Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q:  Should I become a vegetarian?

A:  Plant-based eating is a dietary lifestyle that focuses on consuming foods primarily derived from plants –like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Its skyrocketing popularity has to do with its numerous health benefits, for humans and the environment. Plant-based diets exclude or minimize the eating of animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Let’s dive right into this leafy topic!

Eating styles

There are different variations of plant-based eating, ranging from vegetarian to vegan diets. Vegetarian diets exclude meat but may include dairy and eggs, while vegan diets exclude all animal products. Some people also follow a “flexitarian” approach, primarily consuming plant-based foods but occasionally including small amounts of animal products.

Health benefits

Study after study confirms that plant-based eating may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Why? Because plant-based foods are generally low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories — and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Most plant-based diets are naturally low in salt and are a good fit for people with hypertension. Plant-based eating approaches can also be tailored for specific health concerns. For example, a low-carb version for diabetics includes healthy fruit choices that are naturally lower in sugar. But beware: some plant-based food items can also be highly processed and loaded with sugar, fat and sodium. You’ll find a lot of them in the snack food aisle!

Just start!

Ever tasted an Impossible Burger? Incorporating plant-based meals into your diet can be as simple as swapping animal products for plant-based alternatives, or trying new recipes with plant-based ingredients. Is your filled plate mostly brown and beige? Dietitians recommend you “eat the rainbow” on a daily basis to incorporate the many health benefits of colored vegetables and fruits.

The environment

Plant-based foods – such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, and lentils – generally use far less energy, land, and water, and have lower greenhouse gas intensities than animal-based foods. Climate change, water scarcity and dwindling natural resources have led many to reexamine their relationship with meat and dairy products.

The last word

When adopting a plant-based lifestyle, it is important to ensure that your nutritional needs are being met. Consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional can help ensure a balanced and nutritious plant-based diet, especially if you are battling a health condition.

There really are no drawbacks to eating a healthy, plant-based diet and limiting animal products.  Your doctor, the planet, and most likely your wallet, will thank you!

For a comfortable and worry-free retirement, plan for a long life. Not sure how to get started? Attend one of several monthly planning seminars at One Senior Place.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.