The Benefits of a Plant Based Diet
There are many benefits of a plant based diet. This comes as no surprise as the number of people adopting this style of eating increases. After reading my previous article, about what a plant based diet is you may be interested in trying it out, or making more of a conscious effort to move this style of eating. In this article, I look at how a plant based diet helps nourish your body internally and helps the environment externally.
Increase in Vitamins, Mineral and Nutrients with a Plant Based Diet
It might sound obvious, but on a plant based diet you will of course be eating more veggies and fruit. And as we know, veggies and fruit naturally contain a lot of nutrients, as well as vitamins and minerals. Each different veggie or fruit contains their own dosage of nutrients so try and eat the rainbow! Tomatoes for example are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and potassium. And pineapple contains a digestive enzyme that reduces bloat by helping to break down your foods. Pineapple is also known to help with muscle fatigue because the fruit provides compounds that help fight pain and inflammation. As you increase your uptake of fruit and veggies, your body will be receiving more of these natural benefits. You can read more about different vegetables and fruit and their benefits in my top 20 whole foods article.
Improvement in Blood Lipid Levels
One of the proven benefits of a plant based diet is the improvement in your blood lipid levels. Blood lipids are found are your bloody and body tissues and are fat-like substances. In order for your body to work normally on a day to day basis, you need a small amount of these. To have healthy blood lipid levels you should have a high amount of good cholesterol (HLD) and low levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
In a study conducted by the American Journal of Cardiology, Americans moving from to a plant based diet from a normal American diet lowered their LDL (bad cholesterol) by 10-15%. Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone moving to a plant based diet will have a decreased LDL and therefore lower blood lipid levels, but it may help to reduce it.
Lowered Blood Pressure
Plant based diets can have a significant effect on lowered blood pressure studies have shown. This includes those dated back to the 1920’s – so this is nothing new. In a study conducted, those who ate a plant based diet had the lowest blood pressure compared to those eating meat, eating just fish, vegetarians and vegans. Also because you will naturally be eating foods rich in potassium and vitamin B6, blood pressure is likely to reduce. Eat foods rich in potassium and vitamin B6 like nuts (peanut butter counts too!), wholegrains and legumes.
Weight Loss on a Plant Based Diet
There is no guarantee you are going to lose weight on a plant based diet. Weight loss is based on calories in and calories out. But in very general terms, those on a plant based diet tend to eat fewer calories per day. The beauty of a plant based diet is that the foods you consume are often incredibly filling. They tend to have higher amounts of fibre for example which can be very satisfying. They also tend to be lower in calories. You can often get a higher volume of food for fewer calories which makes you feel very full on a plant based diet vs. a non-plant based diet. My advice on a plant based diet is to stick to foods with high amounts of fibre. Eating fibre in general also provides us with many benefits including keeping bowel movements regular and reducing constipation.
Reduced Sugar Cravings
I truly believe that if you reduce your intake of something like sugar, you’ll crave it less. If you have ever given up chocolate for lent, by Easter, you don’t even miss it. For me, when I stop eating sugar I kind of forget what it tastes like. There are of course also other tactics to help reduce your sugar intake rather than just going cold turkey. If you embark on a plant based diet, as mentioned above, you’ll be eating foods rich in fibre. This is said to help fight blood sugar and cravings because it slows down the absorption of sugar in the blood stream.
Similar to why vegetarians and vegans don’t eat animal products, a plant based diet is good for the environment. It’s good for the environment for a number of reasons including reducing our carbon footprint, saving animals and their habitats, conserving water (used to make dairy products such as milk) and reducing both pollution and waste in the air and land. It’s no wonder that many people have turned to vegetarianism/veganism and plant based diets after watching different documentaries on Netflix and seeing increased media interest which have been going into these issues in more depth.
Better Gut Health with a Plant Based Diet
If a diet contains lots of meat and other animal by-products, it has been said that it can increase inflammation in our bodies and disrupt the healthy part of our gut. When we eat a diet high in fibre (I know I have talked about fibre a lot – but seriously, it’s important!), and whole-foods like grains, legumes and nuts, we can improve the healthy bacteria in our guts. Gut health has had a lot of press lately and the main take out I have got is that a healthy happy gut = happy rest of body!
In conclusion, there are many benefits that come from choosing a plant based diet. Some benefits are physical and others mental, even environmental, but I would ask you to think about what benefits you are hoping to gain from a plant based diet before you embark on the journey. This will also help you to decide whether to go into a fully plant based diet, or whether to just start adopting new habits involving more whole-foods.