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Plant-based diets are hitting a tipping point in America. Popular restaurants — and even fast food chains — celebrities, sports heroes and documentary films are championing this style of eating that’s better for the planet and better for your health.

It’s easy to get all the protein you need while eating plant-based

One-Third of Americans: Millennials and Boomers

Nearly a third of Americans are practicing meat-free days, such as the popular #MeatlessMonday, according to Mintel, a marketing research agency. Health and environmental reasons are the main reason driving this choice for Millennials and Gen X consumers. Baby boomers and older generations are also seeing the benefits of plant-based meals to reverse disease and optimize longevity. Mintel reports that between 2012 and 2016, grocery store food and drink products labeled “vegetarian” increased by 25%. Products labeled “vegan” had an astonishing 257% rise. The trend also extends to our digital lives — Google searches for the word vegan increased by 90% in 2017.

Healthier Dining Out

Restaurants, which have been lagging behind, are now racing to change their menus to offer more meatless options to meet consumer demand. Panera Bread has made it very easy to eat vegan and vegetarian, labeling many meals as “plant-based,” and acknowledging that many customers are thinking about food as medicine. Au Bon Pain, Chipotle, Subway, Quiznos and Taco Bell all have clearly labeled plant-based options. Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs both offer vegan ice cream lines, and even one notorious fast food restaurant is adding many more plant-based items to their menus.  In December, 2017, McDonald’s introduced a plant-based burger.

Films to Watch

Recent documentaries have also stoked the flames for the public’s passion for plant-based foods. What the Health? (2017) and Forks Over Knives (2011) examined the link between diet and chronic disease, prompting more public discussion about vegan foods. This year, watch out for James Cameron’s documentary, GameChangers, which depicts top athletes and other notable people who are thriving and excelling in their fields while eating plant-based diets.

How to Make the Switch

Within the first week, you will experience more energy and feel better. If weight loss is your goal, it is a natural outcome of following a plant-based diet. Research over the last thirty-five years by Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute has shown the benefits of a plant-based diet. When combined with regular exercise, stress management practices and regular social support, the long-term health outcomes are even more impressive.

They include:

  • long-term weight
  • blood sugar management
  • lowered cholesterol and blood pressure
  • enhanced libido
  • longevity
  • disease prevention
  • the potential to reversal chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes

New Plant-Based Products

Maybe you’re holding back because you don’t want to give up meat or your favorite flavors. The switch may be easier knowing a lot of new plant-based products are hitting the market every day. The company Beyond Meat offers a burger that looks, cooks and tastes so much like a hamburger that it is sold in the meat case. They also offer delicious vegan mesquite-grilled “chicken” strips.

Ornish Kitchen

With creative recipes and proper seasoning, you can unlock a new world of taste. Check out this 3-day sample menu for a set of delicious recipes that are naturally detoxing and can help you get started. (You have full access to the hundreds of Ornish Kitchen plant-based recipes if you’re already in enrolled in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine). The Ornish diet was named the #3 best plant-based diet in 2018 by US News and World Report. We also recommend our Ornish Living article, Heart Healthy Dining Out and Socializing. )

Will I Get Enough Protein?

Don’t worry about getting enough protein.  It’s easy to get all the protein you need while eating plant-based. (See Ornish Living article, Getting Enough Plant-Based Protein is Easier than You Think! for tips and facts on protein.)

Over the past few decades in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, we have seen that the plant-based lifestyle approach leads to significant self motivation because the changes are so effective and sustainable. Dr. Ornish’s research also shows that after one year in the program , close to 90% of participants still adhere to these principles, and never go back to their previous lifestyle. (See Ornish Living, Getting Started with a Sustainable Plant-Based Lifestyle.)

 

Contributed by

Carra Richling
Registered Dietitian

Eat well, be well!

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