cell where plants have magnesium. Other nutrient dense foods might include: sea vegetables, berries and cherries, and even healthy dark chocolate.
4 – Diversify Your Plant Protein
One of the biggest and easiest mistakes to make on a plant-based diet is become reliant on “Mock Meats” and various meat analogues. These are largely soy-based products, and as much as they are helpful to those starting out, it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of all meat out, and all soy in. Hint: you know you’re there when you look down and realize that you’re eating a soy sandwich – tofurky, with soy cheese, and “nayonaise”, and sprouted soybeans in your bread. Consider black bean burgers, lentil fritters, nuts, sprouts, seeds, hemp, and nut butters. These all provide you with good quality protein to mix and match throughout the day. Turns out, what we’ve been told for decades, that we have to make sure our meals always feature complete proteins (the good ol’ bean and grain combo), isn’t true. Our wise bodies uptake all sorts of nutrients throughout the day. So, as long as you eat diversely, you don’t have to keep a journal of your amino acid profiles.
5 – High Quality Starch
In a culture that has become carbohydrate-phobic, a very important aspect of human biology has been shoved into the shadows. That happens to be our digestive system. We hear a lot about gluten, and too many phytates, and how hard it is for us to break down cellulose. But we digest starch just fine. And this is because we are a part of the animal kingdom that produces the enzyme amylase while we chew. Carnivores do not. Ever hear the term: digestion begins in the mouth? Amylase is the reason. Our pancreas also produces amylase, which helps us to efficiently break down sugars. Our tongue seeks out carbohydrate on purpose. The problem is that we’ve become too fond of processed starch. If you look at the expanse of human dietary history, starches have been central to the diet, whether if be yam or potato, poi, corn, or basmati rice. Even the Paleo crowd has begun to see the light when it comes to traditional vegetable starches. So, if you’re trying to go plant based, but have become convinced that traditional whole starches are to be avoided for some reason, please reconsider. You might be missing out a beneficial fiber source and sound supply of energy.
We hope this was helpful, and that you’ll enjoy exploring new ways to find nourishment from your plant-based diet! Please note, here at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating we do NOT endorse or promote any particular diet or nutritional lifestyle, but we do believe there’s a nugget of wisdom to be found in just about any diet that’s been designed with care in mind for people and planet.
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