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I am posting something a little off topic from my usual posts because I wanted to share something that I am VERY passionate about right now. I want to share with you my journey to Plant-based eating. You know when you make a life change that is so huge that it is about all you can think about? That is how I feel right now. I share this, not to try and convince anyone to change their ways, but to help people who are going through this change like I am. So, if this is a subject that intrigues you, read on. If not, just feel free to skip reading today and come back tomorrow for more of my regular stuff!
For about a year now I have been considering becoming vegetarian and even tried it for a week, but failed miserably. In the fall of 2014, I watched the Forks Over Knives Documentary on Netflix. This basically shifted my whole way of thinking.
I have always been a healthy eater- according to my previous eating standards. I love fruits and veggies and was never shy about eating them. However, I also loved cheeses, yogurt, sweets, and chicken. I have also studied and taught nutrition in the past, so I know quite a lot about this subject. I guess what really opened my mind was how little I actually knew.
Since watching Forks Over Knives, I have been reading and studying all that I can get my little hands on about plant-based eating. Once you gain knowledge on a subject, you can’t really give it back. Since learning about the benefits of eating this way, I have not been able to get it out of my head. I have literally lost sleep over it! I needed to know if I could do it. So, I tried, a little at a time.
I have a sister who has been a vegan for all of her adult life. I always thought is was strange, and never had a desire to follow in her footsteps. I guess all it took was some reading and research in the right places to understand where she was coming from. Now, I am on the strange list, too! 😉
What is Plant-Based Eating?
Let’s start at the beginning. Plant-based eating is a diet that excludes all meat products and most oils. I know, it sounds crazy, radical, and impossible, right? It is actually pretty amazing, awesome, and invigorating. This way of eating excludes milk, meat, fish, eggs, and processed, refined foods. You can eat so many amazing things, still.. You can fill your plate with whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, and fruits. You do not have to just eat lettuce at every meal and you do not feel hungry all the time. In fact, I have been just as full and satisfied eating this way as I used to be. The goal is to focus on getting a variety of whole plant sources with each meal.
I liked this image from Dr. Fuhrman (one of the books I reference later) showing what percentages of food you should be eating.
What are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based diets are high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber and low in saturated fat. Eating a plant-based diet reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and various types of cancer. It can ever reverse certain diseases. This diet is typically low is calories so you can eat more without gaining, will lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight. In the China Study, ( a 20-year nutrition study discussed in Forks Over Knives) they showed that those who eat less animal products have less disease. The United States has the highest rates of most of these diseases and is also the country that eats the most animal products.
While I did not have any health problems going into it, I know that making this change will help prevent me from having any o these health issues in the future. I have noticed increased energy. I also have started running again and have had such an easy time getting back into it since eating this way. I have also been losing the last few pounds of my baby weight.
Is Plant-Based the Same as Being Vegan?
Vegan is a pretty common term, and while for the most part these two types of diets are very similar, there are a few differences between vegan and plant-based. Vegan-ism is more about animal rights. They do not eat any animal products, but also do not wear leather or fur. There are a lot of foods that are vegan (like Oreos and french fries) that are not healthy. Eating Plant-based is about health and whole foods. It is cutting out all processed garbage from your diet and eating only foods that are whole and natural. A vegan most often also eats a plant-based diet, though!
Protein in a Plant-Based Diet
But what about protein? This is the first question always asked. (Just like socialization is always the first question for homeschoolers!) It is the first question I wondered, too. When you think of protein, you always first think of meat or eggs. Did you know that there are large amounts of protein in vegetables, fruits and grains? A cup of soybeans has 29 g. of protein. That is almost the same as a serving of chicken. Most other beans have about 10 grams of protein for 1/2 cup. Nut are very high protein sources as well. Almonds, peanuts and cashews are all great sources. But we all pretty much know about beans and nuts.
What about grains? Quinoa has 9 grams of protein in a serving, brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats, bulgar and amaranth are all great protein sources.
That isn’t all, though! Broccoli, spinach, corn, potatoes, peas, cauliflower, artichokes, cantaloupe, oranges, bananas, watermelon and others all contain protein. But along with the protein they are full of vitamins and minerals that increase your health naturally.
I always thought that I had to combine specific plant sources in one meal (like beans and rice) to get a complete protein. That is not the case. As long as you are eating a variety of foods, it all works out just fine. You don’t have to do any special planning to make complete proteins.
On the next page, see my favorite resources to help you make the transition to eat a lant-based diet.