Plant based diets
Did you know you can eat a plant based diets without going completely vegetarian. Some people call themselves “flexitarians” or “semi-vegetarians,” meaning that they occasionally eat meat, poultry, or fish. Or they may say they are “pescatarian,” which means they eat a plant-based diet plus fish. Unlike the terms vegetarian and vegan which are defined by what they exclude, a ‘plant-based’ diet is defined by what it includes.
A plant based diet certainly seems to have a lot of benefits and may be worth trying in some form. Eating more plants in the form of fruit, vegetables, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds and unrefined wholegrains can have a significant and positive impact on health.
Plant foods are packed with both insoluble and soluble fibre which support a healthy digestive system, and maintain regularity. They also contain prebiotics, non-digestible fibres that nourish the healthful ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are fermented by bacteria in the colon, and this fermentation process contributes to a healthy environment throughout the digestive tract.
A low fat, whole foods plant-based diet is the number one way to improve your chances of avoiding cancer risks as animal foods have been linked to cancer, especially colon and breast cancer. Plant foods provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which can help to protect our cells from damage that can lead to cancers, and consumption has been linked with protection against cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach and bowel.
A plant based diet can lower risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. It may be that a plant-based diet lowers diabetes risk by improving how our cells respond to insulin, and decreasing insulin resistance.
Research suggests that a plant food diet can lower blood pressure and decrease risk of heart disease. Beans, vegetables, oats and barley are rich in soluble fibre, which can help to lower blood cholesterol and fruit and vegetables are rich in cardio-protective antioxidants. The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds has been positively linked with heart health.
Meat and most all animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol, but people having a plant-based diet automatically have lower blood pressure due to a higher intake of potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps lower blood pressure that leads to stress and anxiety. Most all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6.
Leafy greens and colourful fruit and vegetables are packed with antioxidants that are vital for good eye health, and have been shown to reduce risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can actually lower rates of cholesterol and heart disease. Plants contain no cholesterol, even saturated sources like coconut and cacao. While you should balance your fat intake, a plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to lower cholesterol.
Plant based diets are associated with a lower BMI (body mass index) and a lower prevalence of obesity in both adults and children. Plant-based diets are low in energy density and high in complex carbohydrates, fibre and water, which may increase how full up we feel and resting rate at which we burn energy. By filling up on plants we are also naturally not going to need the amount of other more calorie dense and processed foods that we eat.
If you are encouraged by these points do try incorporating a plant based diet into your lifestyle, check first with your personal trainer or dietician to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need. You may need to look for foods fortified with vitamin B12 if you totally cut out animal products. You’ll also want to check on whether you’re getting enough iron, calcium, and zinc. Maybe start eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Depending on how far you want to take it, you can cut back on animal products, or cut them out. If you decide to swap dairy products for rice milk, nut milk, soy milk, or other plant-based alternatives, check the label to see how much calcium and vitamin D you’re getting.
Try to incorporate more plant based protein into your diet, as by cutting down on animal foods, you could lack adequate protein in your diet. Plants are source of protein, the best plant sources includes beans & legumes, nuts, seeds, and high-protein whole grains such as quinoa.
Make your vegetables the main event of the meal, by ensuring that at least half your plate is filled with vegetables, and for a full spectrum of nutrients, include a rainbow of colours in every meal. Enjoy!