Six Most Popular Plant-Based Diets: Which One's Right for You?

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Have you heard about the benefits of a plant-based diet? From reducing your blood pressure to losing weight, these food plans have become as hot as Palm Springs in the summer. But how do you know which one is right for you? Recently, Dustin Rudolph, better known as the plant-based pharmacist, offered some tips on what he views as the options, and as a holistic nutritionist, I have selected the six most popular and added some notes to help guide you to what to choose - and what to lose.

Fab Five
For a basic plant-based diet, consider Dustin's approach. He suggests focusing on:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole Grains
  • Nuts/Seeds

My note: Portion control is key to any diet, and although this approach can work, it requires doing your own calculations to ensure you are getting enough protein and vitamins.

Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
PCRM has crafted what they call a Power Plate, using a dinner plate divided into sections. They emphasize:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole Grains

My note: This plan is more easily followed, but use caution in choosing your whole grains. Read the label carefully, seeking terms such as "whole wheat flour" rather than "enriched white flour."

The McDougall Diet
One of the most well-known plant-based diets, this approach involves a food plan high in carbohydrates, low in protein and free of animal protein. Featured components are:

  • Unrefined Starches (Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Brown Rice, Whole Grain Pasta, etc.) - Base of the Diet
  • Green and Yellow Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole Grains
  • Nuts/Seeds (Optional, Limited Amounts)

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My note: Because most of us already eat too many starches, this plan opens the door to insufficient amounts of vegetables, which should be the key component of a healthy plant-based diet.

Nutritarian Diet by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Never heard of the term "Nutritarian"? It's not surprising, as it was crafted by Dr. Fuhrman. A frequent guest on Dr. Mehmet Oz's talk show, his plant-based diet looks like this:

  • Green Vegetables - Base of the Diet
  • Vegetables (other than greens)
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole Grains/Starchy Vegetables
  • Animal/Processed Foods (Optional and/or LIMITED amounts only)

My note: I recommend this approach because of its emphasis on green vegetables. You can learn more on Dr. Fuhrman's site.

Standard Vegan Approach
In a traditional sense, a vegan can eat anything that is NOT made of animal products, including:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole Grains
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Plant Oils
  • Processed Foods (cookies, pastries, faux "meat" products, soda pop, etc.)

My note: The problem with this plan: The amount of processed foods. I have had clients ask me why they gained weight on a vegan diet. When they keep a food diary, processed foods such as cakes, cookies and candies labeled vegan win over vegetables.

Standard Vegetarian Approach

Vegetarians typically follow the vegan approach but add dairy and eggs. Variations include avoiding dairy or avoiding eggs. The concern, as with the vegan plan, is that the freedom to allow processed foods may detract from the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Bottom Line
For your health, try an occasional meat-free meal. Emphasize unprocessed, whole foods, such as beans, vegetables, brown rice and fresh fruits. If you want to transition to a plant-based diet permanently, consider Dr. Fuhrman's plan.

Resource: The plant based pharmacist.

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