5 Best Plant-Based Diet Plans
Eating mostly plants, besides being good for the environment is also considered good for your overall health, including the health of your heart and controlling your weight. Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains can minimize the chances of getting high cholesterol, high blood pressure, developing a heart disease or type 2 diabetes. There are several plant-based diets, and the definitions vary. Basically, you can be on a plant-based diet but not go completely vegetarian (as you can allow yourself an occasional portion of lean meat or fish). According to the U.S. News, a plant-based diet includes foods that come from plants and are minimally processed (or not at all), and an occasional small amount of low-fat dairy, fish or lean meat. Among the variety of plant-based diet plans, here are the 5 most popular and commonly followed for the combination of the benefits they provide and the ease of sticking to them.
1. The Mediterranean diet
According to the U.S. News rankings, the Mediterranean diet is the best one when it comes to plant-based diet plans. The focus of this diet plan is eating mostly plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts), replacing unhealthy fats with healthy ones (e.g. olive oil), using as little salt as possible and making up for the taste with spices, and occasionally eating very small amounts of meat (up to a few times per month for red meat and twice a week for fish and poultry). Nuts should be eaten in limited amounts (up to 1 handful a day) because of their high caloric values.
In this diet, physical activity is emphasized. Grains eaten in this diet are mostly whole grains and contain very small amounts of trans-fats. The bread can be eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, but never with butter or other sources of trans-fat.
This diet originally wasn’t made for weight loss, but it does have such effects.
2. The Ornish Diet
This diet is actually a sustainable nutrition plan which is good for the heart and overall health, and it is safe to eat this way for an extended period of time. This diet is actually a change in eating habits for good, not a change that has an expiration date.
The Ornish diet doesn’t focus so much on counting calories, but on choosing the right foods. It does focus on limiting the intake of meat, especially red meat and pork, as well as full-fat dairy. On the other hand, taking more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy, legumes and soy substitutes for meat, as well as egg whites is a strong recommendation. You can also eat fish, skinless chicken, nuts and seeds, but in limited amounts.
This diet is not just about what you take out of your daily menu, but what you take in, or increase. Fruits and vegetables should be eaten more, not only because they will help you lose weight, but you will feel better too.
3. The Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet is also one of the healthiest diets out there, and it is easy to follow because it doesn’t restrict certain foods, but emphasizes that plant-based foods should be eaten whenever possible. The name of this diet plan comes from the combination of ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’ thought of by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a certified dietitian. She says that you don’t need to eliminate meat completely to experience the benefits of this diet. You can be a vegetarian most of the time, but allow yourself a piece of meat when you get the urge for it.
Besides weight loss (flexitarians usually weigh 15% less than people with the same predispositions who eat meat regularly), this diet plan brings heart health benefits, protection from diabetes and even prolongs the life span by 3.6 years.
This diet is about adding foods to the daily diet, not taking them away. The foods to be added and eaten in larger quantities are tofu, beans, nuts, seeds and eggs for protein and healthy fat, and fruits and vegetables, whole grains and non-fat dairy. Based on your level of activity, you can adjust your menus.
4. The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet is a good and simple diet plan, but it is best for those who like technical schedules and precise amounts, because that is the way you will be eating on this diet. Since inflammation, especially if it’s chronic, causes disease, reducing it can provide relief and prevent diseases, while obviously improving overall health. The purpose of this diet is to improve both physical and mental health, provide you with energy and reduce the risk of age-related diseases by giving you healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, oily fish, and plenty of water, while at the same time limiting the quantities of meat.
In this diet, around 40-50% of the calories you eat come from carbohydrates (non-starchy), 30% come from fat, and the remaining 20-30% come from protein. Dr. Weil, who invented this eating regimen, claims that this diet is the most beneficial when these three nutrients are combined in each meal.
5. Eco-Atkins Diet
The purpose of this diet, as of any of the above mentioned ones, is to improve heart health and aid with weight loss. You can lose up to 8 pounds per month if you stick to this diet, which is relatively easy to follow. Your blood pressure, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels will improve – which will directly improve the health of your heart.
In this diet, 31% of the daily caloric intake should come from plant proteins, 43% should come from plant fats and 26% from carbohydrates (non-starchy). Even though this diet plan is based mostly on plants and many of its followers exclude foods from animal sources completely, others keep eating fish and lean poultry and even take a dairy product here and there.
Besides paying attention that your meals consist mostly of vegetables, there are no strict restrictions in this diet. Since it is low in carbs, the weight loss process goes on fairly easily and many medical conditions are prevented as well.