We have heard a lot about the Paleo and the Raw food diets. Paleo diet, also called the caveman diet, is based on the premise that the key to good health and longevity lies in eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. Typically, a Paleo diet is made up of grass based meat, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, plant based oils like olive oil, fish oil,eggs, fish and seafood. Dairy, grains, processed food & sugars, legumes, starches and sugars are a complete no. You can get a complete list of Paleo foods here.
While there is a lot of fan following for the Paleo diet, the key thing to consider here is that we are not hunter-gatherers anymore and the human species has evolved a lot from the time of our cavemen ancestors. The key thing to remember is that we have a lot more food choices than our ancestors did.
Now, coming to the Raw Food Diet. More than half of it is made up of plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts and seeds, raw animal products, never heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents of raw food diet claim that following a diet that consists mainly of unprocessed and uncooked food gives our body the much needed enzymes and nutrients, that otherwise get obliterated due to cooking. Raw food diet is great for weight loss as these foods are low in calories. However, a 100% raw food diet is a bit a too restrictive and may not work well for all age groups, especially kids whose nutritional requirements are higher to support growth and development. Also, if you look at the convenience factor, its not really easy to adapt a 100% raw food diet, especially if you travel and eat out a lot. Check out the list of raw food items here for a better understanding of what such a diet would entail.
While the Paleo and the Raw Food diets have their merits, they seem a bit too restrictive and difficult to follow. It is better to go for a well-rounded, balanced diet that will help you lose weight as well as not deprive you of all the essential fats, proteins, complex carbohydrates as well as your daily calorie requirements. This is where a Plant Based diet has a slight edge over the other two diets as it also includes tubers, whole grains and legumes in its list of acceptable food items. You also don’t need to consume most of your meals raw or uncooked – the diet just expects you to follow healthy cooking practices.
What Is A Plant Based Diet
A plant based diet is made of up fruits (like bananas, apples, mangoes, strawberries), vegetables (like broccoli, lettuce, kale, carrots), tubers (like sweet potatoes, corn, green peas), whole grains (like millet, barley, rice, oats) and legumes (like kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils). You can get the complete list of plant based food items here.
Take a look at this short video here. This video will compel you to sit back and think about what you are putting yourself through with all the unhealthy eating choices. Is that burger and the extra cheese really worth all the trouble you place your system through??
How To Lose Weight With A Plant Based Diet
1. Increase Your Intake of Fruits and Vegetables – While following a plant based diet, you will be consuming a substantial amount of fruits and vegetables which have a high water content. Thus your calorie count will come down automatically. Also, while its very easy to binge on high calorie food – the same is a little difficult with fruits and vegetables. Even if you tend to eat big portions, your calorie count will still be in check.
2. Plan Your Meals – The shift from your current eating habits to a plant based one cannot happen overnight. Start with at least one meal a day that is minimally processed and is made up of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, tubers and legumes. Initially, this will require some effort from your end but this is the best way to begin your transition.
3. Cut Down on Your Oil Intake – First thing first, there is nothing like good oil or bad oil. The bottom line is that all oils are nothing more than pure fat! No carbohydrate, no protein, no vitamins, no minerals – only FAT. This also includes the much hyped olive oil. Definitely, you will be getting better levels of cholesterol if you cook your food in olive oil when compared to a highly refined oil or butter. But replacing one source of fat with another is not really going to solve your problem. As someone looking at loosing weight, the only option available to you is to cut down on your daily oil intake. Look out for recipes that will help you stir up delicious meals with very low oil content. You can check out some healthy, plant based recipes here. These meals are high in nutrition while the oil used in their preparation is kept minimally low.
4. Substitute Your Meat with Healthy Alternatives – A plant based diet will work well for you only if you minimize or totally cut down on the intake of meat. I know, the question right now on the top of your mind is – where will I get my protein from? Rest assured that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, legumes and whole grains will provide you with all the protein that you need in a typical day. Also, consuming a lot of protein, especially from animal sources can actually be detrimental to your health. Lots of people have thrived on a plant based diet and they have done so by totally cutting down on their meat intake. You can do it too!
5. Minimize Your Dairy Intake – Whole based foods are abundant in their calcium content and one needs to come out of this misconception that only milk and other dairy products can meet our daily calcium requirements! We are all aware how important calcium is in order to have strong bones. But equally important is the source from which we are getting our calcium. Dairy products are high in their acidic content and we all are very well aware that its utmost import to maintain the pH balance within our body. On the other hand, a plant based diet will provide your bones with enough calcium to maintain them in good health and also maintain the acid/alkaline balance of your body.
6. Say No To Processed Food – The only two advantages of processed foods is that one, they are convenient and two, they taste great! Now compare this with all the negatives stacked against them – high in calories, processed oil, sugar, salt, fat, added preservatives, flavors – the list is a long one! Of course, not all processed food is bad. A tin of canned tomatoes without added salt or sugar is perfectly fine. The real culprits are all these packaged foods that have a host of harmful ingredients, many of which we don’t even recognize! Combine this with all the junk food like pizza, burger, aerated drinks that we consume and we are literally giving an open invitation to the various lifestyle diseases! Choose your food wisely – read the labels on your pre-packaged food carefully and cut out the ones that are high in fat, salt, sugar and added preservatives. Its definitely better to cook your meals at home, that ways you will know what exactly is going into your meals. Difficult yes, Impossible – definitely no!
The Bottom Line
There is no magical formula with which you can lose weight. The fact of the matter is, there is no one size fits all approach towards weight loss, a single diet that can work for everybody. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is your best and safest option, if you want a long term and permanent solution to your weight problems. The purpose of this post was to act as an eye opener towards the abundant benefits of following a plant based diet. Now it’s up to you to take a leap of faith and actually take up the challenge. Changing eating habits is not easy, still what you must understand is – there are lot of healthy recipes out there that taste great as well. You just have to attune yourself towards towards this change.
Moving forward, you will have to see how you can gradually shift from your current eating habits to a new regime where you cut down on the intake of meat, dairy and refined food items and replace them with a lot of fresh produce and healthy cooking style. Half-hearted attempts and shortcuts will not take you anywhere. A healthy lifestyle requires a lot of discipline and determination and always remind yourself:
Direction is so much more important than speed. Many are going nowhere fast.