Eating plant-based for health is not an all-or-nothing affair

Eating plant-based for health is not an all-or-nothing affair

On food

When you hear the term “plant-based”, what comes to mind? It’s not all new, plant-based salads and meats, said Dr. Michelle McMacken, executive director of nutrition and lifestyle medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals in New York City, speaking at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month. “A plant-based food pattern can be wonderfully diverse, nutritious, and most importantly, delicious. And it aligns with so many cultural traditions.

McMacken pointed out that there are many types of plant-based dietary patterns. Vegetarian eating habits exclude meat, poultry and seafood, while vegan eating habits exclude all foods of animal origin – but both could include refined grains, added sugar and other highly processed foods. That’s why she encourages what she calls a “healthy plant-based” diet.

“You focus on a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, you shift your protein sources to more plant sources like legumes, tofu, tempeh, etc,” she said. “You shift your fats to vegetable fats including avocados, nuts, seeds, and unsaturated vegetable oils, as opposed to some of the tropical oils like coconut and palm. And finally, for your grains, you focus on whole grains.

McMacken said this way of eating is in line with most medical nutrition guidelines for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. In particular, vegetarian diets have been consistently associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

What to do if you are not a vegetarian, but you eat a lot of plants? The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which followed 12,168 omnivores – people who eat both plant and animal foods – for more than 25 years, found that those who ate the most plants had the highest risk. the lowest (16% lower) of developing heart disease, 32% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and 25% lower risk of dying from any cause. “It’s not necessarily vegan or vegetarian,” McMacken said. “These are people who call themselves omnivores but mostly eat plants. And it is extremely beneficial.

Researchers in the very long Nurses’ Health Study and the follow-up study of healthcare professionals – also omnivorous populations – went even further, looking at how well participants ate a plant-based diet. healthy or unhealthy. (Because it is possible to eat plant-based and eat lots of fries and sodas.) The plant-based healthy eating pattern was linked to a 25% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, while eating a unhealthy herbal model was linked to 32% higher risk of coronary heart disease.

McMacken said when someone eats more foods linked to heart health — whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and other sources of plant-based protein, nuts, seeds and other sources of unsaturated fats — it crowds out foods linked to heart health. higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including processed meats, red meat, added sugar, and processed/refined grains. Several research studies have shown that replacing 3% of daily calories — 60 calories in a 2,000 calorie diet — with plant protein instead of animal protein is linked to a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Those who replaced processed red meat with plant protein saw the greatest risk reduction – 34%. “It pays to diversify,” she said.

Because healthy plant-based eating habits contain a host of beneficial elements, including fiber, heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, potassium, and other nutrients, even being semi-vegetarian can reduce LDL cholesterol by 10-15%. By design, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet has the blood pressure lowering benefits of a vegetarian diet, while containing enough animal products to make it acceptable for non – vegetarians. “A predominantly plant [plan] can be very effective in lowering blood pressure,” McMacken said.

Chickpea and farro soup

This recipe is called “plant-based,” but to make it completely vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. To make it vegan, also skip the parmesan. I order black chickpeas from Rancho Gordo, but you can use any “regular” chickpeas.

Ingredients for the soup

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup dried black chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium to large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch of chilli flakes
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can 14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup French green lentils (Le Puy)
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked farro
  • 3 handfuls of dark leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), chopped

Ingredients for optional garnish

  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped Italian parsley
  • Grated parmesan
  • Drizzle with olive oil


  1. Soak the chickpeas for at least 6 hours, then drain. Rinse the lenses and check for debris.
  2. In a Dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the broth, tomatoes, drained chickpeas, lentils, herbs and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chickpeas are tender but not mushy, at least 1 hour. Remove the herbs. Carefully remove the soup in batches and partially puree it in a blender before returning it to the pan or, much easier, plunge an immersion blender into the pan and blend until the texture is to your liking . Taste, add more salt if needed.
  4. While the beans cook, cook the farro in a separate pot according to package directions (if there are no instructions, cook via the “pasta method” by cooking in plenty of water , about 6 to 8 cups) with 1 teaspoon of salt, then drain the excess water.
  5. After puréeing the soup, add the cooked farro and simmer for 10-15 minutes, adding the chopped greens in the last few minutes so they can cook until wilted.
  6. Serve, garnished with freshly ground black pepper, chopped parsley, grated parmesan and/or a drizzle of olive oil, as desired.

#Eating #plantbased #health #allornothing #affair

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