Whenever I get home from grocery shopping & I show you guys what I bought in a haul on my Instagram vlog (BTW, if you don’t follow me on Instagram, check out my account: @kellyinthekitch! I post daily segments about healthy, fitness, lifestyle, eating disorder recovery, mental health awareness, beauty, skincare & more, recipes, vlogs, grocery hauls & tons more), I often get questions along the lines of “DID YOU BUY THE WHOLE STORE?!”.
We definitely buy & consume more produce than the average household… there’s no denying it! But “c’est la vie” when trying to live a more plant-based lifestyle. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been switching over to a more plant-based lifestyle for the past 4-5 months.
It’s funny because I actually started living this way subconsciously & when I realized that I had naturally been eating less animal-derived products & sticking to plant-based foods (mostly), I realized that it could definitely be a lifestyle that would be sustainable for me!
WHAT IS “PLANT-BASED”?
Plant-based living is focused around whole plant-derived foods, eating foods that resemble their original plant form as much as possible (a.k.a. as minimally processed as possible) & the elimination of animal products.
Just to give you guys an example as to what plant-based means when put into context:
Avocados grow on a tree. When an avocado is mashed, seasoned & transformed into guacamole, it’s minimally processed or prepared, which means it’s considered a plant-based food. The same thing can be said about hummus, applesauce, salsa, peanut butter, oatmeal, veggie broth, etc. Condiments, such as Dijon mustard, hot sauce, vinegars, coconut aminos, etc. are also generally considered within the scope of “minimally processed”. As for whole-grain or sprouted breads, pastas or noodles, while they are slightly more processed, they still fit the definition of plant-based as well. Likewise frozen corn would be considered “plant based” or a “plant food” just as much as corn on the cob, but High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) would not.
The most basic list of plant foods is: fruits, veggies, starchy veggies, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables (i.e. seaweed), legumes, grains, mushrooms, yeast.
The most basic list of foods that would not be considered plant-based is: all purpose flour, sugar, oil & junk foods like pretzels & chips. Even though a lot of these foods are made from ingredients that come from plants, the way they are made & processed make them unsuitable for a plant-based lifestyle. Likewise frozen corn would be considered “plant based” or a “plant food” just as much as corn on the cob, but High Fructose Corn Syrup would not.
BEING PLANT-BASED IS NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING VEGAN. Generally, something that is plant based or considered a “plant food” would be “vegan” (aside from animal products, obviously) & suitable for vegans, but something that is vegan, may not be considered plant-based. Let me explain.
Vegan refers to a person with specific political & ethical beliefs. Veganism means abstaining from ANYTHING (& I mean, ANYTHING) that involves the use of animals or animal products (i.e. leather, wool, fur, silk are not worn, products that are tested on animals are not used). Oreo’s are vegan, but because they are processed, someone who follows a plant-based diet wouldn’t consume them. So yes, veganism & plant-based living do have a lot of things in common, but they are not the same thing & don’t always overlap.
A plant-based lifestyle is focused around various sources of plant-based protein, rich in vitamins & minerals, good carbs, healthy fats, loading up on fruits & veggies & fibre intake is thereby naturally increased.
P.S. If you want to read more about plant-based sources of protein, click here: It’s 2017: Let’s Plant-Based-Protein-It-Up! Ya Dig? (No Pun Intended!)
Some people who live a plant-based lifestyle don’t entirely cut out all animal products, but make sure to consume them sparingly or less often than plant-based foods & ensure that they are consuming only the highest quality & best sourced products, for example: their chicken/meat is generally organic & grass-fed & they know where it’s sourced / eggs are free-range & pasture-raised & dairy is grass-fed & organic.
Basically, there isn’t one select definition of a plant-based diet & that’s why I love the idea of this lifestyle because I can define it the way that works best for me & that fits with my lifestyle.
One thing that I will say is crucial if you switch to a plant-based diet is to monitor & supplement for deficiencies that you may develop as a result,two of the most common ones being B12 & iron. It’s important that when you first start out, you do routine blood tests to make sure that you aren’t lacking anything!
ADVANTAGES OF PLANT-BASED LIVING
I cannot speak about the long-term benefits of plant-based living because I’ve only been doing it for about 4-5 months, but I just want to give you guys a brief overview of some of the benefits. Eventually, I will follow up with you guys as I continue on this journey.
1. Great way to reduce consumption of empty calories. Processed & packaged foods contain chemicals, additives, preservatives & artificial ingredients that are not even really food anymore (even if they may have started out that way). Eating mostly plant-derived foods is a great way to reduce consumption of empty calories you’d otherwise eat & replace them with foods rich in vitamins, minerals – increase nutrient intake.,
2. Many plant-foods are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is one of the leading causes of most chronic diseases & conditions, such as: skin issues, gut-health issues, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune disease, certain types of cancer. We are all prone to inflammation to a certain degree by merely just living in today’s toxic environment so anything we can incorporate that has anti-inflammatory properties is conducive to our overall health.
The reason these plant foods are highly anti-inflammatory is due to their high antioxidant content (in the form of polyphenols, beta-carotene, phytonutrients), vitamin A, C, E, essential fatty acids, trace minerals, such as potassium & electrolytes. All this to say, plant-based foods provide many benefits for skin, gut, boosting the body’s natural ability to fight off disease-causing particles, toxins in the environment & in turn, fighting the long-term risk of chronic disease.
3. High in fiber: Plants, such as veggies, seeds, ancient grains & legumes are all high fibre foods that help lower the risk of developing gut health issues, digestive problems, high cholesterol, heat disease & diabetes. A high fibre diet also helps prevent cravings & overeating, keeps you fuller longer, keeps your arteries clear from plaque & allows healthy living bacteria to thrive in the gastrointestinal tract, which is linked to boosted immunity & fighting aging in all areas of the body. The reason fiber is great for filling you up is because soluble fibre slows digestion by attracting water & forming a gel-like substance, while insoluble fiber tends to speed up digestion by adding bulk to stool. It’s important to make sure to include both soluble & insoluble fibre-rich foods.
Some of my faves are: avocado, flax, chia or hemp seeds, berries, basically all fruit & veggies, gluten-free rolled oats, buckwheat, quinoa, coconut, cabbage, apples, figs, dates & Asian pears!
4. Helps maintain a healthy weight: Plant-based diets have been researched & tied to lowered risk for obesity, lower BMI & reduced complications related to obesity, including heart disease &/or metabolic syndrome! Plant-based eating also helps with balancing blood sugar levels, which is also intrinsically related to healthy weight maintenance.
5. Lowers the overall risk for chronic disease: Plant-based diets help reduce the rate of heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis & more! In fact, those living around the world that still eat “traditional diets” high in plant-foods as opposed to a more Western style diet tend to live over the age of 100!
6. Better for the environment: Eating foods that are lower on the food chain takes less natural resources to produce, has a lower carbon footprint, spares the lives of livestock & reduces food scarcity.
Some other more generalized benefits include:
- Clearer skin & stronger more nourished hair & nails
- Improved eyesight
- Boosts immunity
- A LONGER LIFE! SERIOUSLY.
PLANT-BASED LIVING & VOLUMETRICS
One of the concepts we’re learning about in my program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is VOLUMETRICS. Volumetrics is a way of life that encourages people to quit on & off yo-yo dieting + binge & restriction cycles by living a healthy lifestyle based on nutritious wholesome food & regular exercise. It focuses on the energy density of foods & the idea of adding volume to meals by adding fibre, whole-grains, water & fruits & veggies. I basically EAT THE RAINBOW!
As I explore the idea of living more plant-based or “PLANT-BASED-ISH, as I like to call it, I realize that volumetrics & plant-based eating have a lot in common.
Although it’s only been a couple months, I noticed that I eat a lot more fibre because I’ve upped my intake of fruits & veggies & whole-grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, freekeh, buckwheat, oats & brown rice + legumes & beans. I’m also eating way more nuts & seeds & I’m making a conscious effort to stay hydrated, especially on days where I work out more. My meals are often larger in terms of quantity, but I still feel lighter than I used to after enjoying them & that’s because of the QUALITY of the foods I’m eating.
HOW DO I FEEL?
I’m not fully plant-based just yet (& who knows if I ever will be) & it hasn’t been long enough for me to say my life has entirely changed. But I already feel so much better. My energy levels are amazing, if not better than they were before (this is also in part due to the fact that I supplement with a B-complex supplement, as well as a B12 supplement due to my diagnosed deficiency), skin feels great, glowy & healthy, I feel less bloated, puffy & inflamed after meals & haven’t needed or touched a digestive enzyme! That’s saying a lot because I literally used to RELY on them every single time I ingested something.
P.S. Right now (June 2018), I’m still eating minimal amounts of animal-derived protein mainly from collagen peptides (I only consume the ones by Vital Proteins because their cattle is pasture-raised & the collagen is very well-sourced), limited quantities of eggs & organic grass-fed Greek yogurt.
LABELS OR NAH?
I don’t like food, diet or lifestyle labels & I don’t think I’ll ever fully label myself as anything. Obviously, I am free to do as I choose & eat as I wish, but I feel like associating or adding a label to my “diet” or my “lifestyle” subconsciously or mentally creates a form of self-restriction or self-deprivation. So instead of doing that, I like to call myself plant based-ish & I eat & live based on how I’m feeling. I take it one day at a time & my focus really is placed on being in tune with my body, its hunger & fullness cues & eating intuitively.
For now, what I can say is so far is that I’m trying to live a mostly plant-based lifestyle, I FEEL AMAZING & that this is what’s working for me right now!
PLANT-BASED LIVING, FIBRE & BLOAT?
One thing that I do want to stress regarding plant-based living is that due to the frequent consumption of high-fibre foods, some people tend to get bloated more frequently. Fibre is an indigestible carb & when we abruptly increase the amount of fibre we consume (especially if we are switching over to a more plant-based lifestyle), it can lead to gas, bloating or constipation. This is why it’s important to incorporate ANY & ALL lifestyle changes slowly to allow your body to have the time to adjust properly.
HEALTHY HABITS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO PRACTICE WHEN SWITCHING OVER TO A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE
Obviously, diet isn’t everything – there are a lot of other healthy lifestyle habits that I engage in daily that contribute & are conducive to how great I’ve been feeling. But, I do believe I owe it in large part to eating more plant-based because these changes are things I’ve noticed even more recently.
In my opinion, some lifestyle habits that are important to practice when switching over to a plant-based lifestyle are:
- Probiotic supplement daily (&/or daily probiotic shots)
- Eat fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, fermented turmeric & ginger, certain cultured dairy products, etc.)
- Eat PRE-biotic fibre (this will help nourish & feed the healthy bacteria that is already living in your gut & ensure that it is able to thrive in an environment where it always outnumbers the bad bacteria). Some pre-biotic foods that I enjoy are: psyllium husks, tigernuts, yacon syrup, baobab powder, asparagus, bananas, carrots, beets, daikon radish, apples, berries, honey, hemp, flax, pumpkin & chia seeds, ginger, quinoa, legumes & coconut flour.
- Steam or cook your veggies as much as possible (especially if they are part of the cruciferous family)
- Buy sprouted grains whenever possible
- Soak nuts/seeds/grains or buy them sprouted or soaked to make sure the phytic acid & enzyme inhibitors are removed
- Engage in daily practices that help boost digestive & gut health: apple cider vinegar, fermented turmeric & ginger, lemon water, drink aloe vera or consume it in its raw form, chlorophyll, milk thistle, etc.
I PROMISE to keep you guys updated on how I feel in the next few months & eventually, after a year of transitioning over to this way of life! If you live a plant-based lifestyle (or an ISH one), please feel free to share your experiences with me in the comments! Love you guys, xox! <3