What is a plant-forward diet?
A plant-forward diet refers to a dietary pattern with a large emphasis on foods derived from plants, such as: fruits, vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, and nuts. Unlike the well-known vegan diet, a plant-forward diet does not eliminate all animal products, however, encourages flexibility towards incorporating foods derived from a plant source.
The term plant-forward was first introduced to the world of Nutrition in the early 1980s by Nutritional Biochemist T. Colin Campbell and defined a diet which focused on health, was low in fat, high in fibre and largely vegetable based. Campbell aimed to promote a diet which encouraged a focus on whole-foods, which are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
Unlike veganism, a plant-forward diet can still incorporate animal products, such as meat and dairy. It has been argued that a plant-forward approach to eating can be healthier than following a vegan diet, with a greater emphasis on whole-foods than the typical vegan diet. Many Vegan substitutes such as vegan cheese, bacon, faux chicken nuggets and dairy free sauces are heavily processed, with unhealthy oils, saturated fats and added salts. These are frequently added to overcome the bland taste many food manufacturers are faced with when trying to create innovative vegan substitutes. Therefore, following a plant-forward approach to eating may benefit health more than a strict vegan diet. Allowing more flexibility around the consumption of animal-based products is more achievable for most people, encouraging a sustainable healthy diet which can easily be maintained.
How can a plant-forward diet improve your health?
- Supports the immune system.
Plants, especially fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. These essential nutrients ensure that your cells remain healthy and functioning optimally. Therefore, strengthening your immune system and overall health.
- Increases fibre intake
Fibre is present in almost all un-processed plant foods, providing a whole host of benefits for the human body. Increased fibre intake is linked to greater satiety, lower cholesterol, stabilized blood sugar levels and healthy bowel movements. All of which result in a decreased risk of metabolic diseases and cancer.
- Maintains a healthy weight
Plant foods are usually lower in calorie density yet serve a higher nutritional content than heavily processed foods. Therefore, following a plant-based diet generally results in a greater level of satiety without the consumption of excess calories.
How you can push a plant-forward mindset in your life
Here are some top tips to help you incorporate a more Plant Focused approach to your diet:
- Start slowly- as humans are creatures of habit, it can be hard to radicalise your diet overnight. Therefore, making a few small changes over a longer period can be more manageable and sustainable. Try replacing mincemeat in your chilli with beans, swapping jam on toast for oats for breakfast, adding an extra portion of vegetables with meals or opting for a plant-based milk in your morning coffee. Referring to the government EATWELL guide is an easy tool when trying to make more plant-forward diet choices.
- Reduce your intake of processed meat and dairy products- try and reduce the number of processed products you are consuming daily by making some simple swaps. Instead of choosing ham on white bread at lunch time, opt for a more whole-food approach and prioritize leafy greens and wholegrains. Choosing a salad full of legumes and leafy greens, or a tuna sandwich on wholegrain bread would be a more Plant Forward and healthy choice.
- Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables in every meal- incorporate a range of different fruits and vegetables into your diet, to ensure you are consuming a range of vitamins and minerals, but also not falling into a habit of eating the same foods and getting bored. Use this time to try new foods and expand your taste buds, switching from regular potatoes to sweet potatoes or butternut squash, or picking bulgur wheat over basmati rice. See the recipe this month Sweet potato and butterbean tikka masala with toasted almonds to kick start your plant-forward diet.
Lastly, remember that any small change is a good change, and will have a positive impact on health and the planet.
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Stylianou, B. C. N. G. A. H. B. (2019, August 9). Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714