March is nutrition month in Canada – a time for us to reflect on our eating habits and make healthier food choices. Plant-based foods have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. In fact, the latest version of Canada’s Food Guide recommends choosing protein foods that come from plants more often. This doesn’t mean you need to become exclusively vegetarian or vegan, it means that including more plant-based meals and snacks into your diet can benefit your health and our environment. Here are the top three benefits of eating plant-based foods:
Eating a plant-based diet can lower your risk of diseases like heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes
Plant-based eating means incorporating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant-based proteins into your diet. Canada’s Food Guide recommends choosing foods that come from plants more often because of the improved health benefits. Research shows that in general, people who eat more plant-based foods have lower risk of heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. This is because eating plant-based foods usually leads to diets that are:
- Higher in fibre
- Higher in fruits and vegetables
- Higher in nuts and soy protein (these foods may help reduce cholesterol)
- Lower in processed meat
- Lower in saturated fat
Remember, healthy eating looks different for everyone, speak to a healthcare professional about food choices that meet your nutritional needs, culture, medical history and personal preferences.
Using plant-based proteins can help you save money on your grocery bill
Plant-based proteins like legumes and tofu are often less expensive than animal-based proteins – a healthy choice for those who are on a budget!
Choosing plant-based proteins more often is good for the environment
Another bonus of eating plant-based is that diets higher in plant-based foods may also have a lower environmental impact. Growing and producing plant-based foods usually uses less land, energy and water.
What are plant-based proteins?
There are many plant-based proteins to choose from. Examples include:
- Brown, green, red or other lentils
- Peas such as chickpeas and split peas
- Dried beans such as black beans and kidney beans
- Soy products like tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Nuts and seeds and butters (like peanut or almond butter)
There are also many meat substitutes on the market, like veggie burgers. These can be an easy and convenient substitute for meat, but they can also be high in salt and fat, so make sure to compare labels and use them in moderation.
How to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet
If you are just beginning to eat more plant-based, start with a few plant-based meals per week and work up. Plant-based proteins often have a neutral flavour, making them easy to incorporate into many dishes. As you gain experience working with plant-based proteins, you can experiment with different combinations and flavours. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start your day with a whole-grain cereal or a bowl of oatmeal. Increase the flavour and nutrients with some almonds or pumpkins seeds (1/4 cup oatmeal = 3 grams protein; 1/4 almonds = 8 grams protein).
- Add chickpeas, lentils or black beans to your soup or salad at lunch (3/4 cup black beans = 11 grams protein; 3/4 lentils = 13 grams protein).
- Make a hearty bowl of lentil soup for dinner.
- Cook up a big bowl of bean rich chili that’s loaded with vegetables (1 serving = 14 grams protein).
Visit www.NutritionMonth2023.ca for more information and tips on how to eat a healthy plant-based diet.
*Information adapted from dietitians.ca.
Prevention is key – speak with a medical professional today
If you would like to speak with a medical professional about your family’s physical or nutritional healthcare needs, head to https://tuliphealth.ca/talk-to-a-doc. Tulip Health is a virtual walk-in clinic that provides non-emergency related healthcare. It’s easy to use and it’s covered by OHIP. Our healthcare professionals are trained to make appropriate recommendations or referrals to specialists, such as dietitians, when needed. To book an appointment, visit www.tuliphealth.ca.