“Quite a lot of our food supply is plant-based, but it tends to be highly processed and to have low-quality ingredients such as sugars or refined grains,” says senior author David R. Jacobs Jr., PhD.

“What we are proposing is very similar to the U.S. dietary guideline” and the Mediterranean diet, but importantly, it emphasizes “nutritionally rich” plant foods, says Jacobs, a professor of public health in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The group developed the APDQS score in 2007.

“Our findings support the shift towards plant-centered diet patterns,” Jacobs says, echoing the authors of the “Portfolio Diet.”

“When you go to the grocery store and get your grocery bag, 70% of it should be nutritionally rich plant food, like broccoli and frozen peas,” he advises.

“We really emphasize that it should not be a chore for people to eat this kind of diet; it should be the kind of diet that they would pick [for taste] and even for convenience.”

This way of eating does not focus on fat or carbohydrate intake, he notes.

Rather, “what we emphasize is the foods and putting those foods together to have a tasty and healthy meal — that’s our goal,” says Jacobs.

The top 20% group of the APDQS are those who made nutritionally rich plant foods a central part of their diet, but they also ate some animal-based foods such as non-fried poultry and low-fat dairy products, he says.

“If, generally speaking, you are eating a lot of nutritionally rich plant foods, and if they are the center of your plate rather than meat, you can have some of the refined products” and sugar and salt to taste, he says. But “there’s so much salt in everything that industry and restaurants prepare,” you need to be careful.

People should make nutritious plant foods a central part of their diet, adding small amounts of lean meats, fish, seafood, and dairy products from time to time, he says.

“We discourage people from eating added sugar, sweet foods, soft drinks, and high-fat meats, especially, processed meats (e.g., ham, sausage, salami, etc.),” Jacobs says.

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