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Plant-Based Diets 101

You may have heard a friend or family member say they’ve experienced an improved sense of overall well-being since opting for a plant-based diet. As they tout benefits like increased energy, clearer minds and better sleep, you’ve probably wondered: is there any truth behind these claims?

In contrast to years past, medical professionals are beginning to recommend reducing the amount of meat and upping fruits and vegetables in your diet to promote better health. According to US News, these diets can help prevent chronic disease, lower blood pressure and decreased risk of heart disease. In addition to these long-term health benefits, you can reap immediate rewards in the form of clearer, healthier skin and weight loss, if needed.

Now that plant-based diets are growing in popularity and have been doctor-approved, where do you begin? We’ve outlined a few of the most common plant-based diets and tried to debunk some negative assumptions.

fresh fruits and vegetables in store
Photo by Adobe Stock/Mat Hayward.

4 Popular Plant-Based Diets

Vegetarianism

Following a vegetarian diet means eating no meat, including red meat, poultry or fish and seafood, and avoiding food products that contain by-products from these sources, such as lard. While that may sound very much like a vegan diet, they are a bit different.

Within itself, vegetarianism has two forms—lacto-ovo and lacto. Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, yet continue to include dairy products and eggs, which are commonly considered by-products. Lacto vegetarians go even further by excluding eggs, but still incorporating dairy into their diets.

Try these vegetarian recipes:
“Pulled Pork” Sandwich
Roasted Chickpea Tacos
3 Vegetarian Breakfast Recipes

Veganism

Vegans exclude all animal products and by-products from their diet, as well as all other areas of life. Although strict vegetarianism—the description above—does sound like veganism, someone following this diet doesn’t necessarily avoid non-food products that may contain animal by-products, such as clothing and personal care products. Veganism, while a dietary choice, tends to be much more of a lifestyle than vegetarianism.

Try these vegan recipes:
Plant-Based Pudding Parfait
Vegan Ratatouille
Thai Spring Rolls

Other –tarian Diets

In recent years, pesco-vegetarianism and semi-vegetarianism have become quite popular. Rebranding with much easier and useful names, we now know these dieters as pescatarians and flexitarians, respectively. Neither diet is fully plant-based, however, both limit the amount, and possibly the types, of meat eaten.

Learn more about these diets in Discover Your Nutritional Style and Save Money on Meat.

variety of legumes and beans
Photo by Adobe Stock/haveseen.

Common Misconceptions

Plant-based diets are too expensive. Many people think that choosing a plant-based diet will result in higher grocery bills or be impossible on a budget, but these diets actually tend to be cheaper. More and more stores offer non-meat products, such as tofu, and these specialty items can come with a “higher” price point. However, the cost of a block of tofu isn’t more than you’re likely pay for lunch meat.

It’s nutrient deficient. While this is certainly possible, most people adhering to a plant-based diet get all the vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients they need without ever having a deficiency.  With the exception of B12, which will need to be supplemented, choosing a whole-food, plant-based diet is perfectly safe and healthy.

Whether you want to avoid factory farms, prevent the risk of chronic disease or simply clean up your eating habits, plant-based diets are good for you and the environment.