The basic principles of a plant-based diet (PBD) are that it focuses on whole, minimally processed foods – whole grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts should make up the majority of what you eat – and limits animal products. A PBD also excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils.
A plant-based diet is rooted in food quality, promoting locally sourced, organic food whenever possible.
A healthy diet and lifestyle help in the fight against cancer — whether treating it or in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.
Various studies on the mental health of people on a prolonged vegan or plant-based diet have found something fantastic – it really helps with anxiety, mood swings, and stress levels, all of which is really good news for someone fighting cancer.
A 2018 study published in American Family Physician noted, “Recommending an eating style can help patients make positive change. Dietary patterns that support health … have benefits that include prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity.”
While going plant-based is healthy, it is very important that you ensure that you are getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals and calcium that your body needs:
Getting Calcium into Your Diet Without Dairy
There are many alternative sources for getting nutrients, including calcium, which you might have gotten primarily from milk and cheese before, into your diet:
Dairy-free Milk – Try using almond milk or go with rice or soy milk. These options provide about 30 to 50% of your daily requirement for calcium in just 250ml which is really easy to fit into your day.
Beans and Legumes – Beans and legumes are great to use as a calcium source – navy beans provide about 65 mg of calcium in one serving; pinto beans have about 50 mg of calcium.
Fruits and Vegetables – Many fruits and vegetables contain calcium and are really easy to add to your diet;
- Oranges not only provide Vitamin C, but 1 cup of oranges also contains 70 mg of calcium.
- For vegetables, enjoy turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, edamame, kale, and bok choy.
- Looking for something sweet? Figs are great because they are sweet like fruit, but they don’t spoil as quickly, and 1 cup of dried figs contains around 120 mg of calcium.
Getting Iron into Your Diet
There are many great plant-based foods with high iron content:
Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds are easy to add to meals and snacks. Munch on cashews or walnuts to get more iron, or add some iron-rich seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds to your salads . Pistachios are always a favorite.
Vegetables – For more iron in your diet, choose vegetables like collard greens, swiss chard, and tomatoes to add to your other veggies.
Grains – While you will eat many grains while on a plant-based diet, make sure your meals include delicious and iron-rich oats, brown rice, quinoa, and fortified cereals.
Legumes – Legumes that contain much iron are soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans, and lentils. Make up a bowl of chili with legumes, have some tofu as your main course, or have a probiotic-rich meal with tempeh.
Tofu – Tofu is effortless to cook, picks up any seasoning or flavour it is cooked with and goes with just about everything, is the perfect meatless option for main courses and side dishes, and contains iron and other nutrients.
Don’t Forget Vitamin C
Iron is a tricky supplement because you often need a booster to enhance how much your body is able to absorb. It is therefore a good idea to incorporate Vitamin C foods (or a supplement) into your regular routine to be sure you absorb as much iron as possible. Some great sources of Vitamin C include pineapple, citrus fruit, brussels sprouts, strawberries, and broccoli.
Getting Protein into Your Diet
Individuals on standard diets will get most of their protein from meat and dairy, but that does not mean they are your only options:
Lentils – Lentils, beans, and legumes are popular options on a plant-based diet since they provide a lot of nutrients; they are also a good source of protein – with about 8.84 grams of protein for just 1 cup.
Chickpeas – The great thing about chickpeas is that you can eat them cold or cooked in something, in a salad, and of course by making your own hummus. 1 cup of chickpeas provides just more than 7 grams of protein.
Almonds – Munch on a handful of almonds as a snack, top slivered almonds on your soup or salads, or make your own almond butter to dip. One cup of almonds will yield around 16 grams of protein.
Probiotics supplement the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut and help improve your digestive, immune, and mental health. It’s essential to take in an adequate amount of these good bacteria each day.
Sauerkraut – Naturally, any fermented food you eat is going to have a certain amount of probiotics, since it is fermented with a particular type of bacteria that acts like a probiotic. In the case of sauerkraut, that is lactic acid. While sauerkraut is often combined with meat dishes, that is definitely not the only way to enjoy it. This sour and salty dish can be a side to just about any main dish you are consuming. It tastes great with different types of rice and grain, and of course with lots of veggies on your plate. Sauerkraut also contains other essential nutrients – it is loaded with fibre, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin B and even some antioxidants.
Kimchi – Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut in that it comes from cultured vegetables, but in this case, it is often napa cabbage, along with different types of seasonings. It tends to be a little spicier, using a lot of garlic, ginger, and scallions, among other seasonings.
Coconut Kefir – This is a fermentation process of coconut juice, which has the best dairy-free kefir option available to you. It contains less probiotics than regular milk kefir, but still includes some, plus all the added vitamins and minerals that coconut provides you, which includes magnesium and potassium, calcium, and fibre.
Tempeh – Tempeh is made from fermenting soybeans, which gives them more of an earthy, nutty flavour and is very popular in international cuisine, especially with foods that come from Indonesia. When soybeans are fermented into tempeh, they provide some fantastic nutrients, in addition to the natural probiotics,and excellent absorption of zinc and iron, as well as other minerals.
Kombucha – Kombucha has become popular in recent years as more individuals discover all the health benefits of drinking kombucha on a regular basis. Kombucha is a type of tea drink that has been fermented, usually either green tea or black tea. The fermentation process includes both yeast and bacteria, so provides many health benefits in addition to those plant-based probiotics you require.
Green Peas – Studies suggest green peas might also contain some natural probiotics when they go through the fermenting process. The Journal of Applied Microbiology did a study in which it was found that after being fermented, green peas contain the probiotic leuconostoc mesenteroides.
Easy Meal Ideas
When you want an easy, cheap and healthy warm meal, you really can’t go wrong with a bed of rice or grains topped with your favourite veggies, nuts, and seeds. Make it really simple with brown rice, topped with roasted butternut squash, chickpeas, carrots, and your favorite vegan sauce, or do a mix of rice and quinoa for even more fibre and protein, with any of your leftover mixed veggies and some black beans.
When you go plant-based, baked potatoes take on a whole new meaning; no longer are they the side dish to an animal protein source, but the main course! Just top it with anything and everything, like hummus and veggies, beans and lentils, even fried tofu! This is another easy meal that pretty much uses up all your leftovers.
Chilli is not only for meat, and is incredibly easy to do, especially when using a slow-cooker. Just throw in your choice of beans, vegetables, onions, garlic, and your favourite chili spices. Turn on the slow cooker and let it cook for as long as you want.