As a child, I was lucky enough to grow up in the woodsy Northwest at a plant-based dinner table long before people called it that.
I suppose my family was known as semi-vegetarian in those days, because most of the time we ate plant proteins such as soy foods, beans and nuts instead of animal products. Now, as a dietitian, I realize that the foods I grew up eating, plant-based foods, are considered to be key components of the most healthful dietary pattern on the planet.
There seems to be a growing consensus among health professionals concerning plant-based diets.
Even the city of Los Angeles is starting to follow suit. The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to adopt the international non-profit initiative Meatless Monday, in recognizing both the health and environmental advantages of reducing our overall meat intake. With an entire city jumping on board the plant-based bandwagon, it seems that this healthy style of eating is indeed making waves.
So, why is a plant-based diet so healthy? It makes sense that when you cut back on animal products in favor of more whole plant foods, you naturally reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat. And if you're eating more whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, you're gaining more health-promoting nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
This is why eating whole, minimally processed plant foods has been linked to protection against everyday illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, depression, mental decline, heart disease and even cancer.