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Published on June 18, 2021

overhead shot of a table full of fruits, vegetables, and nuts

What is a plant-based diet?

A whole-food plant-based diet combines unprocessed foods and those that come from plants. You would eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, while limiting meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, seafood, oils, refined sweeteners, and highly processed foods. You can meet your nutritional needs on a whole-food plant-based diet using foods grown in the ground.

What are the benefits?

A whole-food plant-based diet can reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancers. You’ll likely have a healthier body weight. You also will contribute to a healthier environment – a plant-based diet helps conserve land and water use and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases.

Can I meet my protein needs on a whole-food, plant-based diet?

Protein deficiency usually occurs during calorie deficiency. Even for active lifestyles, we only need about 10-15% of our daily calories to come from protein. One serving size of beans has seven to 10 grams of protein, which is more than one egg.

What about my calcium needs?

Plant sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, collard greens, chard, beans and tofu. Fortified plant-based milks (such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk) contain calcium. Two cups of cooked kale have about the same amount of calcium as one ounce of mozzarella cheese. Our bone density depends on other factors besides how much calcium we eat in our food. Adequate vitamin D, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking are also important factors for strong bones.

What if I am not ready to make the change to a whole-food, plant-based diet?

Making a change in our diet can be difficult and takes time. Even small changes, such as reducing red meat consumption and increasing vegetable intake, will improve your health.

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