Written by Mia Syn
Plant-based diets are the trend of 2016. The word diet often denotes extremity, guilt and restriction. However, a plant-based diet is more than subsisting solely on green leafy vegetables. It encompasses a diet focused on whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and is centered on whole, unrefined plant foods. Not only has this way of eating been linked to increased lifespan, it confers benefit to the environment as well.
Plant-based eating does not need to be taken to an extreme when it comes to reaping the benefits it can provide. Simply replacing one meal per week with more plants and less meat can make a remarkable difference on our health and the world around us. Here are five good reasons to transition to a plant-based diet.
1. Plants are rich in the good stuff and low or deficient in the bad stuff
Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that support our health. Fruits and vegetables are naturally devoid of saturated fat, which can be detrimental to our health in excess as well as trans fats, which provide no benefit to the body. Research suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure partially attributed to their naturally low sodium content. This protects against risk of heart disease and stroke. Of course, not all fat is “bad”. Plants boast healthy fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats from avocados and olive oil. These heart healthy fats help lower harmful cholesterol in the bloodstream and keep our arteries clean so that our hearts function optimally.
2. Our body recognizes these foods and knows how to break them down for energy
One of the most remarkable points of adopting a plant-based diet is ditching the bad stuff such as refined grains and packaged foods. We know that nutrients work in a synergistic manner that can be impossible to replicate in a laboratory setting. Therefore, whole foods that are unprocessed and unrefined are much easier on the body and healthier for us overall.
A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is shown to be associated with promoting health and preventing disease. Plant-based foods come from the earth and we have the enzymes and metabolic makeup to break them down efficiently and use them for energy and maintain our health.
3. It’s good for the environment
There is no denying the impact that meat production has had on greenhouse gas emissions and its potential impact on climate change. In fact, producing one pound of beef results in one of the highest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions of all foods produced and requires almost 2000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. It is considered one of the least efficient proteins to produce. Going meatless for even one day a week would make a remarkable difference on our environment. Additionally, plant-based foods cost less overall so you would be doing yourself a favor financially speaking as well.
4. It helps with weight management and regularity
Plant foods naturally boast fiber, which helps us feel full faster, balances blood sugar levels and acts as a natural weight management tool. When it comes to aiding digestion and regularity, insoluble fiber is a shining star. This nutrient helps food pass through the digestive tract quickly and seamlessly and can be found abundantly in foods like bulgur, broccoli, potatoes and lentils. Heart health and blood sugar regulation are both attributed to soluble fiber, which acts to lower cholesterol by blocking absorption, and forming a gel to slow digestion and induce satiation. Soluble fiber is high in avocados, flaxseeds and oatmeal.
5. Plants are linked to longevity
Meat products represent a major source of protein in the Western diet. Research suggests that lifestyle patterns that include lower meat intake and adopting a more plant-based diet is associated with decreased risk of numerous chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity as will as greater lifespan. For over a decade researchers have engaged in longevity research that has included identifying pockets around the world where people live measurable longer and lead happier lives. A commonality among zones is adopting a more plant-centric diet, and in some communities, including moderate amounts of meat, fish and dairy. These vibrant communities suggest that plant-based eating may be the key to a living a long and happy life.