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Fads in food come and go. We are constantly targeted to and influenced by brands telling us what to eat, what not to eat and how much of it to eat. It is all rather overwhelming, and it seems that many trends age as quickly as your freshly-bought avocado. But one health trend that is by no means new but has caught on in recent years and has proven its staying power, is a nutrient-rich diet that stems from eating a plant-based diet; one that boasts color and variety by the bunch.
The term plant-based is in itself more approachable than ‘vegan’ implying that you’re not cutting too much out, but rather adding a lot in.
The term plant-based means food and beverages that consist of absolutely no animal products and are derived from plants, which includes vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds. Think: pea protein shakes, cashew milk and beet burgers. The term plant-based is in itself more approachable than ‘vegan’ implying that you’re not cutting too much out, but rather adding a lot in. Plant-based provides numerous positive health benefits, includes tasty meat substitutions and has important environmental impacts to reduce the immense carbon output that industrial farming contributes to.
For these reasons, it becomes clear why the benefits of eating a plant-based diet grew by 20 percent in one year from 2018 to 2019 and reached $3.3 billion according to this study. And with chef-made meals that can now be delivered to your doorstep, opting for plant-forward foods that take less time to prep is becoming a favored option for many who are too busy to cook themselves. These innovative plant-based recipes have even taken the road down gourmet, with celebrity chefs like Matthew Kenney building their own vegan empire’s in the fine-dining space.
Taking an intentional approach to the benefits of eating a plant-based diet is the idea behind eating more fruits and veggies that resemble the rays of the rainbow. So, whether you are integrating more sustainably-sourced animal products into your life, like this Italian curemaster’s ethically-made prosciutto, sipping on organically-sourced grapes for a healthier glass of wine or adding a fresh-pressed juice into your everyday routine, there is always space for more mindful consumption. Here we chat with a few experts about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how you can build better habits in the kitchen for a more colorful—and nutrient-rich—lifestyle.
CONSIDER EATING PLANT-BASED
To get a deeper understanding of what it means to enjoy the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, we spoke with Doctor Susan Wilder, a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner who focuses on full-spectrum Family Medicine. Known as the “Medicinal Maverick” she is also the CEO of the Scottsdale, Arizona family practice Lifescape Premier and is considered to be one of the top 21 Doctors in Concierge Medicine.
Lifescape offers such dynamic services as nutritional testing to functional medicine assessments and personal nutritional counseling through concierge services designed for patients of all ages. When it comes to Dr. Wilder’s recommendations about making any dramatic dietary changes or food group eliminations, you should pursue medical guidance with close monitoring for nutrient deficiencies. Lifescape’s Functional Nutritionist, for example, monitors a patients response after introducing a change in diet while helping them understand how they can replace key nutrients with alternatives to achieve an optimal dietary balance long-term. After attending Harvard’s Culinary Medicine Course in Napa Valley in 2019, Dr. Wilder further emphasized the benefits of eating a plant-based diet of helping patients shift towards a plant-based Mediterranean diet. Since then she has seen many health transformations in her patients including one who reversed Lupus after switching to veganism.
Ken Rubin of Rouxbe
ICONIC LIFE also chatted with Ken Rubin, a chef, educator and the Chief Culinary Officer at Rouxbe, an online culinary school formed by world-class chefs and former culinary school executives. It is meant for everyday home cooks who don’t have time to curate their own diet and nutritional content or those who don’t have time to go to a professional cooking school to improve their culinary skills. Rubin’s passion for food has led him into the industry with full-fledged enthusiasm, bringing him close to all things edible; this includes where food comes from and why people eat the different foods that they do.
He examines the complexities of food choice, preference and behaviors, which helps him develop tools for Rouxbe’s audience to support their journey to more balanced nutrition. The brand works with a wellness advisory board and American College of Lifestyle Medicine to understand the efficacy around the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. As there are thousands of foodie websites and health information out there, Rouxbe wanted to go beyond just being a place to broadcast content, but to create rich, meaningful content that helps you track your health goals, gain more discipline around nutrition and obtain data to help you move the needle on your progress. Really, they want everyone to feel like they can get in the kitchen, enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based diet and cook for themselves. Rubin reminds us that it will surely be a messy, unpredictable and imperfect journey, but the point is to create despite all of that.
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Really, they want everyone to feel like they can get in the kitchen, enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based diet and cook for themselves.
Their clients have experienced weight loss, management of disease and overall vitality after learning to cook more plant-based. “Eating more foods made from plants and fewer foods from animals has significant environmental advantages as well,” Rubin notes. The BBC has reported that plant-based diets can help fight climate change by limiting our dependency on livestock for food that contributes to global warming through the methane gasses that animals produce as well as deforestation due to expanding pastures. So, consider opting for cashew or oat milk next time you order a latte and skip the cow patty on burger night, making chickpea and veggie patties instead. With Rouxbe, there is a sense of dynamism brought to the dining experience so that you can confidently make these decisions and help you make changes at home—and in the world.
Although their nutritional specialties are different, Dr. Wilder and Rubins’ messages are both clear: not one diet is right for everyone, but there are significant benefits to eating a plant-based diet. At Lifescape, dietary guidance is a collaborative effort between doctors, nutritionists and their patients, which is based on the whole constellation of their concerns, their risk factors and intolerances. For Dr. Wilder, a more plant-based lifestyle was the direction best suited for her, so, she consumes organic fresh produce along with eliminating gluten grains, soda and juice and reducing her alcohol intake.
Consider taking a local cooking class, preparing food with a friend who is a veggie-addict or heading online to find recipes made from plants of every color that will have you craving for yourself.
Since adopting these lifestyle changes, she has looked closely at her telomeres, which are a marker of aging at the genetic level, that have shown that she is actually taking years off of her life. You can find Dr. Wilder at the Scottsdale Farmer’s Market or the Singh organic farm sourcing her own farm-to-table goodies that are keeping her young. For Rubin, tuning into the resources around you for inspiration to create your own wellness at-home is the key to building empowerment behind a shift in diet. Consider taking a local cooking class, preparing food with a friend who is a veggie-addict or heading online to find inspiration through colorful plant-based recipes.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Ripe strawberries, fresh pineapple and crisp carrots are some of our favorite colorful veggies and fruits that adorn our plates on the daily. Not only does a more vibrant platter look more appealing, but the numerous benefits of eating a diverse array of plant-based foods from the garden means more wellness on the whole. “Phytonutrients are the nutrients we naturally get from fruits and vegetables that are essential to our microbiome, which is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract,” Dr. Wilder shares. “Plant-based foods provide the optimal combination of phytonutrients and supportive fiber, to support a healthy microbiome.” This means the improved health of our immune responses, hormone balance, toxin clearance, and brain chemistry are more in balance from eating more plant-based.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an ‘effective strategy’ for reducing cancer and heart disease risks. And supplements that are intended to help with antioxidants and phytonutrients simply can’t match the benefits of eating the rainbow, Dr. Wilder remarks. Rubin amplifies the importance of finding foods that work for you and with you by saying “there is not one way of eating that works for all, but it is fair to say that we can all benefit from eating a plant-based diet and less processed foods and adding in more veggies, grains and fruits.”
There exists an incredible diversity and bounty that can be uncovered in these foods if you just explore a bit or show some curiosity about the uniqueness of food. Be open to the unexpected and delightful flavors, colors and textures that foods can hold.” His enthusiasm for the plant-based diet food trend stems from a place of witnessing change firsthand in his clients. People have made dramatic changes to their health after learning to cook more plant-based meals, so, not only becoming more independent and confident in the kitchen but providing you with improved energy and in some cases helping with managing a disease.
BUILD BETTER EATING HABITS
At Rouxbe, Rubin explains that in order to attract and encourage more conscientious eating and enjoy the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, they provide students with a purpose and a path around food. “We help give them something to look forward to, something that gives them the recognition of moving forward, even of the smallest things,” remarks Rubin. He notes that any lifestyle shift will typically begin small, so, start with a few achievable things you can do each week to make them routine. “It might be adding an amazing veggie chili to the menu for the family each week or a breakfast bowl with grains and seeds or a post-workout fruit smoothie. Think about the foods you crave and look for a dish that satisfies that need with natural ingredients added in,” Rubin recommends.
Rouxbe provides a free digital download of their plant-based eating guide, including five tips to get started on integrating more plants into your diet, nutrient info to ensure your body is getting what it needs daily and ideas for simple snacking. Other excellent and engaging places for content is nonother than Instagram. There is a wave of plant-based chefs using their social media platforms to make veggie trends look better than your moms cookbook. Gaz Oakley, a young chef, author and Youtuber from Wales, creates meat-alternative recipes, including this Vietnamese vegan burger, which can all be replicated at home from his cookbook or by watching him prep the dishes firsthand on his Instagram TV. His recipes and cookbooks are filled with pages vegan dishes that look familiar to meat-based dishes and are decadently adorned and splashed with color.
Elsa's Wholesome Life
Ellie Bullen is another vegan and plant-based blogger bringing visually-stunning homemade smoothies, desserts and entrees to the table. Her integration of global flavors reminds her audience that eating more vegetables can be a chance to travel without leaving the table. And her how-to videos of food prep and kitchen practices show you how to make masterful meals on your own
Whether it’s veggies and fruits from the field, the farm, your garden or your local grocer’s—adding in more plant-based foods is one of the healthiest choices to commit to. Happy tasting!
FULL-SPECTRUM FOODS OF EVERY COLOR
RED: Radishes, strawberries, beets, goji berries, tomatoes, cranberries, red bell peppers, apples, passionfruit
ORANGE: Pumpkin, yams, carrots, oranges, mangoes, apricots, persimmon, peaches, butternut squash, cantaloupe
YELLOW: Sweet corn, bananas, lemons, pineapple, yellow bell peppers, yellow onion, star fruit, squash blossom
GREEN: Cucumbers, spinach, arugula, green bell peppers, green beans, basil, thyme, cilantro, oregano, broccoli, green apples, avocado
BLUE/PURPLE: Blueberries, grapes, acai berries, elderberries, blue carrots, spirulina powder, blue corn, eggplant, plums, dragon fruit
Where to get your health benefits from a plant-based diet
This fast-casual and made from scratch menu is a health-forward option for those looking to have a quick lunch date during a busy workday. Their customizable and vibrantly-colored bowls, salads and wraps are a nod to international cuisine, are all made to order and cater to a variety of consumers with different dietary needs. Check out their Mother Earth bowl fixed with ancient grains, Portobello mushrooms, pistachio pesto all topped with hemp seeds and a red pepper miso vinaigrette. And at such a reasonable price point, their dishes have to be tasted to be believed because those memorable flavors can be credited to the local ingredients, they fill their plates with. You can find your very own Flower Child among their 25 restaurants nationwide, from California to Maryland.
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This is the spot for a build-your-own salad bar with nothing but delicious greens, berries, nuts and grains. A protein of choice is typically added, but if you are aiming for a meat-free meal, then opt instead for a kick of grains, like quinoa, or a sliced avocado for the better-for-you fats your body craves. Consider the Siam I Am salad made with organic tofu, edamame, kale, spinach and a savory ginger soy dressing. An added perk is that you can pre-order online and pick-up in store for a fresh meal enjoyed at home or at the office. You can find MAD Greens locations across Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
For traditional Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles, head to the purveyors of the culinary craft at Gracias Madre. An all-vegan menu is served up in a chic setting ideal for a celebratory brunch. Chef Alan Sanz hails from Mexico City and brought with him an authentic flare for the country’s finest foods while infusing the menu with seasonal and sustainable produce. Unexpected plant-based dishes include a fresh citrus coconut ceviche, tacos al pastor made with oyster mushrooms and cinnamon pineapple and a killer cocktail menu using handcrafted tequila and mezcal. Their modernly-appointed, chic-meets-hipster aesthetic is ideal for hosting a meat-free event at their two with locations in Newport Beach and West Hollywood.