The Beginner's Guide to a Mostly Plant Based Diet
Beginner's Guide to a Mostly Plant Based Diet
Diet, diet, diet. The collective desire to look and feel good has created a diet industry whose annual take, by 2023, will be an estimated $278.95 billion.
As that marketplace continues to ramp up, information blows in like a snowstorm of competing claims and programs. The issue can seem hopelessly confusing, but it’s not. Our intuition tells us that eating an abundance of plant matter and a minimum of packaged processed foods is a path to vibrant health—a common-sense hunch supported by the medical literature. Just as you might suppose, the more closely your eating habits align with simple, whole, fresh foods, the closer you align with simple, whole, fresh health.
The mostly plant-based diet is a gentle but definitive turning in that direction.
Measurably boosting energy and mental focus while catalyzing weight loss is all about how cleanly you stoke your metabolic fire with fuel your body is designed to burn. Consuming plants is key to weight loss and and physical well-being.
This essay summarizes what you need to know about a mostly plant-based dietary lifestyle. The health benefits of this nutritional approach are undeniable and genuinely powerful—individually and otherwise—and we want to share our bounty. Below you’ll find a roadmap that even includes food recommendations and a sample meal plan.
What do We Mean by a Mostly Plant-Based Diet?
We’ve anticipated your first amused question. ”A Mostly Plant-Based (MPB) Diet? Are you KOS people trying to have it both ways?”
While there is no clear, glowing consensus on a “best practices” approach to defining a successful MPB diet, creating a lifestyle that comfortably includes a dietary abundance of plants is the beginning of a new life, and a new perspective.
The MPB diet occupies a whole spectrum of eating habits and behaviors that depend on the makeup of the individual who is pursuing healthy change or a modification of already-established healthy habits.
Having said that, the foundational elements of a Mostly Plant-Based diet are fairly straightforward.
- Processed foods are bad, whole foods are good. If it was texturized and laced with additives in a factory, don’t eat a lot of it. Example: a breaded chicken nugget shaped like a rocket ship.
- Animal products should be common-sensically dialed down, but not in a panic. The animals in today’s factory-farms are often rushed through the system and subject to illness, malnutrition and mistreatment. Look for pasture raised, grass-fed and other forms of higher standards when consuming meats.
- Vegetables, legumes, seeds, fruits and nuts should comprise the lion’s share (so to speak) of what you gobble.
- Sugar in its many forms, or foods with added sugars, processed oils and white flour are hard on your clockworks and better left alone.
- A focus on food sourcing is important—and gratifying. Look for regionally grown and produced food when you can. And remember, organic is best but not always available. Don’t freak out when the organic option isn’t there.
What we’re talking about is not to be confused with a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet. The MPB diet is a hybrid diet whose dynamic ratio of plant to non-plant consumption is yours to decide— and to calibrate as you go. But to be clear, the more you boost your plant intake the better.
Vegan diets abolish animal products completely—meaning buh-bye meat, dairy, poultry, honey, seafood, eggs...it’s pretty stringent and not for everybody. Vegetarians avoid all meat, though some variations of vegetarianism can include eggs, seafood or dairy.
The MPB diet however, or “flexitarian diet” as some call it, is more flexible by design. Why? Because perfect is the enemy of the good—and moving in the right direction in a personally sustainable manner is always better than standing still.
In a Nutshell
The Mostly Plant-Based diet wants you to succeed on terms you can manage, moving you incrementally toward a nutritional lifestyle heavy on whole plants and, by ratio, lighter on meats and animal products. Processed foods, however, are to be ditched.
Author Michael Pollan sums it up perfectly in these 8 words: Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.
Weight Loss, Fiber, and Plant Protein
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), nearly 40% percent of Americans are technically obese. When you add to this group all U.S. adults who are simply overweight as a measure of body mass index, we see that 69% of Americans fall into the category of being either overweight or obese. This doesn’t have to be the case.
The idea that “We are What We Eat” understates a basic fact of life; what you eat drives your reactive body, affecting everything from your weight to your systemic health to your mood. We’re living torches, walking around at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, burning what we take in—with varying degrees of metabolic success.
Ongoing studies and trials continue to definitively report that diets rich in plant fiber have a measurable effect on weight loss.
Apart from the fiber-related benefits of a mostly plant-based diet, a 16-week randomized clinical trial concluded that plant protein also has unique and specific metabolic benefits. The consumption of plant protein in a trial replacement of animal protein resulted conclusively in a decrease in fat mass in the overweight volunteer subjects.
But even the medical establishment stops short of fully recommending a one-size fits all vegetarian diets and lifestyles, and instead endorses a more holistic message about favoring a plant-based diet while dialing back meat and dairy.
There is no question, however, that dumping processed foods entirely is a key component of weight loss, and wellness generally. From refined carbs that come quickly apart in the digestive tract and spike blood sugar, to fiber-lite edibles that digest so easily your metabolic engine gets no workout at all, processed food is consumer edibles engineering and not “food” in the normal sense at all. Stripping processed food from the diet is the beginning of wisdom, and weight loss.
In a Nutshell
Plant-eating and weight loss are bound together by a couple of factors—fiber and protein. Plant fiber is metabolically combustible and has been shown to be a major component of weight loss. Plant protein, in a clinical trial setting, is of greater weight loss benefit than animal protein when the two are compared head to head. Processed foods have no place in the weight loss environment.
Your whole-foods, plant-based diet is going to make you look better on the outside, feel better on the inside, and knock down a bunch of chronic threats to your health. Here are a few of the proven benefits of a plant-centric diet.Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., and is a killer one can take simple steps to avoid. It’s now widely known that as one moves along the dietary spectrum, from more meat to less meat, and from fewer plants to more plants, cardiovascular health improves almost ridiculously. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, risk of stroke—these cardiovascular jackals are chased away by a robust diet based on plant-matter and light on the meat.
The Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine has reported that a plant-centric low fat diet can not only mitigate heart disease, it can reverse heart disease.
Plant-based protein reduces bio-acidity—preserving vascular health and oxygen transport, while the dietary fiber naturally found in plants sweeps the blood of heart-threatening gunk. A plant-centric diet works both preventive and healing wonders on the heart, on the vascular system, and on the “bad” LDL cholesterol whose sticky mission it is to plaster your arterial walls and constrict blood flow.Cancer
A plant-based diet has been shown to have broadly anti-cancer properties in general, and clinically promising anti-cancer indications in the particular [from such longstanding traditional medicine staples as Red Reishi Mushrooms, Ashwaghanda, and Beet Root, to name but three].
The phytochemicals in plants—compounds which give plants their vibrant color, scent and flavor—also protect their plant hosts from fungi, bacteria, and other predatory plant illnesses in the wild. When we consume these brightly-colored, phytochemically loaded plants, interesting things happen. Polyphenols, resveratrol, flavonoids; these plant-based chemicals fight cancer-related inflammations, restore apoptosis—normal cell death—in cells that might otherwise propagate uncontrollably, and battle free radicals.
Studies have also shown that IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1), a hormone linked to cancerous tumor growth, is massively lowered on a plant-centric diet. IGF-1 enters the system through eating an abundance of meat, egg white, and dairy protein, and is mitigated by a plant-centric diet.Cognitive Boost
Robust diets that lean into fruits and veggies have been shown to correlate with a mitigation of Alzheimer's disease in older adults, as well as cognitive decline generally.
Plant-based diets rich in polyphenols are shown to have a measurable positive neurocognitive effect. Polyphenols have been shown in studies to reduce neuro-inflammation, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress.
Leafy greens like spinach, collards, broccoli and kale are loaded with brain-nourishing vitamin K, beta carotene and folate—these plant compounds that have been shown in research to slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of late-onset dementia.Diabetes
Studies have shown that instances of type 2 diabetes are lower for those who follow plant-centric dietary patterns. People who follow plant-based statistically have lower body mass indices [BMI], and a lowered BMI helps protect against type 2 diabetes by controlling the glycemia associated with being overweight..
A study of some 61,000 individuals engaged in a spectrum of eating patterns showed conclusively that reduction in animal products in the diet and a like increase in plants in the diet dramatically lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Studies dating back to the 1950s were already reporting that a whole-foods, plant-centric dietary pattern that included whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts and vegetables provided protection against diabetes.
In a Nutshell
A plant-centric diet will reduce the risk of developing diabetes, largely through the glycemic control brought on by a lower body mass index, though other mechanisms are continually being studied.
Almost 50% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef accounts for less than 2% of the calories that are consumed throughout the world. And that’s just beef. The inefficiencies of animal-food production versus plant-food production have been documented in scores of scientific reports and articles by institutions that can’t be characterized as Tree Huggers.
By switching to a mostly plant-based diet you’ll be affecting two large changes: one will be a measurable difference in the way you feel, thanks to your new level of health and the energy that brings. The other will be the serious repair work you’ll be doing on the home—a quaint little rock called Earth.
Whether we’re talking “natural resources saved by dialing down meat intake” or “how the **** can I get my freaking metabolism to pick up the pace?”; your decision to make small, consistent moves in the right direction will cause real and lasting change. As long as you keep moving.
Believe it. Your eating habits (of all things) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the pouring away of the world’s limited fresh water, and the despoiling of our shrinking arable land. Environmental degradation is a complex horror with a childishly simple solution.
When an 8 oz steak takes around 1200 gallons of water to raise, it’s no small thing for you to eat one less 8 oz steak next month. That’s a very big thing..
Our habituated eating of meat is driving insane, starvation-spurring behavior all over the world. Greenhouse gases, ocean dead zones, the desertification of huge, overgrazed areas of land.
In a Nutshell
Plant-centric diets are probably more sustainable and resource-smart. Small but consistent change in one’s diet can literally turn a global—and individual dietary—problem around.
Foods to Eat (Your Revolutionary Shopping List)
- Fruits: You name it: and keep the colors vivid. Berries, citrus, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas, guava. Even those alien-looking things from exotic tropical locations. If it eats sun, you want it in your body.
- Vegetables: Cauliflower, carrots, kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, peppers...you get the idea.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spaghetti squash
- Whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, brown rice, rolled oats..
- Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, ground flaxseed, nut butters..
- Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans...
- Seeds and nuts: Macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews…
- Unsweetened plant-based milks: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk...
- Spices, herbs and seasonings: Basil, rosemary, turmeric, curry, black pepper, thyme...
- Minimally Processed Condiments: Salsa, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, mustard...
- Plant-based protein: Tofu, plant-based protein sources or powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients, tempeh..
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, sparkling water, matcha…
- Eggs: Free range whenever possible...
- Poultry: Free-range and organic..
- Beef and pork: Pastured and/or grass-fed whenever possible...
- Seafood: Wild-caught from sustainable fisheries when possible...
- Dairy: Organic dairy products from animals aised in a pasture whenever possible...
When garnishing your plant-based diet with meat products, remember—the fresher the better. Processing strips meat of nourishment at every step. And animals that have been raised in a free-range environment will have lived like actual animals; out-of-doors, partaking of sunlight and fresh air. What’s good for the goose is good for the goose-eater.
In a Nutshell
Your new emphasis is plants—vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes. Food-chain-wise, the closer your ingested matter to the incoming energy of the sun, the purer your energy hit. It is actually that simple. If meat is eaten, keep the portions mellow and unprocessed. Visit your local butcher for the first time. She’ll be very surprised and pleased to see you.
Foods to Avoid
The mostly plant-based diet is all about conscious eating. You want delicious “found” foods; edibles that are as unprocessed, and whole and natural as possible. This doesn’t mean eating granola in tie-dye. It means eating the real foods your body was actually designed through the eons to optimize.
Avoid at all costs (or acutely minimize)
- Fast food: Fries, burgers with the works, hot dogs (you don’t want to know), chicken nuggets, etc.
- Added sugars and sweets: Table sugar, soda pop, fake fruit juices, pastry, cookies, candy, sweet tea, sugary cereals, etc.
- Refined grains (this one can be tough): white pasta, white bread, bagels, white rice etc.
- Packaged and processed foods: Chips, crackers, cereal bars, frozen dinners, cheez whiz, etc.
- Processed vegan-friendly foods: non-dairy cheese, Plant-based “meats”, vegan butters, etc.
- Artificial sweeteners: Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Equal, Aspartame, etc.
- Processed animal products: Bacon, beef jerky, lunch meats, sausage, etc.
In a Nutshell
Your body isn’t processed; it’s an organic machine that emerged through natural processes. You want to feed it with foods that also fit that description.
Plant vs Powder
Nothing is better for your body than eating fresh whole-foods. But the modern proliferation of processed packaged foods didn’t come out of nowhere. The post-industrial social migration of people—from rural and agrarian to clustered and metropolitan—has prompted a necessary sacrifice of natural eating, to a kind of mechanized dietary expedience.
Though urban dwellers often have as much access to fresh whole foods as they can manage – how much can they manage? The city farmer’s market, a drive to the countryside, frequent trips to the locally-sourced grocery store—making an uptick to the quantity of whole foods in your daily diet can mean more frequent trips to the store to make these fresh bulk purchases. Eating properly on the modern schedule is a measure of one’s determination.
Fruit and vegetable powders are produced through an ordinary dehydration process that reduces the vitamin-laden natural foodstuff to its nutritional essence. The practice of food dehydration dates back to prehistory. The modern utility of powdered fruits and vegetables has long been recognized. The U.S. Armed Forces and NASA’s space program are two institutions that rely on powdered and reconstituted food in mission-critical settings. The United Nations is working with the private sector to devise powdered nourishment to help alleviate food shortages in the third-world.
Furthermore, there are niche vegetables and (yes) fungi whose remedial effects are a matter of longstanding historical record, and which you are unlikely to find in the produce section or even the farmer’s market. Some of these are native to distant geographies. To take but one example; Cordyceps is an entomopathogenic fungus that mitigates high cholesterol, boosts immunity and has respiratory benefits. Cordyceps in powder form is your instant access to a foodstuff with systemic benefits, and something you won’t find next to the grapefruit section. Less exotic fruits and veggies in powder form offer nutritional convenience that counters the difficulty of maintaining a mostly plant diet.
In a Nutshell
A powdered apple is not a substitute for an actual apple – until you need it to be. And then it is exactly that.
Sample Meal Plan
A mostly plant-based diet lets you partake of the sun’s raw energy where it makes landfall: in the plant kingdom. This is simple biology. Some of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth were strict vegetarians. Unlike the Brontosaurus, you won’t need to graze from the treetops to get the nourishment you need.
Here is a week-long menu designed to introduce you to your new personal epoch of nutritional fitness. It won’t be difficult; quite the contrary. Your fresh approach to fuel will add to your metabolic engine a dose of plant-based octane you can actually feel.
- Breakfast: KOS chia and chocolate protein smoothie bowl.
- Lunch: Cucumber avocado sushi rolls and brown rice.
- Dinner: Teriyaki stir-fry veggie bowl with quinoa.
- Breakfast: Almond butter and KOS vanilla protein overnight oats topped with crushed almonds and banana slices.
- Lunch: Cut vegetables, olives and pita chips with KOS beetroot hummus.
- Dinner: Lettuce wrapped bean burgers and baked sweet potato fries.
- Breakfast: Plain greek yogurt topped with sliced strawberries, crushed almonds and shredded coconut.
- Lunch: KOS acai bowl.
- Dinner: Pesto zucchini noodles with roasted brussel sprouts and butternut squash.
- Breakfast: Tropical smoothie with spinach, frozen tropical fruit and berries, plain greek yogurt, almond milk and ice.
- Lunch: Large greek salad with tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Grilled salmon, quinoa and green beans.
- Breakfast: Veggie omelet with KOS protein shake.
- Lunch: Ahi poke bowl.
- Dinner: Vegetarian lasagna and green salad.
- Breakfast: KOS vanilla protein pancakes.
- Lunch: Tomato, lettuce, avocado sandwich with cucumbers and dill yogurt.
- Dinner: Baked red garnet yams loaded with grilled vegetables and avocado topped with monterey jack cheese and sour cream.
- Breakfast: Sunflower butter over whole grain toast. Top with sliced bananas and chia seeds.
- Lunch: Turkey avocado spinach wrap with sliced apple.
- Dinner: KOS Roasted Cauliflower Soup and side salad.
A mostly plant-based diet makes a few simple demands, and offers in return riches of energy and physical wholeness that will inform and color the rest of your metabolic life. Fruits, vegetables and a smattering of naturally grown meats—these are the foods your machinery evolved to process. Stoking that fire is what this is all about.
Summary | Getting Started
A mostly plant-based diet is not a regime, not a discipline, not a fitness plan, and not an empty promise. It is centered on that most elemental, necessary, and delightful of human practices— a little something we call eating. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Done properly and consistently and habitually, this is the eating that aligns with who and what you are on this Earth—an energized animal partaking wholly of the natural milieu that built you.
Mostly Plant-based diets have been studied relentlessly by actual scientists—the kind who work in labs and write peer-reviewed papers on their findings. They report that these foods, eaten with regularity, do wondrous things, correlating to reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and a host of other disorders linked to a synthetic, heavily processed diet.
A mostly plant-based diet isn’t magic. It’s cellular mechanics.