Sharon Palmer, RDN,

The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family

Crack into a Vegetarian Diet, Compliments of Pistachios

Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

It’s Vegetarian Awareness Month—the perfect time to give plant-based eating a try. After all, what do you have to lose, besides perhaps a few pounds and a few points off your blood cholesterol levels. Celebrate this food holiday by taking a plant-based challenge for one week or even one month. And let pistachios—a plant-based superstar—help you along the way.

If you give plant-based eating a spin, you certainly won’t be alone. It seems everywhere you turn people are reducing meat intake and putting plant proteins front and center on their plates. A recent survey found that 33% of consumers eat less meat than they did three years ago, citing health concerns as the primary motivational factor.1 When you add environmental and animal welfare benefits to the scenario, there is much to be gained by eating a more plant-centric diet.

Benefits Aplenty from Plants

Health Benefits - There are many health benefits linked with swapping meat for plant proteins (think Quinoa Kale Risotto with Pistachios instead of a pork chop and greasy fries), including lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and obesity.2 It’s easy to understand why: plant-based diets are higher in fiber, certain vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals (plant compounds with health protective properties); and lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol than meat-heavy diets.2
Green Benefits - Reducing your animal foods intake also can slash your carbon footprint, according to data from the Adventist Health Study 2, which found that vegans had a 42% lower carbon footprint than non-vegetarians, with vegetarians enjoying 28% lower, pescatarians 24% lower, and semi-vegetarians about 20% lower carbon footprint compared with non-vegetarians.3 You can reduce your water footprint, too. It takes a lot more water to produce animal foods per serving, than plant foods. It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef! Vegetarians—who rely on plant-based proteins more often—consume 36% less water on average than carnivores.4

Create a Healthy, Plant-Based Eating Pattern

Plant-based eating may seem like a new thing, but it’s actually been around since the dawn of time. Experts believe that our early ancestors’ diets consisted of large amounts of plant foods that were foraged, and then later on, cultivated. In fact, you can still see remnants of healthy plant-based diets in many regions, from Asia to Central America to the Middle East. That’s because the diet patterns in many countries still remain very similar to original patterns, which were typically based on pulses (beans, peas, lentils), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds—and small amounts of animal foods. Whether it’s lentils in India, pinto beans in Mexico, or pistachios in the Mediterranean, plant foods have always held an important place in the diets of people for centuries.

Interestingly, the recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans.5 also recommend eating a more plant-based diet, including eating patterns like the U.S. healthy eating pattern (similar to the DASH diet), a Mediterranean diet, or a vegetarian diet. What do these diets have in common? They all include a focus on more whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Plunge into Plant-Based Eating with Pistachios

So, go ahead and join the plant-based movement this month! It’s easy. All you have to do is replace meat at the center of your plate with plant proteins: beans, lentils, peas, nuts, and seeds. Pistachios are the perfect plant-based protein option to help you cut back on meat. A one-ounce serving provides you with 6 grams of protein (the same amount of protein found in 1 large egg), along with good amounts of heart-healthy fats, potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, thiamin, copper, and phytochemicals. Plus, each pistachio kernel packs its protein with fiber and health fats, providing a wonderful formula for satisfaction and weight control.

Check out my favorite tips to power your plate with plants, with the help of pistachios.

    •   Fuel your breakfast with plant-based protein by adding pistachios to oatmeal, spreading pistachio butter on whole grain breads, or sprinkling pistachios into muffins, pancakes, or waffles.
    •   Grab a handful of pistachios as the perfect plant protein-filled snack, providing a healthy source of protein, carbs, and fats all in one.
    •   For lunch, sprinkle pistachios over a veggie-rich salad for flavor, crunch and protein. Try out this Olive, Pistachio and Pomegranate Salad for inspiration.
    •   Pack up a nutritious lunch by filling whole grain pita bread with greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and pistachio hummus.
    •   Whether it’s for a post- or pre- workout or an afternoon snack, toss pistachios into a healthy smoothie for a dose of protein.
    •   Get creative with your dinner meal, thanks to pistachios. Toss them into pasta dishes, grain dishes, vegetable dishes, and beyond.
    •   You can satisfy your sweet tooth every once in awhile without the guilt, when you turn to pistachios. Stir a handful of pistachios into biscotti, cakes, and cookies to add a touch of flavor—and plant protein—to your day.

1. Truven Health Analytics. February 27, 2016. Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health Poll - Fewer Americans Eating Meat, Citing Health Concerns. Accessed July 26, 2017.
2. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets, J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. Accessed July 26, 2017.
3. Watson, Elaine. Environmental footprint of vegan and vegetarian diets 30% lower than non-vegetarian diets, say researchers. February 28, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2017.
4. Hoekstra A. The hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy. Animal Frontiers. 2012(2);2:3-8. Accessed July 26, 2017.
5. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Accessed July 26, 2017.