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Diets and Health: A Plant-Based Diet?

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Quick Answer

A plant-based diet is, essentially, a diet composed of entirely or mostly food items that come from plants. However, there are a few different types of plant-based diets people use.

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Full Answer

At its core a plant-based diet means not consuming any animal products or food with ingredients that come from animals, but there are many different ways people usually do this and different types of plant-based diets that have become popular.

What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
Eating a plant-based diet generally means with avoiding any animal products of any kind. This means not only avoiding foods like meats, eggs, milk and fish but also avoiding ingredients that are derived from animals. Ingredients such as gelatin, butter and bone broth are made with animal components.

Some people who follow a plant-based diet also follow a vegan lifestyle. While all vegans follow a plant-based diet, not everyone who bases their diet on plants is vegan. This is because the term "vegan" usually refers to an entire lifestyle rather than just a diet. Being vegan not only means consuming only plant-based foods, but also avoiding any other products that contain animal products such as items like beauty products, leather goods, household cleaners and textiles.

Whole Food Plant-Based Diet
One type of plant-based diet is called whole food plant based. This requires a person to not only avoid consuming animal products and eat foods that are entirely derived from plants, but to avoid any plant fragment foods. This means not eating foods containing sugar, flour, oil, processed foods and junk foods. Though these items don't have any animal products in them, many of the foods or ingredients are considered less healthy than whole plant foods. The term "whole food plant" refers to the avoidance of these plant fragment and processed foods. Someone eating a diet of this kind will stick to foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, bananas, onions, beans, legumes and other similar plant foods.

Minimally Processed Plant-Based Foods
Many individuals who follow a plant-based diet will allow minimally processed foods based on plants in his or her diet. Foods such as salsa, guacamole and hummus are all examples of minimally processed plant-based foods. These items aren't whole plant foods, but they are also not refined and processed foods such as sugar, flour and junk food. Some who follow a whole food plant-based diet will eat these minimally processed foods, and some will not.

Concerns When Eating a Plant-Based Diet
Many people who wonder about plant-based diet also have questions about the health, expense and real-life practice of following this diet. Many worry that they won't receive the right vitamins, such as vitamin D and vitamin B12, if he or she switches to eating only plant-based foods. Research suggests that this isn't a concern as long as different types of plant foods are being consumed and there is a good amount of variety in the person's diet.

Another concern is the expense of basing a diet on plants. Many wonder if buying healthier, plant based foods will cost more than buying processed foods and foods containing animal products. Most of the time, shopping for produce and other ingredients in a plant-based diet ends up being cheaper than buying meats and junk food as well as produce and other items.

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