Want Optimal Health? Eat More Plants!
Eating healthy can be confusing. Everyone’s got an opinion. Trends change. Many options conflict with one another. And the beliefs and debate distract us from the time-honored truth. All healthy diets have the same foundation: plants. Eat enough plants for optimal health and you can choose additional items as you wish. Animal products or not. Occasional indulgences. Whatever works for you…within reason of course. I stick with the same core foods that fit my life and mix it up when I feel like it. Here’s how I came up with my own healthy eating plan:
Embrace the Truth
The benefits of eating whole plant foods, minimizing processed foods and exercising daily are undeniable. Feeling good about investing in yourself improves your chance of sticking with it. I think Dr. David Katz confirms that we know what to do and the impact it has in this excerpt from his book, “The Truth About Food”:
“Truth 1: One thing I wanted to make clear is that there is no confusion among experts.
Truth 2: A diet high in plant foods (beans, vegetables, nuts, fruit, whole grains) and low in processed foods is best for health and longevity.
Truth 3: Over 80 percent of chronic disease and premature death could be prevented by following this healthy dietary pattern, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking.”
Ignore the Nonsense
Hype and half-truths about food are everywhere. We know there is no super food that will save us. Shortcuts won’t work in the long run. But it’s tempting to believe that kind of stuff. The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right is a great source to cut through the confusion on topics like protein, gluten, carbs, fat, probiotics, sugar, etc. as well as diets, such as Paleo and Vegan. It helped me let go of my fear of fat consumption. It showed me how to help people move beyond hangups on the myth of protein deficiency. It’s a great read and reference tool.
Eat More Plants
A plant-based foundation is adaptable to any preference and lifestyle, including palate, budget, time available and interest level in cooking. I use a combination of these resources to figure out what to eat:
Daily Dozen Checklist by Dr. Gregor at NutritionFacts.org –Well researched list of top plant-based foods to prevent chronic disease. I post it on my fridge along with weekly checkboxes to keep me honest. (Ensures I eat my carrot sticks before indulging in peanut butter!)
Blue Zones Food Guidelines – Recommendations based on what the longest-lived people around the world eat. Recipes are flavorful and delicious + exercise focuses on natural movement vs. slogging it out at the gym. Provides stellar examples of how a healthy lifestyle can be fulfilling and enjoyable.
Harvard Healthy Eating Plate – Helpful in figuring out quantities of all those plant foods + optional additions to your diet. Cover your plate with 50% veggies (or veggies and fruit), 25% whole grains (or more veggies) and 25% healthy protein (beans, eggs, lean meat) and you’re set. Soooo, if half of your plate is currently meat and/or processed grains, here’s a chance to make a simple, impactful change.
Options to eat healthy are endless and easy. With a plant-based foundation, anyone create a simple, economical and enjoyable approach to healthy eating based on facts, not fads. There are nutrient-dense plant foods out there for every taste and lifestyle. You’re in complete control. You can make healthy eating an adventure or a chore!
“Focus on foods, not nutrients. A diet may be higher or lower in total fat, or total carbohydrate, or total protein, and still be optimal. But a diet cannot be optimal if it is not made up mostly of some balanced combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and water.”
- Mark Bittman and Dr. David Katz, The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right