Already this summer we’ve covered the idea of nutrient density and highlighted some of the vitamin, mineral and micronutrient content of some of our favorite fresh, Noisy Rabbit produce. But combining a lot of nutrition information together to formulate a healthy, individualized diet that’s right and sustainable for you can be tricky. Lucky for you, that’s my job! And what I’ve found to be true is that it’s always best to start with a framework, much like a house, and then customize things further as you progress.
There are several dietary frameworks in which to choose from and nearly endless information available, but one I personally and scientifically tend to gravitate towards is that of a plant-based diet. Leading scientific experts agree that eating a variety of plant-based foods aids in the reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes and many cancers. By definition, a plant-based diet simply emphasizes all fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains and does not mean that you have to become a vegetarian; it just means that you strive to consume most of your foods from plant sources. As there is an automatically reduced intake of animal and animal-derived foods like dairy, eggs and meat in the diet there typically follows an automatic reduction in total fat, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intake as well. But these animal foods also provide their own set of important nutrients and certainly a Registered Dietitian can help you to ensure you’re getting enough protein, calcium, and vitamin B12 as you adopt a plant-based diet.
The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) takes it a step further than recommendations and provides the following evidence-based guidelines for adopting a plant-based diet using their idea of the New American Plate:
• Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should cover 2/3 or more of your plate. Fish, poultry, meat and dairy foods should cover no more than 1/3 of your plate at mealtimes.
• Include substantial portions of one or more vegetables or fruits on your plate – not just grain products like pasta or whole-grain bread.
• Eat 5 or more servings daily of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
• Eat 6-7 servings daily of a variety of grains like breads, cereals, pasta and rice, as well as legumes and tubers like white and sweet potatoes.
• When selecting each of these foods, choose minimally processed foods and limit consumption of added and refined sugar and fat.
And remember, all you need is a framework and there are endless directions to take from there. Whether it’s Mediterranean, flexitarian, vegetarian, anti-inflammatory, the Engine 2, vegan or a combination all your own that appeals to you most, a plant-based diet derives it’s proven power from it’s nutrient constituents which can all synergistically work together to promote overall health.
Kayla Anderson, RD, LD
GHS Outpatient/Life Center Registered Dietitian