Benefits of Eating More Plant Foods

By author photo Megan Alsford

health

When it comes to good nutrition, few will argue that eating more foods from plants is a good thing. By plant foods I’m referring to foods that are of plant origin so think of foods like:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes

Just a quick look at the Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults you’ll see these foods make up most of the healthy eating recommendations, and for good reason. Let’s take a closer look at what these food groups can offer:


Fruits and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are low in energy (kilojoules or calories) and high in fibre and water. These foods are also full of vital vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals needed for good health. Research shows diets high in fruits and vegetables are very good for our health and can protect us against some common diseases like heart disease, some cancers and can support your immunity.


Grains

Grains, particularly wholegrains and cereals made from wholegrains, contain fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These foods have been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. The high fibre in wholegrain cereals also help to prevent constipation.


Nuts and Legumes

Nuts and legumes (beans, peas and chickpeas) contain protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals also helpful in maintaining a balanced diet and good health. Legumes are so good for us they are even counted in two different food groups in the Dietary Guidelines.


Getting the Most of Plant Based Foods

There are many ways to get the health benefits of plant-based foods. First, try to enjoy them in each meal. This might look like a wholegrain cereal for breakfast with some fruit, adding salad or veggies to your main meals and snacking on wholegrains, fruit or veg. Think about how you might more plant foods and more variety, for example could you try a new salad with your lunch today or is there a vegetable you can enjoy as a snack with a slice of wholegrain toast if that fits in your plan? If you eat meat, then you might want to try swapping some of your meat meals for vegetarian meals. The key with plant-based foods is to include them often and to choose a variety as part of an overall balanced meal plan so you make sure you capture as much of their beneficial nutrients as possible.

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