Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: What exactly is a “plant-based diet”? I get confused about what people are specifically recommending when they talk about this?
A: In general, there’s a good chance when you hear the phrase “plant-based diet” it means that the majority of what you eat comes from plant foods – vegetables, fruits, grain products, beans, nuts and seeds. Some people or groups really mean a vegetarian diet (with no meat or poultry), or even a vegan diet (with no animal products at all). A predominantly plant-based diet – whether or not it’s vegetarian – is at the heart of nutrition recommendations to promote overall health and reduce cancer risk. This allows us to get plenty of the plant foods that supply dietary fiber and antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals, while more easily managing our weight as we fill up on foods that are not very concentrated in calories. If someone chooses to include meat, fish or dairy products, these foods play a supporting, rather than starring, role. Although highly processed foods like chips, crackers and pastries may technically be plant-based, these foods won’t provide the health benefits from whole and minimally processed foods and can lead to eating more calories than you need. So, choose a balanced, predominantly whole-foods, plant-based diet to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International..