Is a plant-based diet the same thing as a vegan diet? Both meal plans have made headlines for their health benefits in recent years and while they are similar, there are some key differences: Vegan diets eliminate all animal products, while plant-based diets do not necessarily eliminate animal products, but focus on eating mostly plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

What is a vegan diet?
“With a vegan diet, you eliminate all animal products, including dairy, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and honey,” says Christine Kirlew, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Piedmont.
Some people choose to follow a vegan diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons. While going vegan can have health benefits, there are some pitfalls to avoid.
“Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” she says. “If you’re vegan, you can still technically eat vegan cookies, potato chips and other vegan junk food, which can be high in calories and low in nutrients. I recommend sticking to whole foods as much as possible.”

What is a plant-based diet?
“With a plant-based diet, you can decide whether or not you want to consume animal products, and the focus is on eating mostly foods that come from plant sources,” says Dr. Kirlew.
Plant-based diets also emphasize eating whole foods, meaning the food has undergone little – if any – processing and is as close to its natural state as possible.

Plant-based foods include:
* Vegetables
* Fruits
* Whole grains (quinoa, farro, barley, oatmeal)
* Plant-based oils (avocado, olive, canola)
* Nuts and seeds

What is the right meal plan for you?
“Regardless of what meal plan you choose, everyone’s diet should ideally consist of 50 percent vegetables,” says Dr. Kirlew. “Fruit is healthy too, but I like to focus on vegetables because they have less sugar.”

When building your plate, aim for:
* 50 percent vegetables
* 25 percent whole grains
* 25 percent lean protein

“If you are not eating meat or other animal proteins like eggs, try beans or quinoa for plant-based protein,” she says. “And if you want to have meat occasionally, stick to lean meat, fish or poultry.”
Adding healthy fats – such as avocado oil when roasting veggies, a sprinkle of slivered almonds on your oatmeal or sliced avocado on your salad – will help you feel full for longer. And healthy fats have numerous other health benefits.
When to talk to your doctor about your diet
“It’s a good idea to see your primary care doctor to get a basic framework for what a healthy diet should look like for you, particularly if you have an underlying health condition or have had weight loss surgery, which can affect how your body processes nutrients,” says Dr. Kirlew. “For example, if you have diabetes and want to eat healthily, you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat a lot of fruit.”
Also, if you are vegan, vegetarian or don’t eat many animal products, she recommends asking your doctor to check your B vitamin levels.
“B12 deficiency is common in vegans because it’s a nutrient found mostly in animal products,” she explains. “If you don’t consume many animal products, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.”
Calcium is another important nutrient that can be hard to get when you don’t eat dairy products. Dr. Kirlew recommends trying calcium-fortified plant-based milk (like almond milk) or other calcium-fortified foods.
“If you’re not getting three servings of calcium-rich foods each day, ask your doctor about adding a supplement,” she says. “Try to get at least some calcium from your diet because taking too many calcium supplements can cause adverse side effects.”

Is a vegan or plant-based diet healthy?
If you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains, you should still get a good chunk of your daily vitamins and minerals because plant-based foods are high in many nutrients.
“If you’re going to follow a vegan or plant-based diet, think through it carefully and plan out your meals,” says Dr. Kirlew. “You don’t necessarily have to go vegan to be healthy – plant-based is a good option for people who struggle with consistency and planning. If you are going to commit to a vegan diet, make a plan and be consistent about incorporating all the healthy food groups, including plant-based protein, so you don’t miss out on nutrients.”
Dr. Kirlew practices at Piedmont Physicians Buckhead, located at 35 Collier Road Northwest, Suite 775, Atlanta, GA 30309. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kirlew or another primary care physician online. Save time, book online.

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A creamy mushroom sun dried tomato sauce over jasmine rice

Source: @alexafuelednaturally

Hibiscus flower tacos

RECIPE Serves 2 Ingredients: 1 cup Jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers) 2 cup vegetable broth 4 tbsp olive oil 1 small white onion 3 cloves garlic 6 Corn tortillas 1-2 avocados 1/4 onion, diced small (for garnish) 1/4 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (for garnish) 2 limes Salsa: 3 Roma tomatoes (or about 1/2 lb) 2 guajillo chilies 1 serrano 1/4 white onion 2 cloves garlic 1/4 cup roasted peanuts 1/2 cup vegetable broth Pinch of salt 1. Steep Jamaica in 4-5 cups of hot water for about 20 minutes. 2. Meanwhile prepare salsa. Remove the tops of the guajillo chilies and open the chili to remove the seeds and veins. On a dry skillet or cast iron roast whole tomatoes & Serranos for 3-4 minutes flipping half ways through. Add the guajillos and roast on pan for 5-8 seconds on each side. 3. Add the roasted ingredients into your blender along with 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 piece of onion, 1/2 cup broth and 1/4 cup roasted peanuts. Hold off on adding salt if your peanuts are salted. Blend until smooth then taste and add a pinch of salt if needed. 4. Strain the Jamaica into another pitcher and add sugar to your liking or keep unsweetened & enjoy your Agua de Jamaica 😉 5. Grab the flowers and add them to a pot and cover with 2 cups broth and let it boil for 15 minutes or until most of the broth has evaporated. 6. Strain the flowers in the sink and rinse them with cold water then place them in a nut milk bag or in the center of a clean , thin, dish towel. 7. Squeeze the excess liquid out then place the flowers on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, carefully chop as fine as you can get it! 8. Thinly slice a whole white onion and mince 2-3 cloves of garlic. 9. To a pan over medium heat, add 3-4 tbsp of olive oil. Once hot add in the onion and cook for 2 minutes then add in the garlic and the hibiscus flower and cook for 4-5 minutes, season with a pinch of salt & pepper, then pour in enough of the blended salsa to cover the hibiscus. Cook for 6-7 minutes. 10. Assemble tacos & enjoy!

Source: @alexafuelednaturally


Recipe below! Recipe: baked vegan cheesecake Ingredients: Crust • 2 packages of the graham crackers or biscoff cookies (around 8-9 ounces) • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter or coconut oil • 2 tbsp cane sugar • Pinch of salt Cheesecake filling • 2 tbsp corn starch + 1/4 cup non dairy milk • 1 cup raw cashews • 2 containers cream cheese (Trader Joe's brand is great and so is tofutti) • 3/4 cup non dairy milk (such as soy, almond or oat milk) •1 cup cane sugar • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil • pinch of salt • juice of 1 lemon Optional topping: • 1 container berries of choice •12 ounces vegan dark chocolate You will need: •A round spring form 9inch pan •Blender & or food processor •Oven Method: Soak cashews in hot water for at least 10 minutes Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor add your graham crackers or cookies, along with 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 cup melted coconut oil or vegan butter and a pinch of salt. Pulse until you reach a wet sand texture. Line the bottom of the spring form pan with parchment paper. Then pour the crust into the pan and with your hands press down with your fingers tightly. Place in preheated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, should be slightly golden. Meanwhile in a cup or small bowl add 2 tbsp cornstarch and 1/4 cup non dairy milk, mix well until there are no clumps then strain your soaking cashews, add them to a blender along with all the other cheesecake filling ingredients and the cornstarch mixture. Blend until smooth then once the crust is out of the oven pour over crust, tap the cheesecake on counter carefully so any air bubbles go away. Turn your oven temp down to 325 f then bake in oven for 50-55 minutes or until the center doesn’t overly jiggle in the center. Let the cheesecake cool on your counter for 15-20 minutes then place in fridge to fully set for 1-3 hours or over night! Top your cheesecake with melted chocolate and fresh fruit if you desire! You can store the cheesecake in the fridge for 4-6 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months!

Source: @alexafuelednaturally

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