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Complete Guide to Plant-Based Diets

There is much debate over whether or not consuming animal products is good or bad for overall health. The debate is rooted in science, and there are plenty of meat-based and plant-based diets to prove just how polar opposites the sides are. Let’s take a closer look at the plant-based diets and how you, maybe, you can use them to the advantage of your health. 

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

A plant-based diet is one whose primary focus is the consumption of foods whose central source is plants. Samples of foods on this type of diet would include: 

  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits

This, however, doesn’t mean that all plant-based diets are devoid of all meat. Over the years, flexible plant-based diets have popped up that come with the benefits of plants and animals – but animals in strict moderation. Over time, the term plant-based diet has been used synonymously with vegan diet. The two are not the same – but we’ll get to that in a bit. 

The definition of a plant-based diet does include plans that allow eggs, dairy, and seafood, among other foods not generally accepted with veganism. The focus of the term, and the plant-based diet itself, is for you to eat healthy with the correct plants in your diet and to avoid unhealthy plant-based foods. It’s all about creating a balance in your diet. 

The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs

When it comes to learning how to eat and how to live for weight loss, Noom works from a psychological perspective. According to the Chief of Psychology for Noom, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, “By understanding the past behaviors and attitudes of all types of users, we know the best way to meet our users where they are in their journey to help them maximize their change of long-term weight-loss success.” Noom, as a weight-loss platform, uses the power of food logging, among other advanced technologies, to teach simple, key behaviors for lasting change. Behavior changes that include self-efficacy, motivation, and knowledge are just the start of how psychology can interact with food, so you lose more weight in a way that lasts a lifetime.

Noom works with tech-based tools partnered with support from real-life coaches in a structured program that connects the user with the social support and positive reinforcement needed to change behavior in a way that increases the likelihood of success.

Not all dietary changes are for everyone, and no two weight-loss plans should be the same, which is precisely how Noom works.

By identifying specific areas where changes can be made to reach goals of weight loss and health improvement successfully, users realize where their best changes are to be made and how those changes are incorporated into a lifestyle they can adopt for the long-term.

Different Types Of Plant-Based Diets

There are a variety of plant-based diets. Some allow plants exclusively, and others are a bit more lenient with the rules. Here are just a few of the types of plant-based diets.

Veganism

This is an entirely plant-based diet with no animal products. The menu is comprised of foods like vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and fruits. 

Fruitarianism

This is a vegan diet that is primarily comprised of fruits but does not allow for any animal products. 

Raw Veganism

A raw vegan follows the same rules as a traditional vegan, but foods are not heated above 115 degrees. Essentially, all foods are consumed raw. 

Vegetarianism

The vegetarian plant-based diet is comprised of all the foods allowed on a vegan diet, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and seeds, with the option to include fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, and other products derived from animals. You do not have to include animal products, but they are accepted on some plans. Such as:

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian

Vegetarian diet with eggs and dairy. 

Ovo Vegetarian

Vegetarian diet with eggs, but no dairy. 

Lacto Vegetarian

Vegetarian diet with dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. 

Semi-Vegetarian

A primarily vegetarian diet with meat and poultry thrown in occasionally. 

Macrobiotic Diet

A semi-vegetarian diet that optionally provides seafood and other animal products with highlights of vegetables, sea vegetables, miso soup, beans, whole grains, and foods that are either traditionally, locally, or naturally processed.

Pescatarian

A semi-vegetarian diet that allows eggs, dairy, and seafood. 

Specific Types of Plant-Based Diets

Now that we have a general idea of what plant-based diets look like, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular diets that focus on foods that grow naturally. 

The Mediterranean Diet

This tops the list of the most effective plant-based diets. It can be attributed to the fact that those living along the Mediterranean coast have a longer life expectancy, and they have recorded the least cases of cancer, and there have been minimal cardiovascular complications. The Mediterranean Diet is all about whole foods, which is perfect for a plant-based diet. 

How to Follow the Diet

The Mediterranean food pyramid was constructed to shed light on its plant-based diet food list, which includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes and beans
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs and spices full of flavor
  • Fish and seafood up to two times a week

Moderation of:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Red meat
  • Red wine (optional)
  • Sweets (on special occasions)

The Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarian was born of two words, flexible and vegetarian. The diet rose from the book of Dawn Jackson Blunter, a dietitian. This diet advocates for the incorporation of meat and animal products occasionally, while still basing most of your diet on vegetarian options. Being a flexitarian is all about flexibility and maintaining balance.

Noom is teaches flexible solutions to making lifestyle changes for weight loss. Give Noom a try today!

How to Follow the Diet

Five groups of food are brought together in this diet:

Plant-based meat alternatives

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Fruits and vegetables

Whole grains

  • Quinoa
  • Wild Rice
  • Sweet Potatoes

Dairy

  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Spices and Sugar

  • Some Sweeteners
  • Some Dried herbs
  • Some Salad Dressings

Ornish Diet

This is a diet that focuses on the overall approach of dieting. It not only focuses on nutrition as a path to achieve health benefits but includes aspects like stress management, exercising, and getting support emotionally. This is all theorized by Dean Ornish, a University of California professor of medicine.

How to Follow the Diet

It includes the five groups of foods with an emphasis on whole grains, produce and fish except for:

  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Oils
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine

All animal products except:

  • Egg whites
  • A daily cup of nonfat milk alternatively yogurt

As exercises are part of the dieting, the following activities are recommended:

  • Aerobic exercises
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Resistance training

Stress management is also part of the diet and weight control. The following relaxation methods are recommended in this diet:

  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation

Spending time with loved ones and drawing support from them will help you achieve your health goals alongside other benefits.

The Vegetarian Diet

This is a meat-free diet based on plant proteins. Several versions of the diet exist, with some allowing for certain animal-derived foods. 

How to Follow the Diet

You can choose among these three diets associated with a vegan diet.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet: all animal products will be excluded except dairy and egg products.

Lacto vegetarian diet: all animal products including eggs are excluded, but dairy products are left in the diet.

The ovo-vegan diet: dairy and other animal products are eliminated, but eggs remain.

The vegan diet: all animal products are eliminated from the diet, concentrating on full plant-based eating.

The Traditional Asian Diet

The Asian population has proved to have a longer lifespan, lower cases of cancer, and lower cases of other chronic diseases, among them obesity and heart disease, as compared to the American population.

Research is attesting to all these positive attributes to their diet.

How to Follow the Diet

The pyramid for this diet categorizes foods into consumption periods, which include daily consumption, weekly consumption, monthly consumption, and consumption in moderation.

Daily

  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Bread
  • Millet
  • Corn
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Vegetable oils

Weekly

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Something sweet

Monthly

  • Red meat

Moderately

  • Sake
  • Wine
  • Beer

It can be difficult to pick up on a new diet and stick with it, especially when you’ve chosen to leave behind meat in a world where meat is the big dog of protein.

Noom works with your dietary preferences, so your personal coach can help you reach your goals. 

The Anti-inflammatory Diet of Dr. Weil

Harvard Alumni Andrew Weil came up with this plant-based diet meal plan for weight loss, arguing that systemic inflammation can both be caused by specific foods and combated by other foods.

The inflammation can lead to:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

Weil argues that the following factors will play a role in the state of inflammation in a person:

  • The levels of stress.
  • The environmental toxins present.
  • The level of participation in physical activities.
  • The dieting the person partakes in.

The diet he came up with seeks to make an impact on the following areas in the body and health of the consumer.

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • A supply of energy that is steady
  • Reduce diseases related to aging and their risks

The creator of this diet suggests that it is derived from the Mediterranean diet, but tea and dark chocolate are additions he has made. The primary focus of this diet is on fruits and vegetables that are exceptionally fresh.

How to Follow the Diet

Daily calorie intake is set at 2000 and 3000 calories. Factors that influence how many calories you’re allowed include weight, age, and activity level. 

These calories should be apportioned in the following manner:

  • Carbohydrates should get between 40% and 50%
  • Fats should attribute to 30% of the calories
  • Protein should range between 20% and 30%

This diet has the following guidelines:

Your carbohydrates should be not or minimally processed to maintain steady blood sugar.

Saturated fats should be eliminated. 

Examples of sources of saturated fats:

  • Butter
  • Cream fatty meats
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable shortenings
  • Hydrogenated oils

Your sources of fat should be from the following, which havew proven their use in the reduction of inflammation:

  • Olive oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Consumption of fish oil supplements should occur daily with EPA and DHA being excellent examples.

  • The produce you consume should be organic and colorful.
  • The water you consume should be purified.
  • Tea should be chosen over coffee.
  • Dark chocolate is permitted, but one whose cocoa content is less than 70%.
  • Red wine should be consumed in moderation.

The Nutritarian Diet

The Nutritional Research Foundation president, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, published research on nutrition. It took more than 20 years to finish his studies and publish his findings.

It is guided by four principles that hold the diet’s core:

The Density of the Nutrients

This is a measure of the level or amount of nutrients in a calorie. Highly nutritious foods like kale rank high will the least nutritious like soda are ranked among the lowest.

The Adequacy of the Nutrients

This is used to refer to the combination of all the required nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, etc.

Avoidance of Toxins

This mostly refers to the harmful additives that are found in processed foods like carcinogens, chemicals, etc.

The Favorability of Hormones

This involves cutting and reducing foods that may cause cancer, an increase in the storage of fat, and the arteries hardening. These may be animal proteins and refined carbohydrates.

With Noom you don’t need a strict diet to lose weight. You eat the foods you love and lose weight for life.

How to Follow the Diet

This diet is guided by a motto that seeks to help the consumer lose 10 pounds in 20 days. The daily menu includes:

  • A pound of vegetables in a raw state
  • A pound of cooked veggies
  • A cup of legumes, tofu, beans sprout and beans
  • Four fresh fruits at the very least

In this diet, you will eliminate the following:

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Dairy products
  • Soda
  • Diet soda
  • Coffee (if impossible,limit to a cup a day)
  • Eating between meals
  • Meat
  • White flour
  • Processed foods
  • Fruit juice

The following foods can, however, be consumed with moderation:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Dried fruit
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Starchy vegetables

The Engine 2 Diet

This diet, written by Esselstyn, is focused on removing vegetables and refined foods from the diet. It promotes fresh produce and whole-grain consumption, arguing that processed foods have eliminated the nutritional value leaving saturated fats and lots of calories.

How to Follow the Diet

This diet is subcategorized into two:

  • The Firefighter Plan
  • The Fire Cadet Plan

The Firefighter Plan focuses on making an immediate cut of all animal products, vegetable oils, and processed foods from your diet. 

The Fire Cadet Plan, however, focuses on a gradual process of changing your diet. The program lasts 28 days with a general plant-based meal plan.

Week 1

Elimination of dairy products and processed foods.

Week 2

All animal products, including eggs and fish, are eliminated.

Week 3

Added oils are dropped off the diet.

Week 4

This is the point where you focus on upholding the new eating plan.

The Vegan Diet

This is plant-based eating with strict restrictions on meat and all other animal products like dairy and eggs. 

How to Follow the Diet

You can choose to either gradually remove all animal products from your diet or you can undertake the change all at one time. 

The staple foods of this diet are:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy green produce
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

The Eco-Atkins Diet

The diet advocates the replacement of animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins while following many of the same rules as the standard Atkins diet. There’s a broad focus on fruits and vegetables to ensure proper nutrient intake. 

How to Follow the Diet

The limits of the diet are measured in percentages. For instance, all of the calories you consume in a day, the following percentages of those calories apply. 

  • Plant Proteins – 30%
  • Vegetable Oils – 45%
  • Carbohydrates – 25%

Eliminated from the diet are:

  • Starchy foods like white rice
  • Saturated Fats
  • Trans fats
  • Processed foods

All animal products are eliminated, save fish, dairy products, eggs, and white meat, which are consumed in moderation.

The Macronutrient Breakdown of a Plant-Based Diet

There is a general consensus on the macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – that you need to consume daily for overall health. These figures are a general estimate and will differ based on age, weight, activity level, and other factors.

  • Carbohydrates: 130g
  • Proteins: 46g women, 56g men
  • Fats: 20% to 30% of total calories

You can track your macronutrient intake with Noom. The food database is extensive and nutritionists work to ensure accuracy and validity.

Give Noom a try today and lose weight for the last time.

Guide to Starting a Plant-Based Diet

When you’re heading into a plant-based diet, the first and foremost tip is to take things slowly. The majority of people are raised on a meat- or animal-based diet, so switching things up can be a little overwhelming, or at the least, confusing. Try making the change one step at a time.

Gradual elimination of meat.

Reducing meat intake all at one time may be a little overpowering, especially when you are just learning the ins and outs of plant-based proteins. Take your time and gradually ease into making dietary changes that move away from animal products and toward plant products.

Remove eggs.

You will find that as you eliminate foods, you are gradually moving through the various diets. Having reduced all meat and while you are still consuming eggs and dairy, you are in the lacto-ovo vegetarian category.

After doing away with the meat, you move on to eggs. Then you will move into the lacto-vegetarian category, meaning the only animal products you are consuming are dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Leave the dairy behind.

For some people, this is one of the hardest stages alongside the elimination of meat. This may be mostly due to cheese. Cheese is included as part of many meals and snacks. For instance, sandwiches, nachos, and even salads are often topped with cheese. 

For this to be possible, however, you need not focus on what you are leaving but rather on the things with greater positive contributions you are going to start eating.

At this point, you are now in full-blown vegetarianism.

Skip processed foods.

Are there some significant disadvantages to a diet high in processed foods? Leaving them out of your plant-based diet is important. Rest assured, you don’t have to eat bland foods. Adding lots of new herbs and spices brings a fresh taste to some old favorites without adding processed foods into your diet. 

Whole foods bring with them a rainbow of colors and nutrients. 

Eat from the rainbow – the best advice when planning meals and snacks. The more color on your plate, the better the variety of nutrients you’re getting. 

Foods Not Allowed on a Plant-Based Diet

When it comes to foods not allowed on a plant-based diet, the list is relatively simple. For a standard vegetarian diet, without eggs, dairy, or fish, you’d leave out any animal proteins or animal-based products. There’s a bit of leniency for vegetarians in terms of allowed and not allowed foods. 

For the vegan, however, often, animal-sourced foods and products are removed. Leather is one example of an animal product that a vegan wouldn’t purchase. Here is a list of foods that should not be consumed, or consumed in moderation, on a plant-based diet. 

Meat

  • Processed meat
  • Poultry
  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Fish

Dairy products

Eggs

Candy bars

Certain Drinks

  • Soda
  • Fruit juice
  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Blended coffee
  • Blended Tea
  • Sweetened beverages

Foods that have sugar that is predominantly added

Highly refined foods

Refined sugar

  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Pastries
  • Pies
  • Candy
  • Table sugar
  • Syrups

Refined flour

  • Any wheat flour that is not indicated as having whole wheat at 100%.

Refined grains

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Crackers
  • Noodles
  • Flour

For a whole plant-based diet to live up to its status, it has to be centered on whole, unrefined plants or minimally refined food from plants.

Foods Allowed on a Plant-Based Diet

As for foods allowed on the plant-based diet – just think nature. Foods that grow in nature, like plants, beans, roots, tubers, mushrooms (fungus), and others, are all acceptable for both vegetarians and vegans. The idea is to eliminate processed foods and consume a diet rich in whole foods. This is the same across all forms of a plant-based diet.

Here are some examples of foods you may eat on a plant-based diet. 

Non-Starchy vegetables

  • Zucchini
  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes

Starchy vegetables

  • Root vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Quinoa

Fruits

  • All whole fruits – no processed or refined juices

Whole grains

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • 100% whole wheat

Beverages

  • Green tea
  • Decaffeinated coffee
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Water
  • Plant or nut milk

Healthy eating is the ideal way to work toward better health and weight loss.

Noom believes small changes lead to big results. 

Top Meat Alternatives for a Plant-Based Diet

Meat has mostly been used as the primary source of protein in most people’s diets. However, you have to drop it to be able to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. So what options are there to choose from in regards to plant-based proteins? Nature provides plenty, but there’s even processed food on the list – which you should only consume in moderation. 

Tempeh

Tempeh is a product that comes from fermenting and the cooking of soybeans. After fermenting, tempeh is then shaped into patties. Preparation of tempeh can be done by sautéing, baking, frying, or even steaming. It is an excellent replacement for both meat and fish. It offers good nutritional value due to its richness in calcium, iron and is a plant-based food high in protein.

Tempeh tastes strongly of nuts. Though it has a stronger flavor, the soy protein readily absorbs the flavorings used in the cooking process – making it an ideal meat replacement. In addition to the soybeans, grains and flavors are often added to tempeh. 

Legumes

Legumes are the seed pods of certain plants. Common legumes include alfalfa, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, peanuts, soybeans, and peas. Nearly all beans fall into the category of legumes and beans are a critical source of protein in a plant-based diet.

The fiber, protein, and carbs levels in legumes are high. Moreover, they offer various health benefits that may include helping you:

  • Maintain your body weight
  • Ensure that your blood sugar is balanced
  • Bring about satiety

Seitan

Seitan, a protein-rich food, goes by the aliases, ‘wheat meat’ and ‘vital wheat gluten.’ On top of having high levels of protein, upwards of 60g of protein per cup, seitan possesses a texture that is quite similar to that of beef and other meats. 

The protein-rich meat alternative is made with hydrated gluten. The process of making seitan includes kneading wheat flour and water before stringing out the gluten protein. Seitan is said to taste similar to a bland chicken or a mushroom. 

Tofu

Tofu is a soybean product that comes in a variety of densities from soft to extra firm. The extra firm tends to be used as a meat replacement, whereas the soft can be blended into protein smoothies. The taste of tofu tends to be relatively bland, but it picks up the flavors of a dish with ease. Recipes even allow for pressing out the water tofu is stored in and allowing the soybean product to soak up marinade for even more flavor.

One-half cup of tofu supplies about 10g of protein. 

Nuts

One of the best sources of plant-based protein is nuts. All nuts contain proteins and, due to the wide range of amino acids, it’s a great idea to include nuts along with other plant-based proteins to ensure a well-rounded nutrient intake. 

Nuts are not considered a complete protein, thus the importance of combining nuts with other plant-based proteins in your diet. About ⅓ cup of mixed nuts supplies about 7.5g of protein.

When trying to lose weight, remember that nuts are quite calorie-dense. Eating just a small amount of protein-rich nuts supplies more calories than you’d expect. That same ⅓ cup of nuts that supplies 7.5g of protein also supplies about 300 calories.

Prepared Veggie Products

Prepared veggie products are at the bottom of the list of meat alternatives. Often referred to as veggie burgers, despite being available in a wide variety of styles. These prepared foods are processed and should only be consumed on occasion. However, you may find it easier to start with these pre-packaged protein sources and gradually move toward whole food products.

Total protein count for prepared veggie products typically ranges from 10g to 20g per serving.

You can follow a plant-based diet on Noom. Check out the program to see how it fits into your lifestyle today!

More on Legumes and a Plant-Based Diet

Without a doubt, legumes are at the top of the list of important plant-based foods. Not only are legumes rich in protein and a ton of nutrients, but they taste great and provide the texture needed for that familiar mouthfeel associated with meat. 

Let’s take a look at how legumes benefit the body.

Importance of Legumes in the Diet

They are an excellent source of protein. 

Legumes (and beans) are considered one of the top sources of protein in a plant-based meal plan. The category includes everything from dried beans, to baked beans, to lentils and peanuts. In only ½ cup of legumes, you get about the same amount of protein as one ounce of meat (7g of protein). 

Not only are legumes packed with protein, but the nutrition profile for these foods is amazing. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help to support overall health and well-being. Some research has even shown a reduction in cancer risk with the consumption of legumes for four weeks.

They enhance the nutrient content of meals. 

When first starting out on a plant-based diet, it can be a little difficult to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need. It takes time to learn how to combine foods to create whole, complete proteins while packing in enough healthy carbs and fats to keep the body in check and running smoothly. Legumes make this easy. Some of the legumes offering the best sources of vitamins and minerals include, per one-cup serving:

  • Chickpeas: 13g fiber, 15g protein, folate, manganese, copper, iron
  • Lentils: 16g fiber, 18g protein, folate, manganese, copper, thiamine
  • Peas: 9g fiber, 8g protein, folate, manganese, vitamin K, thiamine
  • Kidney Beans: 14g fiber, 13g protein, folate, manganese, thiamine, copper, iron
  • Black Beans: 15g fiber, 15g protein, folate, manganese, magnesium, thiamine, iron
  • Soybeans: 10g fiber, 29g protein, manganese, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate

They act as antioxidants. 

Research has shown that legumes work to fight free radical damage thanks to strong antioxidant functions. It is thought that the phenolic substances, or plant metabolites, are responsible for the antioxidant function. Thus, the higher the phenolic substance level, the better the antioxidant protection.

When 30 different strains of legumes were tested for antioxidant capacity, light-colored seed pods offered less protection than did darker seed pods. It was noted that not all dark seed pods had strong antioxidant potential. However, the research did connect the phenolic acid content of the legumes to antioxidant strength.

They help maintain heart health. 

We’ve already established that legumes and beans are some of the best sources of plant proteins, and proteins in general, available today. While we are all for excellent nutrient content and antioxidant protection, it goes without saying that the protective benefits to the heart are amazingly important. “Eating beans as part of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may help improve your blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.”

The effect on heart health is especially important in people who are at increased risk of developing cardiac health problems. In patients with type 2 diabetes, one of the largest risk factors for heart-related issues, when red meats were replaced with legumes, the effect on the heart was significant. Not only did the legumes help prevent problems, but researchers suggest they can also be used as an adjunct treatment for a variety of diseases and conditions.

According to Harvard Health, “Scientific studies have definitively linked a diet high in legumes with a lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or strokes. As a matter of fact, eating legumes every day can effectively treat these diseases in people who already have them.”

Healthy Fats are Still Important

One of the issues found with plant-based diets is healthy fats. The body needs fats to function properly, and too little fat can actually cause serious health problems like vitamin deficiencies (some vitamins are only soluble in fat), increased appetite, and mood fluctuations. 

While fats have gotten a bad name over the years, diets rich in healthy fats have been shown to benefit health rather than compromise it. According to one article, researchers found that “Plant-based diets include foods that contain fats, such as nuts and seeds and oils from grains and seeds. The fats in these foods are not associated with increased risk for heart disease.”

Not all fats are harmful to your health. Not all fats fall into the category of trans fats or saturated fats. Healthy fats are mainly derived from vegetables, which is a reason why a healthy plant-based diet is essential.

Polyunsaturated fats come to the rescue of the harmful types of cholesterol that we consume and help in creating a balance of fats in the body. Healthy fats contain high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These are fats that cannot be manufactured in the body but are vital to overall health, yet they are often missing from a standard Western diet.

One statement that covers the facts about healthy fats in a plant-based diet offers, “A diet that is rich in plant-based monounsaturated fats is linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes. In contrast, if the monounsaturated fats come from animal sources, the link is to a higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes.”

Some sources of healthy fats include:

  • Avocados: 21g of fat per cup
  • Sunflower Seeds: 18gof fat per ¼ cup
  • Chia Seeds: 9g of fat per ounce
  • Olives: 11g of fat per 3.5 ounces

Healthy Cooking Oils

One fantastic source of healthy fats is healthy cooking oils. Yes, there are healthy oils you can add to dishes while cooking or as a topper to salads, bread, pasta, and more. 

Some of the healthiest cooking oils, approved for a plant-based diet, include:

  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Vegetable Oil

When you’re looking to increase the intake of omega fatty acids, which are commonly found in fatty fish, you can turn to foods like flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil. These three oils are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega fatty acid. It is suggested that women consume 1g, and men consume 2g of alpha-linolenic acid daily.

When you track the foods you’re eating as part of your healthy, weight-loss diet, you can see all the macronutrients

Not All Plant-Based Foods are Created Equal

Generally, you may have the mentality that all food sources derived from plants are healthy. This is a false statement as plant-based foods can undergo processing, which will affect the nutritional profile. 

Take white rice and white flour into consideration. These are both plant-based foods, but each has been processed to the point that they’ve retained little of the nutrients that occurred naturally. In this particular case, whole foods and grains are suggested to be over-processed foods. 

We must also take into consideration that these foods may possess a high glycemic index after processing. 

What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index is the measure of how much a food will affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a higher glycemic index tend to cause greater changes in glucose levels. Processed foods like the aforementioned white rice and white flour have a high glycemic index, which can lead to hunger, and in some cases, an increased risk of diabetes, especially in people who are overweight or obese. 

Canned Foods are Also An Issue

Taking another look at processed foods, canned foods are not considered whole foods. Whole foods tend to be raw when bought. You prepare the foods from fresh, not from a package, like a can. Canned foods are often over-processed, so nutrients are stripped away, and they often contain preservatives, added sodium, and added sugar.

Organic or Non-Organic?

When following a plant-based diet, is there really a difference between organic and non-organic foods? Organic foods are about more than simply pesticides and ground treatments. The practice of growing organic aims to take the earth and environment into consideration, as well. The idea is to bring forth from the earth good food without disturbing the earth in the process or altering how foods grow naturally. 

There are some issues with organic foods. However, that may change your mind about whether or not spending the extra cash is really worth it. The term organic means that “foods… are grown without most synthetic fertilizers.” Notice the term most. Some synthetic fertilizers are, evidently, still used in organic growing.

What’s also important to note is how the foods are transported, stores, and presented in stores. Any contact with non-organic foods negates the organic tag. For instance, if organic bananas are stored with non-organic bananas, the term organic can no longer be used, but the consumer doesn’t know when this occurs. 

Another problem with storage, and store presentation, is when organic foods are presented below non-organic foods on a produce shelf. If the water used to mist the produce drips from non-organic foods into organic foods, again, the organic tag is null and void. 

Organic Foods and the Food Label

The US Department of Agriculture has guidelines by which foods must adhere to when labeling organic. 

  • 100% organic – single-ingredient foods that have been certified organic. 
  • Organic – multi-ingredient foods that have at least 95% of ingredients are certified organic. 
  • Made with organic – multi-ingredient foods that have at least 70% of ingredients re certified organic.
  • Organic ingredients – less than 70% of ingredients in multi-ingredient food are certified organic.

The Mayo Clinic points out that there is a significant difference between the terms natural and organic. Natural “means that it has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It does not refer to the methods or materials used to produce the food ingredients.” 

At the end of the day, it doesn’t appear that organic is any better than non-organic foods in a plant-based diet. Based on research, “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”

You make the choice of whether to choose organic or non-organic on Noom. The app provides guidance, but doesn’t require you buy one of the other.

Reading Food Labels on a Plant-Based Diet

It’s important to look closely at food labels when planning and following a plant-based meal plan. The label offers details on the ingredients, nutrition facts, food allergies, number of servings and serving sizes, and warnings, especially when it comes to ingredients that may cause health issues in some people.

A few facts to keep in mind:  

  • Food labels play an advisory role.

You need to know about the sizes of servings, calories, ingredients, food allergens, and general nutritional information.

  • Food labels act as a basis for comparison.

This will help you in deciding on products. It is here where you will be able to differentiate the products with a basis like the sugar content and other dietary based decisions.

  • Maintenance of a healthy weight.

Studies have shown that obesity can relate to reading food labels. People who read labels tend to have healthy body weight. In contrast, those who are oblivious of the labels, however, have shown increased body fat and weight.

Effects of Processed Foods Despite Being Plant-Based

We know that organic is not really that much better, if at all than non-organic, but what about whole foods versus processed foods? Plant-based processed foods come with a slew of issues that may affect overall health. 

What is processed food?

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a processed food as one that has undergone any changes to its natural state—that is, any raw agricultural commodity subjected to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state. The food may include the addition of other ingredients such as preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars, and fats.”

  • High sugar content. 

Plenty of processed foods have high sugar content. This is especially true in low-fat foods. The fat is often replaced with sugar and sodium to improve the taste. “In the American diet, the top sources are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. But added sugar is also present in items that you may not think of as sweetened, like soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup.”

When you consume too much sugar, it can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research and investigation. It is estimated that between 14% and 16% of total calorie intake comes from sugar in most Western diets. The battle against sugar has been going on for decades.

Consuming an excessive amount of sugar has been connected to weight gain, heart disease, acne, diabetes, cancer, and depression.

  • May promote overeating. 

Many factors go into being overweight or obese, but the connection between processed foods and overeating has gained little traction, despite being clinically proven. Research shows that consuming processed foods increases the number of calories consumed than when study participants consumed whole, unprocessed foods. Harvard Health suggests, “eat whole, unprocessed foods with as few ingredients as possible.”

When you look for research to prove one side of a debate or another, that comes from a trustworthy source, you can get much better than the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Based on a study from researchers at the NIH, “Study participants on the ultra-processed diet ate an average of 508 calories more per day and ended up gaining an average of 2 pounds over two weeks. People on the unprocessed diet, meanwhile, ended up losing about 2 pounds on average over a two-week period.” 

When you take an even closer look at the connection between processed foods, weight, and obesity, you find that “Weight changes were highly correlated with energy intake (r = 0.8, p < 0.0001), with participants gaining 0.9 ± 0.3 kg (p = 0.009) during the ultra-processed diet and losing 0.9 ± 0.3 kg (p = 0.007) during the unprocessed diet. Limiting consumption of ultra-processed foods may be an effective strategy for obesity prevention and treatment.”

  • Contain additives and preservatives. 

One of the biggest health concerns with processed foods is that additives and preservatives are used to extend shelf life and improve the taste. Some of the most common ingredients to skip in a plant-based diet include:

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – used as a flavor enhancer. 

Food Coloring – used to improve how food looks.

Nitrates and Nitrites – used as preservatives, often in meat products.

Corn Syrup – used as a sweetener, often in sugar-laden drinks. 

Trans Fats – used in place of other fats due to increased shelf life. 

  • Nutrients are lacking?

There’s some debate as to whether processed foods can supply the same nutrients as whole foods. According to one bit of research, “Diets are more likely to meet food guidance recommendations if nutrient-dense foods, either processed or not, are selected. Nutrition and food science professionals, the food industry, and other stakeholders can help to improve the diets of Americans by providing a nutritious food supply that is safe, enjoyable, affordable, and sustainable by communicating effectively and accurately with each other and by working together to improve the overall knowledge of consumers.”

Common Examples of Processed, Plant-Based Foods

When shopping for your plant-based meals, make sure to follow the outer edge of the grocery store. This is where the whole foods are presented. The aisles, in the middle of the store, is home to most processed foods. Some foods you may find in your cabinet that tend to be highly processed include:

  • Cornbread
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Noodles
  • Grits
  • Corn tortillas
  • Macaroni
  • Flour
  • Refined grains
eating out salad

Did you know you can eat out on Noom? With Noom you’re NEVER told what you can and cannot eat.

Guide to Eating Out on a Plant-Based Diet

Plant-based dieting is not just grounded in your home, but you can also do it in restaurants. Restaurants, like any other business, are not only expanding in number but also in plant-based diet menus to accommodate a broader customer base.

When going to eat out, you should consider:

  • Researching the restaurant. 
  • Choosing a spot with a wide variety of salads. 
  • Check out the sides menu for plant-based options. 

Restaurant Guide to Plant-Based Meals

Chinese Restaurants

This is the right place for vegetable meals and meals based on tofu. Rice, noodles, and soups are also available and may come in healthy varieties.

Plant-based dishes that are present in most Chinese restaurants are:

  • Recipes based on tofu and vegetables.
  • Vegetarian noodle soups.
  • Rice that has been steamed.

Ensure to ask for the exclusion of animal-based oils and sauces like fish and oyster sauce or oils that have been used to prepare meats.

Thai and Vietnamese Restaurants

Request that your dishes be prepared without the addition of fish sauce. These restaurants are often good for light options like salads and soups.

Some choices on the menu that prove to be ideal are:

  • Steamed rice
  • Dishes based on tofu and vegetables
  • Plates of stir-fried vegetables
  • Fresh vegetarian spring rolls

Indian Restaurants

These restaurants have a good offering for vegetarians, although some of their foods can be quite drippy with oil. Make sure your foods do not include ghee, which is a type of clarified butter sourced from cow’s cream.

Some dishes worth trying are:

  • A lentil soup called Dhal
  • Steamed rice
  • Chutneys and pickles
  • Roti – a bread made from 100% wholemeal flour
  • Curries including tomato-based chickpeas, vegetables, and lentils

Italian Restaurants

Cheeses are like the staple additive in Italian cuisine. They are present in pasta, pizzas, and even salads. Even if cheese doesn’t appear to be listed in the food description, it’s safe to inquire about whether or not this milk-based product is in the recipe. 

The delicacies to try out at an Italian restaurant would be:

  • Vegetarian pizza with the exclusion of cheese.
  • Pasta and fresh vegetables.
  • Tomato and basil bruschetta.
  • In-house salads with balsamic vinegar or lime juice for dressing.

Ethiopian Restaurants

Ethiopian vegetable menus tend to be extensive.

Plant-based foods that can be found in these restaurants include:

  • Fresh salads
  • Vegetable dishes
  • Legume dishes
  • Steamed rice
  • Injera – Ethiopian flatbread

Japanese Restaurants

While the options they offer will prove to be low in fat, fish stocks tend to be highly used.

The vegetarian delicacies worth trying are like:

  • Seaweed salad
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Miso soup – be sure to order the exclusion of fish products
  • Mixed vegetable sushi – be sure eggs and mayonnaise are excluded
  • Vegetarian rice dishes
  • Some soba noodle dishes

Mexican Restaurants

When cheese and sour cream are cut out, the resulting meals may be entirely plant-based. Animal ingredients may, however, pop up in your orders, so when in doubt, ask whether or not the dish contains animal products.

Plant-based food list that you can give a try on are:

  • Bean soups
  • Vegetable-based soups
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Tortillas

Steakhouses and Grills

The side menus and salad bars will come in handy in the meat-heavy menus in this kind of restaurant.

You could try out:

  • Fresh salads
  • Plain baked potato alongside corn, beans or salsa
  • Rice, beans or steamed vegetable sides with no butter

Want to find out what you’ve been eating? The food database that comes with Noom is packed with thousands of restaurant menu items – complete with nutrition facts.

Gathering a Plant-Based Shopping Guide

For the newbie to a plant-based diet, there are some staples to consider. It’s important to keep a supply of foods that are well-rounded in terms of nutrition, while still working to make for some amazing recipes. Foods that you should consider staples on a plant-based diet include:

  • Fruits: 4g protein per cup (guava), 4g protein per cup (avocado) 
  • Vegetables: 8g protein per cup (peas), 6g protein per cup (Brussel’s sprouts)
  • Legumes: 9g protein per ⅔ cup (lentils), 7g protein per ounce (peanuts)
  • Nuts: 6g protein per ounce (almonds), 4g protein per ounce (walnuts)
  • Seeds: 5g protein per ounce (chia), 2g protein per tablespoon (flax)
  • Whole Grains: 8g protein per cup (quinoa), 4g per ⅔ cup (wild rice) 
  • Pasta: 8g protein per serving (enriched), 7g (whole-wheat)
  • Breakfast Cereals: varies based on brand
  • Non-Dairy Milk Replacements: (store-bought) 1g protein per cup
  • Vinegar: 0g
  • Herbs and Spices: 0g
  • Olives: 1g protein per ⅔ cup
  • Avocados: 3g protein per cup
  • Meat Alternatives: varies widely from around 10g to more than 25g per serving.

Common Foods You’d Never Think Contained Animal Products

Foods With Gelatin: gelatin is derived from animal skins. 

  • Candies: gelatin stabilizes ingredients in some candies.
  • Flavored Nuts: gelatin may be used to adhere flavors to the outside of the legume.
  • Wine: isinglass, which is derived from fish bladders, is used in the production of some wines.
  • Restaurant French Fries: oil used to fry is often used for frying animal-based products.
  • Salad Dressing: some salad dressings contain anchovy paste. 
  • Baked Goods: many baked goods, like bagels and bread, contain l-cysteine sourced from animals.
  • Foods Rich in Omega Fatty Acids: omega fatty acids are most abundant in fish, but there are plant sources of omega fatty acids that are animal-free.

Learning how to discern what ingredients on a food label are sourced from animals can be time-consuming, but nutrition labels provide much of the information you need. 

What Does a Plant-Based Meal Look Like on the Plate?

Fruits and vegetables take up half the plate. 

Look to include a rainbow of colors on your plate. More color means better and more varied nutrients.

Whole grains cover one-quarter of the plate. 

White bread, white rice, and refined grains, in general, are some of the products you should try to cut from your plate.

You should strive to fill this quarter with grains that are either whole or intact or even both.

Examples are:

  • Whole Wheat
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat berries
  • Brown rice
  • Oats

Protein makes up the remaining one-quarter of the plate.

When filling up this side of your plate, think cup for cup. One cup of beans packs the same number of calories as one cup of cooked chicken. However, the beans are much more nutrient-dense, and they fit into your plant-based diet.

Tips for Getting Started on Your Plant-Based Diet

Here are a few quick tips on how to get started with a new plant-based diet. Remember to take it slow and progress through removing one animal product at a time, if you’re finding the changes difficult. 

  • Decide on what path to take and the boundaries of your plant-based diet.

There are various types of plant-based diets, and some allow meat in small portions or in moderation. Decide if you are going to give up all animal-based products, if you are going to eat fish or eggs or dairy and set up some guidelines that make the plan easier to stick with – structure, if you will. 

  • Familiarize yourself with what you’re consuming. 

Not only do you need to know about the foods you’re eating from a nutritional perspective, but you also need to check out those food labels for hidden animal products. If a product doesn’t say it is vegetarian or vegan, there’s a good chance an animal-based ingredient is used. 

  • Don’t be afraid to explore plant-based recipes for your favorite dishes.

If you love meatloaf and mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream, try to switch things up with plant-based alternatives. Textured vegetable protein and beans make the perfect meat substitute for meatloaf, and those potatoes will taste amazing with spices and Greek yogurt if you’re eating dairy. 

  • Don’t fault yourself if you slip-up or eat an animal-based ingredient or food.

There’s no way to be 100% certain that every food you eat is 100% animal-free. It doesn’t matter if you are new to plant-based eating, or you’ve been a vegan for 20 years. At some point, animal-based ingredients have made their way into seemingly plant-based foods.

  • How to Stick With a Plant-Based Diet 

If you’re just switching to a plant-based diet, it can be hard to get a foothold on how to eat, what to eat, and even when to eat. Rest assured, you’re not alone. Making the change can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to keep on your plant-based path. 

  • Focus on what you are gaining rather than what you are losing.

What have you gained, or are you hoping to gain from adopting a plant-based diet? Some people feel better, both mentally and physically, and others lose weight. Take a little time to look at why you chose a plant-based diet and how your body feels now that you have. 

  • Be creative.

Boredom in any new eating plan is a recipe for disaster. There are a wide variety of plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan recipes out there that just plain rock! Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Try new foods, new protein sources, new flavors, herbs, and spices. Get creative.

  • Give yourself a break – you’re human.

There may be times when you eat an animal-based product or a product that contains an animal-based ingredient. No one is flawless or perfect, so remind yourself that the plant-based diet is more of a lifestyle, and as is the case with all lifestyles, there are some bumps along the way.

Noom provides a personal coach to help ease any bumps in your weight-loss journey.

Plant-Based Diets and Weight Loss

One of the more common reasons people try out a plant-based diet is to lose weight. There is a connection, via clinical research, to weight loss and increased intake of plant-based foods. But, there are also unhealthy foods to consider. 

Not all plant-based foods are healthy. For instance, a baked potato topped with Greek yogurt is going to provide more nutrients and less fat and preservatives than an order of French fries. The two are made from potatoes, but the cooking method is different, and that means all the difference in terms of quality. 

When trying to lose weight on a plant-based diet, quality is one of the most important factors. The quality of the foods you eat determines the amount and type of nutrients you’re providing to the body. Rating quality doesn’t have to be hard – start from fresh and work from there. 

For instance, fresh green beans have a higher quality rating than frozen green beans, and frozen green beans have a higher quality rating than do canned green beans. All three are plant-based foods, but the difference in quality is substantial. 

What Does Research Say About Plant-Based Weight Loss?

Research shared in May 2017 showed that “clinical trials and observational research indicate an advantage to adoption of [plant-based diets] for preventing overweight and obesity and promoting weight loss.”

In late 2018, a randomized 16-week clinical trial showed that “plant protein, as a part of a plant-based diet, and the resulting limitation of leucine and histidine intake are associated with improvements in body composition and reductions in both body weight and insulin resistance.”

Jump forward to 2019, and we find the same results. According to this study, the interest in plant-based diets is steadily growing in Western cultures, like the United States. However, additional research is needed to truly understand how a plant-based diet and weight loss work together. “…the increasing interest for plant-based diets raises the opportunity for developing novel preventive and therapeutic strategies against obesity, eating disorders, and related comorbidities.”

Now a review of research from 2019, based on three cohort studies, found that over four years, people who followed a plant-based diet tended to gain less weight than did those following a more “traditional” diet. That lends to the idea that not only do plant-based diets promote weight loss, but they also help with weight maintenance.

Finally, in late 2019, research shared the idea behind a plant-based diet and weight loss perfectly. Based on the article, plant-based diets “improve satiety and increase energy expenditure leading to reduced body weight.”

Plant-Based Diets and Obesity-Related Disease

With obesity comes an increased risk for certain diseases like diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. 

Type 2 Diabetes

“Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes mainly from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into your cells to be used for energy.”

When a review of research and studies was completed in 2017, evidence suggested that a plant-based diet not alone worked to reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, but also worked as a treatment in people currently diagnosed.

In early 2018, a study of participants who followed a low-fat, plant-based diet for 16 weeks showed that, compared to the control group, improved insulin sensitivity and lower BMI.

In September 2018, two articles were published on the impact of a plant-based diet on diabetes, insulin resistance, and prediabetes. The first was the Rotterdam Study, and it showed that after five to seven years of following a plant-based or animal-based diet, those on the plant-based diet showed a lower risk of insulin resistance and prediabetes risk, in some participants.

The second study, published in September, revealed that, based on research, people following a vegetarian diet were less likely to develop diabetes. This result was realized across various forms of the plant-based diet, including those that included eggs, dairy, and fish.

It appears 2018 was a busy year for research into plant-based diets. In October, a review of research found that “Plant-based diets were associated with significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health, HbA1c levels, weight, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, compared with several diabetic associations’ official guidelines and other comparator diets.”

Hypertension

“Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death. Blood pressure is the force that a person’s blood exerts against the walls of their blood vessels.”

When the results of seven trials were reviewed in 2014, the results showed that a plant-based diet, specifically a vegetarian diet, resulted in participants having lower blood pressure than did the control group.

Moving forward to mid-2017, research again showed that a diet based on plants was an effective means of preventing and treating high blood pressure or hypertension. It is thought that plant diets work through vasodilation, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, and insulin sensitivity – among other factors.

In July 2018, researchers looked into the role diet plays in high blood pressure – both the prevention and management of the disease. Based on the research review, diets packed with whole grains, healthy sodium intake, and plant-based foods worked to prevent and manage hypertension.

Finally, research published in September 2018, connected a vegan diet with lower systolic and diastolic measurements. Ultimately, the vegan diet lowered blood pressure in hospital patients. It is thought, because of the significant effect, that this plant-based meal plan may work as a non-medication-based treatment.

Inflammation

“Inflammation refers to your body’s process of fighting against things that harm it, such as infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself. When something damages your cells, your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system.”

The anti-inflammatory effects of a plant-based diet have been studied for more than a decade. In 2008, researchers reported that a diet based on a wide spectrum of foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (wheat) were less likely to suffer from certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases – based on the anti-inflammatory properties.

Jump forward to September 2019, and we find that in cases of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition, eating a plant-based diet reduced inflammation and joint pain while promoting a better quality of life.

Weight loss helps reduce inflammation, including inflammation associated with obesity and certain disease processes.

Noom is a clinically-proven solution to weight loss that makes living a healthier life as simple as dedicating 10 minutes a day.

Cardiovascular Health

“Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others.

The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves, or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.”

There is no shortage of research showing the benefits of eating a plant-based diet on heart health. For decades researchers have shown time and again that plants, not animals, are better for the heart. 

In late 2015, researchers found that diets packed with plants and devoid of animal products were an effective means or reducing the risk of certain types of coronary heart disease. The mechanism is thought to work via endothelial cells by protecting them from injury.

In September 2017, researchers reviewed previously published studies to see whether or not there was evidence that a plant-based meal plan protected heart health. Based on the review, it was found that consuming more foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds, and fewer animal products, supported heart health.

Research published in May 2018 found that “Fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains appear to be beneficial, whereas red/processed meats, eggs, and refined carbohydrates appear harmful. Some evidence suggests detrimental effects of dairy products and poultry, but more research is needed. There is observational and interventional evidence that a plant-based diet high in antioxidants, micronutrients, nitrate, and fibre but low in saturated/trans fats may decrease the incidence and severity of [heart failure].”

In June 2018, authors of research into vegetarian diets and overall health found that “Plant-based diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and reduced platelet aggregation than non-vegetarian diets and are beneficial in weight management, reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. They have also been shown an effective treatment method in diabetes management. Well planned vegetarian diets provide benefits in preventing and reversing atherosclerosis and in decreasing [cardiovascular disease] risk factors. They should be promoted through dietary guidelines and recommendations.”

Research from July 2018 was the first we found that differentiated between a healthy and unhealthy plant-based diet. Just because you’re eating less or no animal products doesn’t mean the quality of the foods you’re eating is better. When healthy, whole foods are consumed, there is a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. However, when unhealthy plant-based foods are consumed, the risk increases.

Interesting research published in October 2018 brings the environment into the equation. Based on research, plant-based diets are environmentally sustainable and work to support a healthy heart.

By March 2019, research talked about a new perspective on plant-based diets. The authors suggested that the term plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean a 100% cut in animal products. An animal-based diet is not 100% animal products, so the opposite is an unrealistic expectation. It’s also important, based on the article, to choose healthy plant-based foods, which supports previous research mentioned above from July 2018.

Probably some of the most profound research into plant-based diets show that reducing animal intake can actually reduce death rates from cardiovascular disease. However, it was also shown that plant-based options reduced death rates even in people who didn’t have cardiovascular disease.

Cancer

“Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor.”

A cohort study from late 2018 shared that, based on a review of research, most studies focus on how eating a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer, but there’s some evidence that it can also work to improve quality of life in people with existing cancer.

In a huge study following more than 65,000 participants, it was found that the incidence of cancer was reduced in the population that followed a plant-based diet. The study came to one simple conclusion, “vegetarian diets seem to confer protection against cancer.”

There’s even evidence that specific types of cancer are affected by adopting a plant-based menu. In one study involving Taiwanese women, eating a diet rich in plants showed a “protective role against breast cancer risk.”

Men may also find a benefit in the reduction of risk of prostate cancer with increased intake of plant-based foods. According to the research, intake of a high-plant-based diet is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, in men who consume large amounts of dairy products, the risk of prostate cancer actually increases. (The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association)

Gallstones

Gallstones are hard, pebble-like pieces of material, usually made of cholesterol or bilirubin, that form in your gallbladder. Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. The gallbladder can make one large gallstone, hundreds of tiny stones, or both small and large stones.”

It appears, based on research, that women see the benefit of a plant-based diet, in terms of gallstones, more than men. Research from early 2019 shared that in women, a plant-based diet “was associated with a decreased risk of [gallstone disease].” This effect was not measured in men, however.

After data from The EPIC-Oxford Study, which included nearly 50,000 participants, about 1200 cases of gallstones were diagnosed during the study. After taking all factors into consideration, including weight, it was found that a vegetarian diet was more likely to reduce the chances of gallstones compared to other types of diets.

Research and Studies on Plant-Based Diets

Doctors need more education. 

Based on 2016 research, evidence of the benefits of a plant-based diet is growing. Still, physicians aren’t necessarily keeping up with the times. Medical professionals must understand how different diets affect health, wellness, and weight in a world where obesity rates continue to rise each year.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices account for 70% of health care costs. 

Some would say that eating highly-processed foods that are high in fat and calories with little nutritional value would be considered a lifestyle choice. This type of diet has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. The three health concerns alone account for a large portion of medical costs annually.

Endurance athletes mat reap heart health benefits. 

Based on some research, endurance athletes are at increased risk for certain heart conditions, like atherosclerosis and myocardial damage. Among other means, plant-based diets have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, which “may present safety and performance advantages for endurance athletes.”

One specific plant-based diet rules them all in terms of heart health. 

If you’re looking to optimize heart health, you can look to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. “Although more randomized controlled trial data are needed for more definitive conclusions, our current literature suggests that a lacto-ovo-vegetarian inclined diet, with around three servings per week of fish such as wild salmon (ideal) or meat, may be the best diet to reduce the risk of CVD and stroke. For any diet to be effective, it must be sustainable. Patients should be advised to pick a diet closest to that described above that they can maintain for maximum health benefits. A healthy diet can dramatically reduce the risk of future health problems.”

When planned properly, a plant-based diet works to improve various health measurements, including weight, cardiovascular health, and metabolic function. “Properly planned vegetarian diets are healthful, effective for weight and glycemic control, and provide metabolic and cardiovascular benefits, including reversing atherosclerosis and decreasing blood lipids and blood pressure. The use of plant-based diets as a means of prevention and treatment of cardio-metabolic disease should be promoted through dietary guidelines and recommendations.”

May reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. 

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms often associated with overweight and obesity. It’s been estimated that up to 25% of the world’s adult population suffers from the syndrome. It appears that a plant-based diet works indirectly via reduced calorie intake, avoidance of red and processed meats, and decreased saturated fat intake.

May prevent type 2 diabetes. 

We’ve reviewed research into the effects of a plant-based diet on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But, there’s never too much support when it comes to health. According to a review of more than 300,000 participants – 23,000 of which developed diabetes found that “ Plant-based dietary patterns, especially when they are enriched with healthful plant-based foods, may be beneficial for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes.”

May improve cholesterol numbers. 

Along with helping reduce the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and certain forms of cancer, it appears that a plant-based diet also works to decrease total cholesterol and improve the participants’ low-density lipoprotein profile.

Your gut may thank you for eating plant-based foods. 

Getting right to the point, “available literature suggests that a vegetarian/vegan diet is effective in promoting a diverse ecosystem of beneficial bacteria to support both human gut microbiome and overall health.”

Despite everything we’ve found on the benefits of a plant-based diet, there are still skeptics out there. Some research suggests the health benefits are from making healthy dietary changes and not the fact that those changes are exclusively plant-based.

The research is there. Plant-based diets come with a long list of potential health benefits, including improved heart health and weight loss. Meat is part of many lives and switching things up may be hard. Still, the option is there to try out a few more plants to see just how you feel on a plant-based diet. 

Noom supports the way you want to eat. The psychology-based program is clinically-proven, via research into more than 35,000 people, to help the user lose weight and keep it off. 

Questions and Answers (QA)

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is one that focuses on consuming foods that grow in nature, as opposed to animal products or byproducts. Some plant-based meal plans do allow for eggs, dairy, and fish. 

How to start a plant-based diet?

The first step in starting a plant-based diet is to learn about the best sources of plant-based protein. Protein and healthy fats are two important factors that aren’t as common in plants as they are in animals.

Is a plant-based diet healthy?

Based on research, a plant-based diet is a healthy option for most people. Studies have shown benefits to heart health, weight loss, mood, and other concerns.

What foods can you eat on a plant-based diet?

The majority of the foods you’ll eat on a plant-based diet grow naturally. Think fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts, seeds, and the like.

Will I lose weight on a plant-based diet?

There is some evidence that suggests a plant-based diet can promote weight loss. However, not all plant-based diets are healthy, and some can actually cause weight gain. The effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss depends on what you eat (quality) and how much you eat (quantity), among many other factors. For example, you can eat vegan brownies all day and gain weight or eat a well-rounded, balanced diet of plant-based foods that could help with weight loss. 

Why am I gaining weight on a plant-based diet?

Not all plant-based foods are low in calories, fats, or even preservatives. Eating a plant-based diet based on whole foods tends to be more effective at weight control than one packed with processed, plant-based foods.

How do I transition to a plant-based diet?

Some experts suggest starting out giving up on animal products or food – like beef. From there, explore plant-based protein options and gradually leave meat sources behind and replace them with the new plant-based proteins. 

How do I get protein on a plant-based diet?

The two big sources of protein on many plant-based diets are soy and beans. Soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are packed with nutrient-rich protein – as are lentils and chickpeas.

How can I gain weight on a plant-based diet?

Not all plant-based foods are low calorie. For instance, beans have about 230 calories per cup, as does chicken. You can increase calorie intake with plant foods just as you can with non-plant food sources. The process of gaining weight on a plant-based diet can be a bit more difficult, however. The help of a dietitian or other nutrition professional may be useful.