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Digging into plant-based eating and the Mediterranean diet

Last Modified: March 28, 2019

Nutrition & Recipes

Enjoy this conversation between Adam Gehring, RDN, CD, clinical dietitian, Parkview Health and Samuel Martinez, RDN, CD, clinical dietitian, Parkview Health.

According to Sam, plant-based or plant-forward eating means that 75 percent or so of your diet comes from plants, including legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables and beans. This doesn’t mean you’re vegan necessarily, although it does cover any style of eating that focuses on plants.

One popular plant-focused approach is the Mediterranean diet, which is consistently among the top diets in the world. Adam shares that the people who live around the Mediterranean Sea primarily eat fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, beans, lentils, peas and whole grains. They consume fish, poultry, cheese and yogurt in moderation, and rarely eat red meat, though these foods are not eliminated entirely.

To try this style of eating, consider filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, then a quarter with a healthy grain or carbohydrates, then the remaining quarter with lean protein. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages and treats.

Sugar is a common topic for all diets. According to Sam, you’re doing yourself a disservice by demonizing a specific ingredient. The truth is your body needs sugar. It should just be the right kind of sugar – found in fruits and vegetables – for the most part. Added sugars aren’t great for us, but by decreasing your red meat and alcohol intake, and increasing fruits and veggies and healthy carbohydrates, you can actually increase your life expectancy.

How so? Plant-based eating reduces mortality because it’s linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular incident or stroke. If you’ve had a serious health event, and change to a plant-forward approach to eating, that can reduce the risk of a second occurrence.

Plant-based eating can also:

  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Improve blood sugar control
  • Help people lose weight
  • Reduce the risk of developing cancer
  • Prevent cognitive decline and preserve memory
  • Help with bone density
  • Fight depression

These claims are evidence based, and supported by the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, World Health Organization, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and more. Because it doesn’t involve strict parameters, it’s realistic, achievable and delivers a big boost to your overall well-being.


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