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You’re not alone. There has been an increased interest in moving towards plant-forward eating. More people are choosing to eat plant-based (foods from plant origins) or plant-forward (mostly plant) options due to a range of reasons, from environmental to animal welfare. Others are making these changes for their health, as nutrition experts and medical scientists link plant-based eating to increased health and longevity.
In 2015, the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee concluded that “a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet.” Plant foods naturally have fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients that can help protect the body from chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Some of these foods are also rich in protein. The World Resources Institute released a protein scorecard that shows the cost per gram of protein and the environmental impact per gram.
A plant-based diet might seem new, but it’s quite the opposite. Cultures from around the world have been eating this way for thousands of years! The Blue Zones, for example, are five different places around the world with the highest concentration of centenarians living long, healthy lives eating plant-forward diets. These cities have nine common principles that are said to contribute to their well-being, emphasizing a diet that is 95 to 100 percent plant-based.
The Culinary Institute of America defines plant-based as a way to describe ingredients and foods themselves. It refers to foods that naturally come from a plant origin like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and their derivatives. Many people might describe “going plant-based” as a way to eat less food sourced from animals or none at all.
No matter where you are in your journey, whether you’re trying Meatless Mondays or shifting your diet completely, each small step makes a difference for the planet and your health.