Maybe you’ve heard all about the many benefits of a plant-based diet and have dabbled a bit here and there. It is also likely you may know someone who has made the switch and experienced huge improvements in their physical health. The claims are bold, saying that a plant-based diet can decrease your risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A plant-based diet can reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, which not only prevents but in some cases may actually reverse diseases including osteoporosis, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis and depression.
Plant-based diets are eating patterns that are high in vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, whole fruits, nuts and seeds. The aim of such a diet is to maximize the consumption of nutrient-dense plant food and to minimize consumption of processed foods, sugars, oils and animal-based foods. We could fill the rest of this magazine going over the physical, emotional, economic and global benefits of going plant-based, but instead I’d like to walk you through three simple ways you can get started.
If you are thinking about long-term success, it’s best to start small. Begin by reducing meat consumption by 10 percent. Evaluate how you feel after the first several weeks, and if all’s good, then perhaps you reduce another 10 percent. Meanwhile, start adding an extra handful of leafy greens into your soups, salads and sandwiches. When in doubt, always add the greens!
Make a commitment
This shift can be a major lifestyle adjustment. It takes time for new habits to form. Make a commitment and stick with it. Living in Iowa means there will be times when this new diet feels inconvenient. Nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs are raised here in Iowa and meat is available nearly everywhere. While the vegan and plant-based community in the state is growing, there’s still a long way to go.
Commit to this new lifestyle and come prepared. If you are going out to eat, find spots that offer plant-based options. Places like Trumpet Blossom in Iowa City, Rawlicious in Cedar Rapids and Brightside Kitchen in Des Moines are serving up all plant-based menus. Many other places like Tacopocalypse, Krunkwich Ramen House and Fong’s Pizza in Des Moines offer vegan or vegetarian options. Get to know all your plant-friendly restaurants. For a full list in the the Des Moines area, check out the Veg Life website at veglifedesmoines.org/restaurants.
Think ahead and hunt down recipes and meal plans that are designed to be meatless. Browse through vegan or vegetarian websites or check out a few cookbooks from your local library. You’ll want to stock up on lots of legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits.
Prepare snacks of seeds, veggies and nuts and take them with you when you’re out and about.
Your health, the environment and the animals will thank you.
Elissa Cirignotta is a writer, teacher, world traveler and change maker. When she’s not teaching or practicing yoga in Des Moines, Portland Oregon or Sicily, you can find her growing plants, planning trips and writing stories. This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Spring 2018 issue.