The plant-based diet

The most important thing isn’t knowing how much or how often to eat– it’s knowing what to eat.

1) What is a plant-based diet?

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A plant-based diet, as its name suggests, is nutrition strictly or mainly based on foods that come from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes). From this perspective, this diet can be very flexible including diets such as:

  • Vegan: free of any kind of animal products
  • Fruitarian: vegan, consisting primarily of fruits
  • Vegetarian: no meat, but may or may not include other animal products like eggs, dairy products and honey
  • Pescetarian: vegetarian, including fish and other seafood
  • Flexitarian: vegetarian, occasionally including meat

Here I consider a plant-based diet one which excludes any kind of animal products (meat, poultry, seafood, fish, dairy products, eggs, honey…). Therefore, this definition is similar to the vegan diet but it is important to mention that a plant-based eater is not necessarily a vegan. Indeed, in addition to following a diet free of animal products, vegans also do not use or wear products which require animals’ exploitation (some cosmetics and entertainment, leather and so on).

This diet may a first sound restrictive, but it is only before discovering the wide variety of foods that plants actually offer to us.

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A plant-based eater will typically eat:

  • Fruits (mangoes, bananas, apples, oranges, melons, watermelons, peaches, cherries, berries, grapes, grapefruit, apricots, nectarines, pineapples, figs, papayas, persimmons, tangerines, plums, cucumber, tomato, pears, pumpkin…)
  • Vegetables (kale, spinach, carrots, bok choy, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, okra, cabbage, green beans, leeks, eggplant, radishes, lettuce, peppers, zucchini, yams and so on)
  • Grains and products made with grains (bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, amaranth, corn, oats, barley, wheat, buckwheat, millet, rye, sorghum and so on)
  • Legumes (black beans, soybeans, green beans, adzuki beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans… , lentils, peas, black-eye peas…)
  • Mushrooms (baby bella, cremini, white button, shiitake, Portobello, oyster…)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, macadamia, pecans, hazelnuts, cashew, pistachio and much more)
  • Vegetable oils (olive oil, corn oil, peanut oil…)

This is not an exclusive list. Plants offer a lot of food variety from which you can make so many delicious and nourishing meals. There are ton of vegan recipe websites and books that you may find useful when starting this amazing journey. You could also check my Instagram page Here for daily inspiration of delicious vegan food posts.

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2) Why choose a plant-based diet?

Despite important advances in medicine, the rates of many chronic diseases have only increased over time. The data makes it clear that the improvements in medicine have not entirely dealt with disease prevention or making people healthier.

Our nutrition is the master key for great health. Following the right diet can be far more effective against disease than pills. In the book « The China Study », the Professor Campbell shows the strong link between nutrition and health. He cites research from scientific experiments in which dietary changes can replace medication and also reverse chronic diseases.

Disease is an indicator that the body is attempting to cure itself. In fact, when we put poison into our bloodstream, our body will respond by manifesting illnesses with chronic disease or joint pain, cough, weight gain, skin eruptions, gas, constipation, fever, low energy, kidney issues, perspiration and so on. While drugs superficially treat the disease with harmful side effects, nutrition is far better and cheaper to achieve great health with only positive effects.

However, disease results from too much acidity in tissue. The main goal of the human body is to keep its alkalinity at a level supporting cellular life. At the fundamental level, our body’s vital functions maintain a balanced pH by eliminating acid residues from the body tissues. However, when the pH becomes either too acidic or too alkaline, cells get poisoned by their own toxic waste and die. This is why it’s really important for the body to have an alkaline reserve. An easy way to influence our body pH level is through the foods we eat. Indeed, during the digestion process, foods leave either acidic or alkaline by-products which then travel through the blood and later toward the cells.

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A plant-based diet, when followed in a healthy way, appears to be a perfect diet for human prosperity. It’s an alkaline diet allowing our body to maintain its pH balance for ultimate health. Almost all fresh fruits and vegetables are alkaline based foods, so they ease the body’s task in achieving the right pH.

On the other side, animal-based foods (especially animal flesh and dairy products) are acid-forming foods. Their digestion takes far longer and leaves too much acidity in our body leading to many of the diseases that society suffers from these days.

In the book “The 80/10/10 diet” author Dr. Graham demonstrates that humans aren’t carnivores according to our physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and psychology. He provides great evidence comparing humans and carnivores, which clearly shows how animal-based foods could be harmful to our system. Also, in the book “China Study”, author Campbell shares a lot of scientific evidence which demonstrate that heart disease, cancer, diabetes and so on are much more common among people who consume animal-based foods than plant-based eaters.

Check out this short video comparing human vs Carnivores: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7e_Ye6Yu6I

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Teeth comparison between humans and carnivores

All that said and in addition to my own experience from animal-based foods to vegan diet, you may now better understand why I recommend this wonderful lifestyle! When done in the right way it is only beneficial for you. A healthy plant-based diet will help you in so many areas of your life: better sleep, vibrant energy, glowing skin, healthy weight, better digestion, exceptional efficiency and concentration, more joy, inner peace and much more. Moreover, many women have given testimonies on how the plant-based diet has helped them to deal with painful periods, fertility and breastfeeding issues. It is just amazing– the only advice that I could give you is to experience it yourself. All the books, websites or other communication tools on this diet will never be enough until you try it yourself and make your own opinion. If you want to step up, educating yourself is the key strategy while starting this lifestyle. I have listed at the bottom of this page some of the books and documentaries that really helped me during my journey.

Let’s shine inside out with our fabulous plants without harming our lovely animals!

3) Basics for a healthy plant-based diet

Taking animal products out of a diet doesn’t necessarily mean perfect health. Just like any other diet, there are unhealthy ways to eat plant-based foods. What I consider a healthy diet is a nutrition based on whole, fresh, natural and organic plant-based foods that maintain the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Here are some guidelines that I have learned and that have really helped me to stay healthy on this diet:

 

  1. Opt for fresh, whole foods instead of refined and processed foods
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Most beginners on this diet tend to eat a great proportion of processed foods rather than whole and fresh ones. These processed foods include pasta, rice, bread, cakes… If you really love those foods, I would recommend having them just a few times per week and to opt for whole grain products (whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat flour…) instead of white and refined ones which have been emptied of their nutrients.Foods made with refined sugars should be avoided as much as possible since they are not only void of nutrients but also make you addicted and are bad for your health (may lead to brain damage, weight gain, anxiety, poor sleep and much more). If you have to use sugar in your recipe, instead use alternative sugars like coconut sugar, cane sugar, maple syrup and so on. Be aware that even those alternatives should be consumed with moderation since they contribute to making your body acidic.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of “meat substitutes” which are generally too processed and contain a lot of artificial ingredients which are harmful to your health. I know that they may be helpful when transitioning, but it’s important to know that it’s temporary and that you can make tastier meals with natural and fresh plant-based foods.

  1. Choose organic foods as much as possible

Since eating a healthy plant-based diet implies incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, I would recommend choosing organic as often as you can to avoid the chemicals, pesticides and other harmful products that are used to grow these foods. All those artificial substances present in non-organic foods introduce toxins to your body, leading to weight gain and disease.

  1. High Carb and Low Fat and protein diet (HCLF diet)
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After much reading,including the “80/10/10 diet” book, I decided to incorporate the rule of “High Carb, Low fat and low protein” into my vegan diet. The idea here is to have about 80% of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 10% from fat and 10% from protein. In practice, I do not follow this ratio exactly every day, but I’m relatively close to it. These proportions have brought excellent results in my health, vitality and body weight. Of course, we are all different, so this ratio may be taken as a reference to start and can be adjusted if needed. I recommend always listening to your body in order to find your perfect ratio. Some people thrive on a 90/5/5 ratio while others thrive on a 70/15/15 ratio, for instance. The goal isn’t to lock your mind into a special ratio, but instead to try it in the beginning and then adjust it a little if needed.The first point to understand here is that food doesn’t necessarily mean “energy”. In fact, in order to get the energy, our body needs to digest foods to release the energy potential to our cells. No matter what our food source is (carbohydrate, fat or protein), the body needs to convert it into simple sugars so that our cells can use it for fuel. Simple sugar, also called glucose, is the main source of fuel for every cell of the human body. For instance, brains, some nervous tissues and red blood cells primarily rely on simple sugars as their fuel source. Carbohydrates are the easiest foods to convert into glucose.

That is the main reason why humans are designed to thrive on a high carb diet. Indeed, nutritionists and health-minded diet professionals generally agree that about 60 to 80% of our calories must come from carbohydrates.

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A diet low in carbohydrates may cause many health concerns such as weakness, eating disorders, severe food cravings, lethargy and all diseases caused by the overconsumption of fats.

Going too far below the above figures on carbs leads to consuming much more fat and protein, which should remain low to maintain health. Although fat is necessary for our body to properly run, an excess of fat is the cause of numerous health issues including diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, cancer and so on. Similarly, we need protein in our body, but in a low quantity. A diet too rich in protein reduces our energy and increases acid toxemia which may cause diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, kidney diseases and many others. I know that it may sound wrong for many people, but we don’t need as much protein as the market forces tend to suggest. Many referential groups such as the World Health Organization suggest that eating about 10% of our calories as protein is enough. Instead of focusing on how much protein you need, it is important to know the exact function of protein. The main role of protein is growth, which is a negligible need for adults. Given the fact that breast milk provides about 6% of calories from protein to feed a baby who needs to grow, it become obvious that adults do not need more protein per calorie.

The anthropoid primates (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and bonobos), which are similar to humans on an anatomical and physiological basis, thrive on a diet low in fat with a high percentage of fruits and vegetables. Have you seen how strong and healthy they are? Yes, it is possible!

For more information about this topic, I highly recommend you to read “The 80/10/10 diet” and also the “China Study” books, which are referenced at the bottom of this page. The remaining part of the work is your experience!

 

  1. Incorporate raw foods as much as possible

See the section the importance of raw foods

4) How do you make the transition and succeed on a healthy plant-based diet?

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After reading the sections above, you may feel highly motivated to make the switch, but at the same time it may sound overwhelming since many of your current habits (depending on where you are now) have to change. If you feel conflicted, don’t worry– that is totally normal. Dietary changes are found by many folks to be more challenging than anything else in life, and I also struggled at times when I discovered this lifestyle. You should know that being aware of this healthy diet is already a great step toward your dream life. The next step is to change your routine and adopt the right habits you need in order to thrive.

With this in mind, I wrote this article “How to successfully make the transition to a healthy plant-based diet?” where I share some useful tips and tricks to make the transition successfully and at a comfortable pace.

Furthermore, through this website and specifically on my blog, I will share with you great amount of information along with practical tips and some of my everyday adventures in order to inspire you and enable you to ease your transition and find what works for you.

5) Resources that I recommend

I can’t stress enough how important education is in this journey. It is necessary for you to immerse yourself in this new lifestyle through education. Here are some of my favorite books and documentaries:

Books

The China Study by T. Collin Campbell with Thomas M. Campbell

The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas Graham

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our world by John Robbins

Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Collin Campbell with Howard Jacobson

How Not to Die by Michael Greger

Documentaries

Earthlings

The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear by Gary

Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret

Forks Over Knives

Foods Matters