Though the name may conjure ideas of veganism and extreme dieting, the simple definition of plant-based living likely deviates from those concepts. Unlike fad diets and restrictive measures geared toward weight loss, plant-based living is more of a lifestyle which promotes a healthy relationship with produce and natural products.
Because it is relatively new to the mainstream culture, there is no one way to go about having a plant-based lifestyle. Understanding the origins, variations, and reasoning behind plant-based living might help you to decide if moving toward that lifestyle is right (and doable) for you.
Plant-oriented diets have existed for thousands of years in various cultures, but with the relatively recent rise in veganism as well as other dietary changes, plant-based living has become more popular. It is believed that plant-based lifestyles in other cultures and civilizations can be attributed to longevity and improved health. In some ways, a plant-based diet encourages returning to humanity’s roots, where meat was not a predominant feature of our diets and where things like fruit, nuts, and grains were primary staples.
The concept of veganism only surfaced in the mid 20th century, however, and the labels of “plant-based” and “whole food” are even more recent. Because of this, research and methods are still being conducted and explored, but the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle have so far proven significant, both from existing proprietors as well as the cultures that have maintained such diets for many years.
Though it may be assumed that plant-based living requires individuals to be completely vegetarian or vegan, that is not the case. Some variations like raw veganism demand strict restrictions, like only eating plant-based foods under a certain temperature. Others, like reducetarianism and pescetarianism, are less restrictive and allow for some consumption of meat and dairy products.
While many individuals who have adopted plant-based living advise making a complete transition in diet and lifestyle, there is significant leeway in the parameters of what constitutes plant-based living. Recognizing this and being willing to make adjustments is all it takes to become more conscious of dietary and lifestyle choices.
Because a plant-based lifestyle entails a lower intake of things like animal fats and processed carbohydrates, it has been documented that having a plant-based lifestyle lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among other life-altering conditions. Controlling sugar and cholesterol intake (and the sources these components come from) seems to be beneficial when managing or preventing diseases, chronic conditions, and negative emotional states.
Much of the justification for a plant-based lifestyle also stems from the relationship between the individual and the environment. From decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to encouraging a more responsible usage of resources like land and water, plant-based living has a significantly lower negative effect on the environment than the meat-based lifestyle many people still maintain.
Promoting a lifestyle that consists of more plant product consumption than meat could have a massive positive effect on the current state of existing resources as well as the atmosphere.
As mentioned before, plant-based living is not meant to solely change an individual’s dietary habits. Rather, the idea is to promote a healthier, more conscientious relationship with plant products, both in diet and in everyday life. Raw veganism, for example, is not feasible, financially or nutritionally, for every individual, but promoting a plant-based lifestyle by limiting consumption of processed food and meat products can help improve the health of one’s body and the environment.