Eating Pattern Series
This week we will be covering the plant-based eating pattern!
The Basics: The plant-based eating pattern is often confused with vegetarian or vegan, but it is actually quite different. Plant-based does not eliminate meats or animal products, it simply places emphasis on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans), seeds, and nuts. There is also a limit on highly processed foods that contain added sugars, white flour, and processed oils. In addition to the emphases and limits, some people take it even further and pay attention to the quality of the food and where it is coming from; locally grown and organic foods are encouraged.
Around the World: Globally, plant-based eating is very common in India and Israel. In the United States, plant-based eating is on the rise and is even a main focus in dining halls at UNH! In 2008, UNH created the goal of becoming the healthiest campus in the country by 2020. To reach this goal, UNH joined Partnership for a Healthier America in 2014 along with 19 other colleges. Within the dining halls, dining services now offers many options that are plant-based and other options that are low in added sugars and processed oils.
Pros: There are many pros to eating plant-based. With the emphasis being on “whole foods,” there is an increased consumption of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These can all work to improve gut health and overall health. Additionally, when people decide to eat locally grown foods, money is put back into the local economy. Locally grown food may have more nutrients because it can be harvested and sold at the natural peak ripeness. Comparatively, some fruits and vegetables that are imported to the U.S. are harvested well before they're ripe in an effort to prevent the foods from spoiling in transit.
Cons: For some, preparing more plant-based meals may be time consuming. This is especially true for those who may not necessarily know how to prepare some plant foods. Those living in colder climates with shorter growing seasons may also have trouble accessing fresh plant foods during the long, cold seasons.
Potential Health Benefits: The plant-based eating pattern has been well researched and is known to reduce risks of heart disease and cancer later on in life. There is a catch though; the risk of these decreases only when there is a true emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, and nuts. Those who still consider their eating patterns to be plant-based, but still consume high levels of sugary drinks and refined-grains may not see the same health benefits later in life.
Recipe: Interested in trying plant-based? Try this recipe for Mediterranean vegetable spaghetti at your next Sunday dinner! This dish is full of delicious vegetables and only takes 30 minutes to make.
Resources to Learn More: For more plant-based recipes, check out Forks Over Knives by Del Sroufe. There is also a documentary on Netflix titled Forks Over Knives that explains more of the health benefits of eating plant-based.