Learning About a Plant-Based Diet

People making lifestyle changes to improve their heart health may be encouraged to move toward a plant-based diet. It may sound like a huge change, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Feb. 9, 2023 5   min read

A person mixes a salad in a wooden bowl surrounded by various fresh vegetables

A plant-based diet is another way of referring to a vegan diet. People following a plant-based diet avoid eating animals and animal byproducts, meaning no meat or dairy.

While plant-based eating allows for a small number of processed foods such as Impossible™ ‘meats’, some people follow a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) – which leaves out all processed foods.

Cassie Wright, RD, CDE, is a registered dietician with Rochester Regional Health and explains what plant-based eating is, and shares how people can make small changes that make a difference over time.

Making the change

For people considering plant-based changes in their eating, it helps to be realistic about making those changes for their lifestyle. In short: a plant-based diet is not an all-or-nothing approach.

People can get a dose-related impact based on how frequently they are eating plants for food.

“It is true that the more plants a person eats, the better health outcome they will have. At the same time, research shows replacing even one meat-based meal a week with a plant-based meal can make a difference in a person’s overall health,” Wright said.

Switching to eating more plants helps a person’s heart in a number of ways, which include:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure
  • Lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Weight loss

“By eating more plants, a person can reduce inflammation – leading less arterial plaque buildup – and gradually lose weight, which can promote better health outcomes overall,” Wright said.

Common questions about plant-based eating

When people are starting a plant-based diet, some of the most common questions they ask about the process are:

How strict do I have to be?

This depends on what the person is comfortable with in their current lifestyle. Whether it’s eating one fully plant-based meal a week or cutting all animal products out of their diet, people should do what is good for their health but not to the point where their emotional health is suffering.

Will I get enough protein in my diet?

Yes. A person needs roughly 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram they weigh and there are many options to get the daily protein the body needs. These include nuts, nut butters, seeds, beans, tofu or tempeh, and grains.

If someone is seriously concerned about a lack of protein consumption, they can ask for a referral to a dietician who can help them manage their protein intake.

Will I need supplements?

People choosing to eat a whole food, plant-based diet do need to take supplements. A vitamin D and B12 supplement are usually recommended; patients should consult with their cardiologist or primary care provider about the proper dose.

For people who are eating plant-based meals, supplements are generally not needed.


With the growth of plant forward eating, there are an increasing number of options for plant-based food planning. In the Rochester region, the Rochester Area Vegan Society has a number of groups and planning options. Restaurants such as Kitchen Verde, The Red Fern, Sweet Pea Kitchen, and Effortlessly Healthy have all plant-based or nearly all plant-based food on their menus.

For those looking for recipes and shopping ideas online, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),, and Forks Over Knives are recommended as great sources of nutritious inspiration. Rochester Regional Health’s Lifestyle & Culinary Medicine offer a variety of cooking options and ideas, as well.

“If a person decides to try a plant-based diet, I remind them to be practical and be simple,” Wright said. “It does not have to be a hard change in order to be a successful change for their heart health.”

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