There are so many diets and terms relating to nutrition and nutritional choices. It can get even more overwhelming and/or confusing when one starts to dig into research, results, health benefits, claims, risks, and downfalls. There are positive, not so good, and negative side to each and every diet. There is not one that is full proof or perfect. Not one that will work for every person. We are all different and are bodies respond differently. But before I get ahead of myself, let's clarify why I use the term nutrition rather than diet.
The term diet refers to a short term change in nutrition geared to get results in ideally a short period of time. However, often (most often) results from diets do not last. If dieting for weight loss, usually the weight over time will come back and sometimes even extra. Sound familiar? The reason often falls on the fact that diets are not sustainable. Instead, I prefer nutritional lifestyle changes. By this one decides on baby steps (changes) that overtime add up to big results. Once one step or change has become easy or normal in life, it's time to add another and so on. These changes may have a slower start in the beginning but will add up overtime and will last a lifetime.
Next let's discuss the difference between plant-based, vegan, and vegetarians. Keep in mind, there are many variations within each and everyone has their own perspective on each. It's important to be respectful of each and every person and their views. And the most important thing is for people to chose what fits their lifestyle the best in order to create their happiest and healthiest life possible.
Plant-based nutrition* is a eating pattern which focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are necessarily a vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. But rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources (McManus, 2018). Whole foods plant-based nutrition focuses on eliminating or minimal use of processed foods in addition to the previous items.
Types of Vegetarian diets*:
Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish.
Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and any foods that contain these animal products and by-products.
As with any other nutrition plan or diet, the label alone does not mean the person is eating healthy. A vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, carb-cycling, paleo, keto, or any other person following a diet can still be eating highly processed, high fat or sugar, and/or fried foods which fall into their label category which still makes them unhealthy despite following part of their diets guidelines. With any nutritional choice there has to be the constant effort to make the healthier choice. A vegan processed frozen meal is not healthier than fresh steamed veggies just as a frozen processed microwave dinner is not healthier than a freshly grilled lean burger cooked at home is.
With much research, reading, school assignments, and TedTalk listening I decided plant-based nutrition was a lifestyle choice I was needing and ready to make. I have been dealing with osteoarthritis for sometime not and some flare-ups can be downright miserable and lasting for days. I workout and ate fairly well since I was usually in training mode for competition or building mode. While those help, they didn't prevent the occasional flare up. The research all pointed to plant-based nutrition. It has even been proven to be the only thing that can reverse heart disease...don't believe me, google it (don't worry I'll make it easy and provide a link below***). I focus my meals on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and limit dairy, eggs, and processed foods. By limiting the others, I am still allowing myself to have some of the things I am accustomed to once in awhile which has allowed for an easier transition and improved my ability to stick with it. I do not eat any meat (for over six months now) nor have I missed it. I still have minor aches and pains but I have not had any fare-ups nor do I take any medications for my osteoarthritis anymore. My anxiety and stress has also decreased with the added benefit of yoga and meditation over the last year as well. Mood swings, bloating, and sleep has also all improved so much so that my husband jumped on-board with the nutritional change and has stuck with it for the last three months now with no cravings. We have both enjoyed the variety of foods we now eat and the change in our tastes pallets is amazing. I enjoy the challenge of taking my old family favorite recipes and altering them to fit our new nutrition lifestyle.
Plant-based nutrition has been an amazing experience and I have no desire to return to my old habits. While it may not be for everyone, I do highly encourage everyone to eat less processed foods and smaller portions of meat and dairy and larger portions of veggies, fruit, and whole grains. If you decided to make a nutrition change, start small and always try new things more than once.
(Check out the YouTube video nutrition playlist link at the bottom of page.)
*McManus, K. D. (2018, September 27). What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760
**Vegetarian diet: How to get the best nutrition. (2019, July 19). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/vegetarian-diet/art-20046446
***"Groundbreaking research shows that a plant-based diet doesn’t just prevent heart disease but that it can manage and sometimes even reverse it." https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/heart-disease
***Tuso, P., Stoll, S. R., & Li, W. W. (2015). A plant-based diet, atherogenesis, and coronary artery disease prevention.The Permanente journal,19(1), 62–67. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/14-036
YouTube nutrition playlist: