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What Is Plant-Based Diet & YES and NO Foods List [ Updated ]

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This article is professionally reviewed on April 6, 2020 by:

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What is a plant-based diet?

Which foods are suitable?

What foods to avoid?


Fruits and vegetables are our main food sources of minerals and vitamins. They supply us with essential nutrients, which keep our body and mind healthy and well-functioning. As a result, those plant foods are key for our wellbeing and efficient physical and psychological performance.

For that reason, the plant-based diet has become a popular topic of conversation: What is it, and what are the Yes and No foods for this specific eating regime?

This article will give you the answer!

Let’s get started!

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet does not focus only on fruits and vegetables, but also on nuts, seeds, grains, oils, and other plants.

However, contrary to common beliefs that plant-based diet excludes meat, seafood, and dairy, it actually can include small amounts of those foods in order to achieve balance in micro and macronutrients only present in animal-based products.

In fact, according to Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, this diet offers us optimal health benefits when we consume high-quality plant foods and simultaneously reduce the intake of animal products without completely eliminating them from the diet. 

However, if you want to, you could always include plant-based proteins exclusively! It’s up to you!

Keep in mind that red meat should not become a frequent ingredient for this diet. Even though it contains irreplaceable nutrients (like heme iron and B12), its high levels of saturated fats, increase the risk of arteries buildup, high LDL cholesterol, heart diseases, and bowel cancer. In that sense, processed meat products like ham and sausages should be limited. [1]

The perfect plant-based meal consists of 35% vegetables (the major portion of the meal), 25% whole grains (they ensure sufficient fiber supply), 25% protein (in the best case legumes, poultry, or seafood), and 15% fruits (they contain high sugar levels, that is why their consumption should be balanced). [2]

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Which foods are suitable?

Below you will find a list of plant foods, which are affordable and very accessible:

  • Vegetables

After all, it’s a “Plant-based” diet! And vegetables are a big part of it! They are low in fat, carbs, and calories, supply you with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and are great for keeping your digestive system healthy.

Some of the popular and budget-friendly vegetables used in the plant-based diet are broccoli, cauliflower, green leafy veggies, potatoes (also sweet ones), carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, chilies.

But of course, there are many other veggies that will make your choice bigger!

  • Fruits

As we mentioned, fruits should be 15% of the portion because of their fructose (sugar) content. But similarly to vegetables, those foods naturally supply us with key nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, potassium, etc. [3] Just keep in mind to eat them “as they are” or blend them in a smoothie, meaning, not to make juice out of them, as they lose the majority of their fiber content, which increases the sugar concentration. [4]

Delicious and affordable fruits to include in your plant-based regime are berries, citrus fruits, avocado, apples, watermelon, bananas, mangos, grapes, pears, peaches, apricots, papaya, cherries… But the choice is huge!

Find out more: 6 Budget Friendly Superfruits [ Research Based ]

  • Legumes

Legumes are not only delicious, but also low in fat, high in fiber, prebiotics, and protein, and packed with nutrients like B group vitamins, copper, magnesium, fiber, zinc, and phosphorus, which offer us many health benefits. [5]

Including them in your plant-based diet will help you with weight management, balancing your blood pressure, improving your gut microbiota, and controlling your blood sugar levels. [6]

Legumes include beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, and variations of those foods.

  • Whole grains

Those foods are excellent for supplying our bodies with fiber, vitamin E, copper, magnesium, vitamin B, and phytochemicals. And despite their “bad carb” fame, wholegrains are an important part of every balanced diet! Especially a plant-based one! [7]

They include oats, rice, quinoa, wheat, amaranth, barley, bulgur, corn, and more. You can also buy wholegrain crackers, granola, and healthy snacks! (Just pay attention to the ingredients label.)

  • Nuts

Nuts are awesome and healthy snacks when you start eating plant-based. They are rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which give us energy, balance cholesterol, and are beneficial for skin health! [8]

There are many different types of nuts, but some of the most popular are hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia, pistachio, and cashew.

  • Seeds and spices

Seeds are high in plant-based protein, while spices don’t only make food taste better, but have antioxidant properties! [9]

So feel free to include chia, sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds in your meals, as well as black pepper, curry, oregano, basil, cloves, cardamom, thyme, etc.

  • Protein

Animal protein is important when it comes to supplying your body with the highest-quality protein, highly-absorbing iron (heme iron), B12, and amino acids that can’t be internally produced. [10]

In that sense, poultry, fish, and seafood are the best options for the animal-based intake of heme iron and B12 (fish also contains omega 3 and 6).

Dairy foods and red meat, however, should be eaten in moderation due to their high saturated fat content.

Plant-based proteins serve as great substitutions for animal-based proteins. It is essential to consume proteins with every meal and to make sure your plate remains balanced. Non-heme iron from plant sources is not as bioavailable as heme-sources. This means that plant-based iron sources are often not as well absorbed. That being said, it is still possible to get the iron you need from the diet if you plan your meals adequately and consume vitamin-C containing foods with iron food sources, in order to increase its absorption.

What foods to avoid?

The types of foods to avoid are mainly processed alimentary products or foods with high sugar and saturated/trans fat content.  The regular consumption of such foods triggers high blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol, and many derivative health conditions. [11] Some of them are:

  • Chips
  • Sweets
  • Sweetened yogurts
  • Flavored popcorn
  • Pastries
  • Cakes
  • Pudding
  • Others


The plant-based diet is an eating regime that provides us with a great balance of micro and macronutrients. It has been associated with decreased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, decreased cholesterol, and overall mortality rates.

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