How to Achieve Good Nutrition by Eating a Plant Based Diet

Becki Andrus

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Vegetarianism and veganism are lifestyles that are defined by the eliminating of animal products from food and clothing, and opposing animal testing and cruelty. In vegetarianism and veganism, the diet is plant based and excludes meat. While it may seem to be lacking to exclude meat in the diet, a plant based diet can actually provide all the essential nutrients a body needs to maintain good health and promote longevity.

Sauteed vegetables

A plant based diet consists of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Each of these contains all the essential nutrients that the human body needs to promote healthy digestion, cell function and repair, heart health, bone health, and even mental health. At the same time, they are low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. They help in maintaining weight while providing adequate amounts of fiber, vitamins, carbohydrates, and antioxidants.

The way to ensure there is an adequate supply of all the nutrients needed to have a healthy disposition is to vary up the plant based foods that are eaten. There are several to choose from so the possibilities for variety are better than one would expect. The diet does include salads and fresh fruit, but also consists of whole grain products, beans, oils, herbs and spices. All together, these items can be mixed and matched and prepared in various ways to get the amounts of nutrients needed for good health, without necessarily having to take supplements.

Plant based foods contain amino acids, various vitamins, protein, fiber and magnesium, an absolutely vital nutrient for good health, among others. They can be found in several foods. Some foods contain a lot of some nutrients and only a little of others, which is why variety is highly recommended for a plant based diet. Here are a few nutrients that need to be in adequate supply from food, and it is important to look out for and try to consume them at every meal.

Calcium is one nutrient the human body needs for strong teeth and bones, but it is not made or stored within the human body. To get an adequate supply of calcium, leafy greens must be a main staple of a plant based diet. These include spinach, kale, bok choy, collard, mustard and turnip greens. Almonds and hazelnuts can be added to a meal for a little extra calcium.

Iron is very important in the transport of oxygen to the organs in the body. Leafy greens are a good source of iron, but other items will provide the necessary iron as well. In order to consume enough iron on a plant based diet, foods like oatmeal, whole wheat breads, and lentils, along with several other foods. Iron rich foods should be consumed on a regular basis.

Vitamin B12 is one vitamin we need, but is not very abundant in plant based diets. B12 can be found in fortified foods and supplements. This essential vitamin plays a part in giving us energy, reduces the risk of several diseases, and helps with overall mental health, so it needs to be a regular part of the plant based diet.

The foods of the earth in their natural form are unaltered and therefore healthier for humans than animal based and cooked foods. With a bit of research and the implementation of variety, a person could successfully achieve great health and a well balanced lifestyle by adopting a plant based diet.

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  • Wice says
    My main concern is not the philosophy and theory but the practical implications of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

    So many of those I know who have opted to try this out have given this up after a relatively short time. Not only do they get bored with their new meatless diet, but most have become run down, anaemic, or even just 'spotty-faced". It would seem to follow that their health problems were the result of their meatless diet lacking some essential ingredient they needed. You need to be organised. nutritionally knowledgeable and have to work hard to have a healthy, balanced diet as a vegetarian or vegan.

    Other difficulties are of a more social nature. It's hard on friends and family when you are the only vegan/vegetarian and they have to make special provision for you. They have to shop differently and by and large cook differently to make allowance for the fact you will be missing part of the meal. I love cooking but I hate having to cook something special just any vegetarian attending if I'm giving a dinner party. If I don’t, then I feel like I’m not looking after them as well as my other guests.
    Travelling abroad can also be very difficult. How many people do you know who have left on their OE as vegetarians and returned as omnivores! Further a vegetarian/vegan diet can be quite expensive to maintain.

    So, on a personal and social level it takes a lot of work to be a healthy vegan or vegetarian. Is it worth it? It depends on why you are doing it and how much you are prepared into doing it well. Turning vegetarian or vegan is not a magic method to lose weight, Vegetables and fruit may seem to contain fewer calories than meat, but they can contain a lot of sugar and their own fats. Just think about cooking oils, nuts, fruit smoothies...)

    Enough said. My advice would be that if you do decide to give this lifestyle a go, make sure you do enough research to ensure you will be getting a balanced, healthy diet. Don't just cut out meat and otherwise eat the same food you always did because if you do, you are practically doomed to failure or ill health.

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