Looking to add more plants to your diet this fall? Here are a few of our favorite reasons to focus on a plant-based diet (hint: it's good for your health!):
1. Fiber. A blood sugar stabilizer, fiber adds bulk which functions to keep you feeling fuller for longer. It also promotes healthy digestion. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes can all contribute to your overall daily fiber intake. Here's a quick tip: Wash, but don't peel your fruits and veggies. Stripping away the outer layer also strips away a large concentration of nutrient density, including fiber. Eat the skin to significantly increase fiber intake compared to eating the flesh alone!
2. Water. Plants have a high water content, which can contribute to your daily intake. This is good news for those of you who struggle to stay hydrated! Unfortunately, plants can't replace your plain water intake entirely, but they can help out. Fruits with the highest water contents include watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe and peaches. Cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, radish, celery, tomato, green cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, spinach and broccoli top the veggie category.
3. Volume. Most non-starchy plants (e.g., fibrous vegetables and low sweet fruits) are naturally low in fat and calories. This, coupled with a high content of both fiber and water, allows you to eat a large quantity of these foods without sabotaging your efforts in the gym.
4. Antioxidants. Most plants contain polyphenols, or compounds with antioxidant activity, which protect your cells from free radical damage and can slow the aging process. Free radicals can compromise cell function and increase your risk of disease. Polyphenols can positively impact your gut microbiome, boost healthy bacteria (and mood!) and promote a healthy weight.
All berries, a variety of vegetables and some nuts, also herbs and spices, are easy ways to boost the healthy antioxidants in your diet. Polyphenols are also fat-soluble, which means you should eat them along with a source of healthy fat for optimal absorption.
5. Budget – Adopting a plant-based diet can help you to save money. High-quality animal protein can have a place in any healthy diet, but it can add up. Shop the sales, buy frozen or find a local rancher, and try to incorporate two or three meatless meals a week.
Tips for eating more plants:
Now that we've covered the health benefits, here are a few ways to add more plants to your diet:
1. Swap one meal daily for a giant chopped salad. If nothing else, it allows you to knock out multiple servings of veggies in one sitting. We love the OXO salad chopper, which can take volumes of veggies (and all the fixings, plenty of protein and healthy fats, for satisfaction) down to nothing to increase palatability and so that you get a taste of each ingredient in every bite.
2. Add greens to a shake. Add spinach or kale, fresh or frozen, for a healthy dose of green in your smoothie. Frozen greens will function to thicken your shake and help it to take on an ice cream-like consistency.
3. Pasta swap. Swap your pasta for lower carb gluten- and grain-free zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or broccoli slaw in a pseudo pasta bowl and add veggies (meat, optional) to your favorite organic tomato or marinara sauce. Add nutritional yeast or a sprinkle of almond cheese for "cheesy" dairy-free deliciousness!
5. Swap your sugary after-dinner dessert for a single serving of homemade trail mix or a mindful spoonful of your favorite nut butter—we love NuttZo!
Keep in mind that nuts and seeds, while healthy, are still calorically dense. And, like with anything, too much of a good thing is still too much. Read your labels, avoid added sugars and look for short, easy-to-pronounce ingredient lists.