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How does Plant-Forward (Plant-Based) Eating Benefit Your Health?

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How does Plant-Forward (Plant-Based) Eating Benefit Your Health?

Whether you’re considering eating less meat or giving it up entirely, the benefits are clear: less risk of disease and improved health and well-being. Specifically, eating less meat decreases the risk of:

Meat is often loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, which have starring roles in poor heart health. And processed meats like deli meat, bacon and sausage often have too much sodium as well. On the other hand, lean meats, skinless poultry, and fish can be good sources of protein.

Figuring out how to manage these pros and cons takes a little homework.

First, let’s define the terms:

  • A vegan diet is entirely plant-based. It excludes meat, fish, dairy and eggs – basically anything that comes from an animal.

  • Vegetarians also eat a plant-based diet, but their menu may include dairy and eggs.

  • A flexitarian is a vegetarian that sometimes indulges in meat or fish but mostly sticks to plant foods.

  • Plant-forward is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them. Meat may be included but it’s usually not the main feature of the meal.

Lean, mean and green protein

Whichever diet you choose, just remember that removing meat doesn’t have to mean removing protein. There are plenty of foods that can fill the bill, like tofu, quinoa, mushrooms, lentils, chickpeas and most beans and legumes. And did you know there are many good vegetable sources of protein? That’s right, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, corn, potatoes, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes and turnip greens all provide a good amount of protein. In fact, every plant we eat has some protein in it. So, you may be getting enough protein without meat.

Not all plant-based diets are healthy

Just make sure you’re not replacing meat with a bunch of highly processed meat substitutes or “vegan junk food.” You know, the French fry diet! The key is adding high-quality, nutrient-dense plant-based foods. In fact, a recent study showed that eating primarily high-quality plant foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts) was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases than eating primarily lower-quality plant foods (such as fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes and sweets). The researchers concluded that even if you’ve eaten a poor diet for half your life, adding more healthy plant foods as an adult can help reduce your risk.

Making the switch

Going plant-forward is easier than ever these days. Start by searching out some enticing vegetarian recipes that are easy to prepare. Choose ingredients and flavors you know your family will enjoy. Experiment with a meatless meal once a week, then add more days as you get used to it. Odds are good that you will get used to it! Your heart health and your waistline might get used to it, too.

To help you make the switch easier, we have added two recipes from Dr. Gaddiel Rios, Family Medicine physician at the Family Clinic in Hulett.

Dr. Rios


My favorite morning smoothie

½ cup Rolled Oats (or steel-cut)

1 cup or Almond or milk alternative

1/3 cup Blueberries

6 pieces Nuts (almond, walnut or Brazilian)

1 Tsp Chia seeds

To taste Cinnamon, Vanilla extract

To taste 2 tsp of Honey or 2 Dates

Alternative addons: Turmeric Root 1 inch or Ginger Root 1 inch

Blend in high-speed blender 2 minutes


Cheese substitution for Mac and Cheese or other dishes

“Pimento Cheese Sauce” yields 2 ¼ cups

1 cup water

¾ Cups Cashews ( raw, wash and drain prior to use)

1 TBSP Tahini

3 TBSP Nutritional Yeast Flakes

1 Tsp Mineral Salt or Pink salt (of choice)

2 Tsp Onion Powder

¼ Tsp Garlic powder

½ Cup Pimentos (roasted red peppers)

2 TBSP lemon Juice (fresh better)

Blend all ingredients High speed for 2 minutes until creamy. This is a versatile sauce to use with pastas, potatoes and other foods.

Enjoy! - Dr. Rios


  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Family Medicine, Campbell County Medical Group Complex and Internal Medicine, Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic, Campbell County Medical Group Pediatrics, Campbell County Medical Group Wright Clinic & Occupational Health, Campbell County Memorial Hospital