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A plant-based diet is one that focuses on plants, such as fruits, vegetables, tubers, seeds, legumes and grains. People on plant-based diets typically avoid beef, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, or eat them only in small quantities.
There is no official set of rules for how to follow a plant-based diet and there are several different varieties of eating plans. Vegetarian, vegan, raw food, flexitarian, pescatarian, fruitarian and Mediterranean diets all fall under the plant-based diet umbrella, even though some may allow for small portions of fish, eggs, poultry or dairy.
One popular form is the whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, which combines a plant-based diet with a whole-foods diet that avoids processed foods, added sugar including honey, artificial sweeteners, refined grains and hydrogenated oils.
Research has repeatedly shown that diets high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains can improve heart health and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. A WFPB diet that is low in animal protein, fat, sugar and processed foods is considered a healthy way to eat.
When looking at the Blue Zones (the areas with the longest-living cultures), it has been observed that their diets are primarily plant-based with about 10% of the diet coming from fresh fish, eggs and animal products.
Plant-based diets have a long history. The first recorded vegetarian diet dates back to the seventh century BC. Several religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, advocate a vegetarian diet.
Some people choose to follow an animal-free diet for ethical reasons, while others do so for the health benefits. A recent Colmar Brunton report found 42% of New Zealanders are committed to leading a sustainable lifestyle.
A 2016 review of 42 meta-analyses found an association between the consumption of red meat and cancer, especially with colorectal, lung, oesophageal and gastric malignancies. The study authors also found the consumption of processed meats such as hot dogs, cold cuts, sausage and jerky is associated with colorectal, oesophageal, gastric and bladder cancers.
The biggest challenge of following a WFPB diet is making sure you get enough of key nutrients. People avoiding animal products need to be educated about food combining and pay extra attention to ensure they get enough protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
If body mass begins to drop too far, an array of health issues can result, including cessation of menstrual cycles in females and low mood. Some dentists have also reported noticing gum health declining and in severe cases, teeth becoming loose from a lack of crucial amino acids from protein such as proline being able to support the collagen structure in gums.
Plant-based diets have gained popularity not only in the health community, but also among fitness fanatics, athletes and environmentalists.
The Game Changers is the most recent documentary on Netflix that highlights athletes thriving on a plant-based diet.
However, a diet including processed foods such as vegan lollies, margarine, chemical-laden meat and cheese substitutes is unlikely to give you the results you desire. The best plan includes a varied, nourishing diet that you can stick to for the long term. If choosing this style of eating, I would suggest making gradual changes and enlisting the help of a naturopath/ nutritionist to put together a plan that keeps you nourished and satisfied.
As for the Christmas menu, include plenty of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables but serve the likes of butter on the side of new potatoes for people to add themselves; likewise, feta in a Greek salad. Here I have listed a few other meal ideas that everybody will enjoy.
If you are serving wine, you may like to check the back of the label, as egg white (or albumin) is one such fining agent often used to clarify red wines. Egg whites remove tannin particles, especially green or harsh tannins, rendering the wine rounder and softer in texture.
However, those following some eating plans will need to avoid this.
-By Deanna Copland
- Porridge with cinnamon, chopped nuts and seeds, stewed fruit and coconut cream
- Chia puddings made with almond milk, chia seeds, cacao powder, berries
- Avocado and tomato on sourdough toast
- Vegan zucchini bread with almond butter
- Tofu scramble with sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes
- Creamy broccoli soup (made with coconut cream and white beans instead of dairy)
- Pumpkin and kumara soup and sourdough toast
- Brown rice and quinoa salad with grilled vegetables and poppy seeds
- Whole-grain wrap with hummus, tempeh, avocado and grated carrot
- Portobello mushroom burger with avocado, beetroot, lettuce
- White bean puree with asparagus and pumpkin seeds
- Nachos made with black beans and refried beans, guacamole and salsa
- Zucchini noodles with tomatoes, cashew and homemade basil pesto (without parmesan cheese)
- Dahl with pumpkin, cauli and kumara on brown rice
- Beetroot, rocket, quinoa and walnut salad with tamari tempeh strips
- Roast vege salad with fresh rocket, edamame beans and paprika
- Pumpkin and chickpea Thai red curry on rice
- Loaded sweet potatoes with black beans and guacamole
- Fresh fruit salad with Raglan coconut yoghurt
- Dark chocolate tart garnished with fresh berries and a few lavender sprigs (base made out of ground nuts, medjool dates and coconut oil, ganache made with Whittakers 50% dark chocolate and coconut cream)
- Fresh summer berries and cashew lime cream (see recipe)
Cashew lime cream recipe
200g raw cashews, soaked in cold water for 2 hours
1 lime, zest and juice
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
Drain and rinse the cashew nuts. Add to a blender along with half a cup of water, lime zest and juice and the maple syrup.
Blend until smooth, adding water as necessary to obtain a smooth cream that will easily drop from the spoon.
Serve dolloped over fresh seasonal berries and pomegranate seeds for a simple yet delicious Christmas dessert.
The cream will keep for three days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.