PLANT-based diets aren’t only good for the environment – they are good for your health too.
Research has long shown they can reduce depression and anxiety. And a new study has found eating less meat and fish and more plant-based foods can lower your risk of a host of heart-related conditions, including atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke.
But what does plant-based mean?
This might come as a shock but it is NOT the same as being veggie or vegan. In fact, it is a pretty long way from veganism.
You can still eat meat and fish, just in much smaller quantities than the average carnivore. “Plant-based” simply means most of your diet comes from plant sources, rather than animal sources.
If your family laughs at the idea of ditching your meat and two veg, there are some simple shopping tricks that could save you money – while improving your family’s health. A tin of lentils will disappear into a spag bol or shepherd’s pie, bulking it out and making your meat – the expensive ingredient – go further.
Plus it will count as one of your five-a-day.
Grated veg – courgettes, say, or even broccoli stalks – will disappear when blitzed into a tomato sauce, letting you tick off another portion of your daily quota.
SMALL CHANGES COUNT
Tinned fruit is another good option and is now available canned in juice rather than sweet syrup. So some of that for a quick and easy pud increases your plant-based intake too.
As anyone who has tried to change their diet will know, huge changes are hard to stick to. When it comes to improving what you eat, it really is the small changes that count.
Another piece of recent research found gut health is closely linked to plant-based diets. It suggests eating 30 different plant-based foods a week is the optimum.
Before you shake your head thinking that is a massive number and an impossible task, porridge with milk, mixed berries and cinnamon equates to FOUR different types – as herbs and spices count.
While oven chips are high in trans fats, several of our favourite brands are now doing “naked” chips.
That is basically potato and a bit of oil, so they’re much lower in trans fats and with a sprinkle of cumin or paprika, they can add another two portions to your 30-a-week.
Another tip as the summer holidays arrive and the kids are off school is to get your little ones to draw a chart and challenge them to “eat the rainbow” for a week. Peppers for red, carrots for orange, sweetcorn for yellow – and take your pick for green.
It is the diversity of our food that makes a big difference to our gut, so mix things up as much as possible. Plant-based diets might not be your first choice but there is no denying the benefits are many, from improved mental health to better gut and heart health.
If you are a roast beef lover or can’t stand the thought of ditching burgers, you can still add plenty of plant-based foods to your diet without missing out.
What’s more, you can save money while keeping yourself and your family healthy.
So whether it’s grated veg in sauces and macaroni cheese or bulking out baked beans with an extra tin of other beans, or adding more herbs, spices and flavour to your meals, give it a go.
Your body will thank you for it.
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