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  • Writer's pictureBrian Dooreck MD

What can I eat? Plant-Based 🌱 Diets—Part 2

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor
Healthy foods

What is a plant-based 🌱 diet? A plant-based diet focuses on foods from "plant sources" or consuming "mostly" or "only" foods that come from plants. Sounds impossible to you? It's not.


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Is a plant-based 🌱 the same as a vegan diet?


Some people see this as a vegan diet. A vegan diet involves avoiding all animal products.


Can I eat animal products and eat a plant-based 🌱 diet?


A plant-based diet means for some that plant foods are the "main focus" of their diet, but they may, occasionally, consume "meat, fish, poultry or dairy products."


For me, that is not the case.


Can a plant-based 🌱 benefit my health? Yes. There are clear health benefits regarding nutritional considerations, not to mention the ethical and environmental concerns that many people share.

What are some of the health benefits of a plant-based 🌱 diet?


With a plant-based diet, people demonstrate the following.


  • Lower body mass index (BMI)

  • Lower rates of cancer

  • Lower rates of diabetes

  • Lower rates of heart disease

  • Lower rates of obesity


How does a plant-based 🌱 diet lower the risk of heart disease and other conditions?

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that eating less meat can also reduce the risk of:

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes (Type 2)

  • Hyperlipidemia (High cholesterol)

  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)

  • Insulin resistance

  • Obesity

  • Stroke

What foods would I eat with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


1. Fruits


You can eat all types of fruit. Remember, fruit is a carbohydrate and has sugar. So balance and portion control matter.


  • Apples

  • Avocado

  • Bananas

  • Berries

  • Citrus fruits

  • Grapes

  • Melons


2. Healthy Fats

Not all fat is bad.


The "polyunsaturated" and "monounsaturated" fats and omega-3 fatty acids are essential—if not vital—to a balanced healthy diet.


  • Avocados

  • Canola oil

  • Chia seeds

  • Flaxseed

  • Hemp seeds

  • Olive oil

  • Walnuts

Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat. “Good” unsaturated fats—Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish. (hsph.harvard.edu › The Nutrition Source)

3. Nuts


Nuts are considered a healthy fat.


Nuts also offer some protein and vitamins (selenium and vitamin E).


  • Almonds

  • Brazil

  • Cashews

  • Macadamia

  • Pecans

  • Pistachios


4. Plant-based Milk


You can reduce your dairy intake with many "unsweetened" plant-based milk options.


  • Almond

  • Coconut

  • Hemp

  • Oat

  • Rice

  • Soy

5. Seeds


Seeds are a great add-on, snack, and a solid source of extra nutrients in your meal.


  • Chia

  • Flax

  • Hemp

  • Pumpkin

  • Sesame seeds (calcium)

  • Sunflower seeds (vitamin E)


6. Vegetables


A healthy diet, in general, contains plenty of greens and vegetables. The more colorful the vegetables—the more likely you will consume vitamins and minerals.


Remember, some vegetables are a healthy source of carbohydrates.


Many vegetables are a great source of fiber.


Some have protein, like legumes.


  • Asparagus

  • Beetroot

  • Broccoli 🥦

  • Carrots

  • Cauliflower

  • Kale 🥬

  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans)

  • Peppers

  • Root vegetables (sweet potato, potatoes, butternut squash, beets)

  • Tomatoes

  • Zucchini


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

7. Whole Grains


Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber.


Whole grains can aid in stabilizing blood sugar and contain magnesium, copper, and selenium—all essential minerals.


  • Barley

  • Brown rice

  • Buckwheat

  • Oats

  • Rye

  • Spelt

  • Quinoa

  • Wholegrain bread


What foods should I avoid (not eat) with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


Eating smart and healthy is a choice. My choice. Your choice. A choice based on balance, portion control, and accountability.


You are doing well by reducing or limiting animal products from your diet. However, it does not automatically mean your plant-based diet is "healthy."


Here are some online thoughts 💭 from a Board-Certified 🥼Gastroenterologist—"Avoid Unhealthy Processed Foods." Simple enough? It is all a choice.

Ask yourself. 🤔 What am I choosing to eat instead?


What are the examples of what to avoid ⛔️ with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


  • Deep-fried foods (anything that is greasy)

  • Processed vegan and vegetarian "alternatives" (look for added sugars and excess salt)

  • Sugars (bakery items, cakes, muffins, and pastries)

  • White flour and carbohydrates


What nutrients could my body be missing with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


⛔️ Any restrictive diet obviously should be under the guidance of a medical professional—especially if there are medical comorbidities or medications taken for a condition such as diabetes.

Let's address the concerns regarding "missing" the following.


  • Iron

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Protein

  • Vitamin B-12


1. Iron


What about iron with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


Iron from a plant-based diet has a lower "bioavailability" than meat. Thus, you must ensure you are getting enough iron-rich foods in your diet.


bi·o·a·vail·a·bil·i·ty /ˌbīōˌəvāləˈbilədē/ is the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect. (Oxford)

How can I get enough iron with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


Eating a plant-based diet means getting enough iron in your dietary choices.

Plant-based iron has a lower "bioavailability" (the amount that enters the circulation and can have an active effect) than iron from meat.


That does not mean you cannot get iron from plants. (Read: you can get iron from plants.)

You can get iron from plants and a plant-based 🌱 diet.

Vitamin C from citrus fruits or as a supplement helps absorb iron.

Plant-based foods that have a good source of iron include the following:


  • Beans (black and kidney)

  • Cabbage

  • Cashews

  • Dark leafy greens

  • Oatmeal

  • Raisins

  • Soybeans

  • Spinach

  • Tomato juice


2. Omega-3 fatty acids


What about omega-3 fatty acids?


If you strictly follow a plant-based diet, you should consider taking an omega-3 supplement.


I do.

Omega-3 fatty acids are "essential" in your overall health and nutrition.


What do omega-3 fatty acids do?


  • Prevent heart disease

  • Protect from memory loss

  • Reduce inflammation

What are the different types of omega-3 fatty acids?


  • EPA – found in fish, seafood, eggs

  • DHA – found in fish, seafood, eggs


When it comes to fat, there's one type you don't want to cut back on: omega-3 fatty acids.

Two crucial ones—EPA and DHA—are primarily found in certain fish.

Not only does your body need these fatty acids to function, but also they deliver some big health benefits. (WebMD)

What about omega-3 fatty acids in a plant-based 🌱 diet?

Some plant-based foods contain omega-3 ALA, such as the following.

  • Flaxseed

  • Hempseed

  • Walnuts


However, our bodies slowly convert the omega-3 ALA to omega-3 EPA and DHA.


ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. (WebMD)

Also, some people genetically have poor absorption of omega-3 ALA.

What happens if I have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids from a plant-based 🌱 diet?

Low omega-3 DHA and EPA levels n your blood and tissue may lead to the following.


  • Decreased concentration ("brain fog")

  • Increased inflammation

  • Memory difficulties


Eating a plant-based diet is a healthy and wise choice, in my opinion. I eat that way. I also take a plant-based omega-3 supplement.


What about inflammation from low levels of omega-3 fatty acids?


Some dietitians advise vegetarians to reduce the amount of the "pro-inflammatory" linoleic acid since they may be at risk for lower levels of omega-3 DHA and EPA in the blood and tissue and thus be at risk for "increased inflammation."


I don't think about this; it does not change my eating.


Some dietitians advise vegetarians to reduce the amount of the "pro-inflammatory" linoleic acid.

Where is linoleic acid found?

  • Corn oil

  • Safflower oil

  • Soybean oil

  • Sunflower oil


3. Protein


What about protein with a plant-based 🌱 diet?

I know you are worried about protein. Don't be.


You can get enough protein from a plant-based 🌱 diet.

Consuming proteins from various plant-based food sources adds diversity to your diet and microbiome.

It also helps provide the necessary amino acids (protein building blocks) for a balanced and sustainable healthy diet.

There is a wide choice of plant-based protein sources, including the following:

  • Beans (kidney, pinto, or black beans)

  • Chickpeas (hummus)

  • Lentils

  • Mushrooms

  • Nuts

  • Quinoa

  • Seeds

  • Soybean

  • Tofu


4. Vitamin B-12


What happens with low levels of Vitamin B-12?


Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient for blood and cellular health.


  • B-12 deficiency (low levels of Vitamin B-12) causes anemia (low blood levels) and neuropathy (nerve damage).


Will I get enough Vitamin B-12 with a plant-based 🌱 diet?


B-12 is not in many plant-based foods— ut in many animal products.


Vegans and vegetarians should consider taking a B-12 supplement or consuming products fortified with B-12.


I do and check my Vitamin B-12 levels with my annual blood tests.


What are some non-animal food sources of Vitamin B-12?


✳️ Note this list includes dairy.


  • Cheese

  • Eggs

  • Fortified cereals

  • Fortified plant-based milk

  • Low-fat milk

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Yogurt


What is the bottom line of a plant-based 🌱 diet?

Eat a diet high in plant-based foods and lower in animal products. You can't go wrong. I do.


This works for me, and I routinely recommend it to my patients.


The health benefits go beyond weight loss or the lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Don't wait for the "perfect" time. Make a shift in your life to a plant-based diet today.


Don't wait for the "perfect" time. I suggest you make a shift in your life to a plant-based 🌱 diet today.

Go all in, or gradually reduce our red meat and dairy intake. Maybe start with one 100% plant-based meal a week. Consider changing one animal product at a time for a plant-based one.


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What are the "big picture" outcomes and results you want in your life?

Baby steps are okay to start. What are the "big picture" outcomes and results you want?


Find what works for you. Find what works in your life. I am sharing with you what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.


⛔️ It is always advised to speak to your doctor 🥼 directly or a licensed nutritionist (LN) or registered dietitian (RD) to guide you of making major dietary changes.

Personally


I eat a high-fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.


"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

Gut Health ➕ Patient Advocacy with Navigation ➕ Life Balance


If you were looking for information about Private Healthcare Navigation and Patient Advocacy from Executive Health Navigation


Connect with Dr. Dooreck on LinkedIn, where he focuses his sharing on Health, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Balance.


 

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