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You Are what You Eat (YA•YE) – So, what do we eat? Fundamentals of a Plant-Based ‘Diet’

Posted by Kristen Ostermiller on
You Are what You Eat (YA•YE) – So, what do we eat? Fundamentals of a Plant-Based ‘Diet’

When you hear the word ‘diet’, what automatically comes to mind?  Usually, it’s one of two things: 

  1. Diet - noun : The kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats. 
  2. Diet - verb: To restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight. 

According to the Boston Medical Center, around 45 million or more Americans diet every year. Americans have become obsessed with dieting and have slowly started to ignore the fact that food is the best form of medicine for us. Instead, the word diet is centered around consumption restrictions, or, what we CAN’T eat.  

Let’s change how we think about the word diet and start using the word in its more productive noun form.

Let’s do that by focusing on what we CAN eat. So, what CAN we eat on a plant-based diet? 

Let’s start with the more than 20,000 species of edible plants in an unlimited number of decadent, satiating and colorful combinations, nothing less! 

We eat the rainbow in seven colors or categories on a daily basis:

  1. Vegetables (Leafy Green, Cruciferous, Marrow, Root, Stem, Allium): The options are limitless – find out all about the many veggie types here.
  2. Fruits (Apples, Pears, Citrus, Stone Fruit, Tropical and Exotic, Berries, Melons, Tomatoes, Avocados): Solve your sweet tooth with more fruits here.
  3. Whole Grains (Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Bulgur, Corn, Farro, Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Rye, Spelt, Teff, Wheat): Did you know there are over 40,000 varieties of rice? A few are listed here.  More grain types here.
  4. Legumes (Chickpeas, Beans, Peas, Lentils, Peanuts): Not only the third largest flowering plant family, but so much more variety than just beans listed here. 
  5. Mushrooms - Our favorite fungus that I bet you thought was a vegetable with over 10,000 different types - some of which listed here.
  6. Nuts & Seeds - Well, technically pistachios are a fruit and peanuts are not actually nuts, but the endless variety listed here may be a snack to help lower risk for mortality caused by cardiovascular disease (see study).
  7. Herbs & Spices - Used to add flavor to any of our combinations in place of over salting or adding sugar – in a way that provides a spicy amount of health benefits!  Listed here.

Let’s leave the ‘Daily Allowance’ of calories and macronutrients behind – after all, you can’t overeat leafy green vegetables. No more limitations on entire nutrient groups – especially because no single one of these foods provide all of the nutrients you need to sustain yourself. That is eating combinations of lots of plant types and colors is the most tasty and successful way to eat the plant-based way.  

In sum, filling your plate with a *high volume* of these nutrient dense, naturally occuring foods will reduce cravings, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality, and aid weight maintenance and/or loss. But, most importantly: prioritizing plant foods will give us a *healthful* life.

This broad overview of foods you can eat on a plant-based diet will start our discussion on the peer-reviewed research backed topics of why a plant-based diet is more healthy than most fad diets or the SAD (Standard American Diet).  Look here for myth debunks, FAQs, scientific deep dives and helpful tips and tricks all things plant-based. Here are just some of the studies that detail how plant-based diets help people live more healthful lives: 

  1. The China Study: a comprehensive analysis on linking chronic disease to an over consumption of animal products.
  2. The PCRM Exam Room Podcast: a podcast from a plant-based research center with some of the leading scientists on plant-based diets. 
  3.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutritionhow to get started on a plant-based diet from a registered dietitian.

About the Author: 

Izzy Fischer, born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, as a musician, triathlete and outdoor junkie, found a plant-based lifestyle through a combination of her personal battles with inflammation and food allergies. Currently, she lives in Boston and  works as a data analyst at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University while pursuing her Masters in Science in Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

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