A plant-based diet excludes all types of meat and products resulting from its industrial processing. What to eat if you are vegetarian and how to have a balanced and healthy diet? More and more people choose to become vegetarians, but confusion and misinformation still reign around the issue.
At ProLon, we want to give you some useful tips to follow a plant-based diet in a healthy and balanced way, without running any risks, especially now that the summer has come and the temperatures are higher.
Plant-based diet: different models
Regarding a plant-based diet, it is possible to refer to some specific models, which are also the most widespread and studied.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian model (LOV).This diet excludes all types of meat but includes its derivatives, such as milk, eggs, honey;
- Vegan model (VEG), which is a plant-based model that excludes all types of meat and also its derivatives;
- Semi-vegetarian diet. This is a diet in which meat and/or other animal foods are occasionally consumed, or in which fish is expected to be consumed, but not other types of meat.
The change towards a plant-based diet can radically take place, without causing immediate repercussions. A plant-based diet does not lead to nutritional deficiencies in the short term, especially if we are talking about a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. However, risks may occur in the long term if we don’t pay sufficient attention to food substitution.
Pros and cons of a plant-based diet
Being a low-fat animal diet, it has low cardiovascular risk, and it is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, if you choose fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables. Indeed, these nutrients are essential to counteract the action of free radicals and combat cellular aging. Even the fibers are present in abundance and this helps to keep your bowel healthy and to feel fuller.
Regarding the cons of a plant-based diet, they are represented by the risk of some nutritional deficiency and the appearance of gastrointestinal disorders (swelling, irritable bowel syndrome) related to the attempt to compensate for any deficits. By not eating meat and fish, you must necessarily increase the portions of foods that contain protein, calcium, and iron.
What to eat in a plant-based diet?
It is important to pay attention to the protein and vitamin intake (in particular vitamin B12, present only in food of animal origin) and some minerals such as iron, zinc, and selenium. Vegetables such as spinach and radicchio, sources of iron, and then milk, eggs, and cheese, sources of vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
Iron is also found in strawberries, cabbages, and cauliflower, legumes, chicory, nuts, parsley. Citrus fruits and kiwi fruit, thanks to the high content of vitamin C, make this mineral more bioavailable if you combine them with foods that contain it.
It is more difficult to replace omega 3 fish. They are found abundantly in nuts, which caloric content is, however, too high to ensure a proper supply of these nutrients without risking weight gain.
Cereals and legumes play a synergistic action if consumed together. Plant-based proteins, compared to animal proteins, lack some essential amino acids. These are responsible for so many fundamental functions of the organism and our body is not able to produce them alone but must procure them through nutrition. For example, legumes do not contain the amino acid methionine, which is found in cereals. Cereals lack another amino acid, lysine, which is present in legumes. For this reason, the combination of legumes and cereals allows you to ensure the full spectrum of amino acids needed to feel good.
Plant-based food in summer
Summer is the ideal season for a plant-based diet, given the abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables on the market. Summer foods are rich in vitamin A and C that promote the elasticity of the skin and even tan.
In summer, it is time for salads, and preparing a mixed salad is ideal to face the day with the right amount of vitamins. To traditional salads you can also add dried fruit, to make the dish complete, keeping it valid for a slimming and plant-based diet. There are many recipes to be prepared with summer vegetables, such as eggplants, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes. Other excellent plant-based foods are also endives, Swiss chard, and chicory. In addition, we give the green light to fresh fruit such as watermelon, melon, peaches, and apricots.
Do you want more nutritional information about a plant-based diet? Select the date and time you prefer and get in touch with our knowledgeable nutritionists.