October is Vegetarian Diet month and October 11 is World Vegetarian Day!
Why plants? Why do chronic disease experts encourage moving towards plant based eating?
For one, plant foods typically contain healthier fats than the saturated fats found in many meats and animal products. Saturated fats aren’t as good for our cardiovascular system as unsaturated fats are. All naturally occurring plant fats are mono- or poly-unsaturated, the healthy fats, except coconut/coconut oil and palm oils. These two fats are saturated, even though of plant origin; like saturated animal fats, they should be used in moderation. Getting enough healthy plant fats is linked with decreased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Consider the protein. Animal proteins (dairy, beef, pork, poultry, etc) typically contain mostly saturated fat. Plant proteins, like beans, tofu, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats. It is easy to get plenty of protein from plant sources.
Plant products also contain dietary fiber whereas most animal products do not. Fiber is the indigestible plant matter that helps keep our digestive system healthy and working properly and helps prevent chronic disease. Without adequate dietary fiber you may suffer from constipation and may be more prone to develop other gastrointestinal problems.
Tips to move toward a plant based way of eating:
- Try to plan your meals to meet the balanced plate model. Don’t allow the protein food to push fruits, vegetables and whole grains right off the plate! People tend to eat way more protein than needed to the detriment of fruits, vegetables and complex carbs.
- Plan to have a meal featuring beans, peas or legumes at least once each week. Here are some very good recipesand here is an excellent cookbook. These recipes incorporate beans but are not all vegetarian – may be helpful for transitioning. Take slow steps to add more beans into your cooking! It takes time to change habits.
- Have two veggies every night with your evening meal. Perhaps one cooked and one raw. Try salads using a variety of greens and seasonal veggies.
- Check out some Choose My Plate Tips for Vegetarians. See which nutrients need special attention when following a vegetarian diet.