The new buzz-word in the wellness community is plant-based, and for good reason. With the influx of fast-food options that can arrive at your door in no time, many millennials are aiming to find healthier alternatives to better nutrition. According to a recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, following the standard American diet has become one of the major causes of lifestyle health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.
With most Americans working behind a desk for 8 hours a day, this classic diet has led to an increase in obesity due to the sedentary lifestyles of our generation of Americans. In recent years however, there has been a rise in the desire to return to a plant-based lifestyle in order to regain a sense of wellness. Many are choosing to go back to following Pescatarian, Mediterranean and even Palaeolithic diets with an emphasis on getting more exercise, in an effort to improve their risk of developing these lifestyle diseases.
Veganism has also gained much traction in the past decade, as an alternative to the classic American diet, with an emphasis on clean eating, mindfulness and exercise. In the midst of all these practices is the Plant-Based diet, void of strict rules and the complexity of all the alternatives stated above, yet offering the same benefits touted by these dietary styles.
The Plant Based Diet is changing the face of wellness right before the eyes of our society, but what exactly is this diet?
What exactly is Plant-Based Eating?
To many, Veganism and Plant-Based eating are synonymous, but that is far from the truth. An article published by Harvard Health defines the Plant-Based diet as “eating patterns focused on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.”
In short, plant-based eating is focused on building your diet on a foundation of plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables and other naturally occurring products. It has no restrictions on what makes up the minority of your diet, as long as your base or foundation is plants.
One of the reasons Plant-Based eating is gaining popularity is because it doesn’t follow the strict conventional rules of a regular diet, such as being vegetarian or vegan. Instead, it allows you the freedom to have virtually anything to eat once you follow the foundation of plants; hence, it rids you of the guilt of cheating on a diet. At the same time, you still reap the benefits of eating clean, while not having to always restrict yourself.
Doesn’t that sound like a win-win to you?
The Rise of the Plant-based Diet
Eating Plant-based is not new, as many of the diets in our history are primarily made up of plants. However, the institution of new technologies and developments in food has caused us to eat more processed goods than usual over the past 50 years. If we look back at diets such as the Mediterranean, Palaeolithic and Pescatarian diets, they all have a foundation of eating mostly plants, but the current food culture reflects one that is based on processed foods of all kinds. The developing interest in Plant-based eating is based on many factors, including the impact of Social Media.
As with many things in our generation, social media has a lot to do with new interest in plant-based eating, mostly through influencers. Wellness bloggers are showing their audience that being healthy doesn’t have to feel like bondage and that a Plant-based lifestyle is completely possible.
Influencers like wellness blogger Ella Mills have built an entire business around creating plant-based recipes for the mainstream. Certified health professionals such as Chelsea Clark, public health specialist and digital content creator, use their platform to show the benefits of plant-based and holistic wellness through recipes, supplements and other holistic living tips.
Plant-based influencers are leading many millennials and even Gen-Z’ers to make decisions that will benefit their bodies in both the short and long term. From YouTube to Instagram to TikTok, wellness bloggers and influencers are sharing recipes, tricks and tips on how to enter the plant-based space.
The Difference between Veganism and Plant Based Eating
As stated above, many believe that veganism and plant-based eating is the same, but that is simply not true. While both diets are credited with the results of doing wonders for your health, veganism is significantly different from being plant-based because of the restrictions that it extends.
A vegan diet eliminates all animal products and animal by-products from your diet; no meat, fish, dairy or even honey is allowed. Veganism only allows you to eat foods that come from plants, as does being plant-based which is where the confusion often exists. One major difference though, is that vegan diets tend to also contain lots of highly processed foods, in an attempt to mimic the tastes and textures that would be obtained from different meats, as opposed to being plant-based, where eating those meats in moderation would be permissible.
Another factor to consider is that many choose to go vegan for more moral and ethical reasons along with the wellness benefits. They tend to have a deeper respect for the environment and what it produces, and also believe that animals should not be raised to be eaten. Whereas, a plant-based person reaps the benefits of eating mostly plants, but have no such moral or ethical obligations.
Veganism embodies its own beliefs and culture, and can be quite restrictive as opposed to being plant-based, which gives you similar benefits, but fewer restrictions and no moral obligations. While being vegan is a type of plant-based eating, being plant-based does not mean that you are vegan.
Start your own Plant-Based Journey with these Simple Tips
From influencers to articles, being plant-based is quickly becoming a normal way of life for many Americans. Are you interested in hopping onto the wellness train? Here are 3 great tips to help you start your plant-based journey as soon as possible.
- Do your research – There are many different plant-based diets out there, and you may not be exactly sure where you want to start, but adequate research can put you on the right path. Research will give you the knowledge that you need to start this journey and stay with it long term.
It is also important to do research on exactly what plant-based foods may be the most economical in your area, and figure out what vegetables you already like and how much they cost. If you eat out a lot, look for plant-based or vegan take out options or restaurants for those special occasions you may want to celebrate.
- Start Slow – Starting cold turkey with anything is never a good idea when it comes to sustainability and long-term lifestyle changes. Your best bet is to slowly ease yourself into it, by incorporating small dietary changes with most meals.
The safest rule of thumb is not to start by eliminating foods, but by slowly adding vegetables as a side with each meal; so if you usually get a burger and fries, aim for a burger and fries with a side salad, or a veggie burger. This not only tricks your brain into believing that you’re just doing the normal, but it also allows to gradually make changes. Not to mention, it will keep you fuller for longer!
- Make it fun! – Diets get a bad reputation for being constricting, unsustainable and just downright unpleasant, and those feelings are nothing you want to carry with you full term. The best way to transition to a plant-based diet is to make it fun!
You can do this by trying new vegetarian dishes when you go out to eat, recreating recipes from your favourite influencers, going to the farmer’s market or researching exactly how these meals impact your body. Whatever way you choose to make this change is up to you, but relating it to something that makes you excited to eat is one of the best ways to get excited about it.
Wellness is transforming right before our eyes. Access to information through the Internet, the introduction of wellness influencers and bloggers, and movements like the vegan movement have turned the wellness industry from boring and reclusive to exciting and inclusive.
People are developing an interest in, and taking more responsibility for their bodies and what goes in it, and it’s transforming our lives.
There is no right way to embody a state of wellness, (although we can think of a few things that might help), but improving on our daily activities and shifting habits are essential to our development as human beings.
Whether you choose to go plant-based or not is solely your decision, but we are sure that you will eventually find the best thing for you. Keep reading, researching and trying new things, and keep wellness at the forefront of your mind!
Article by Tavisha Samuels