Plant-based diets are quickly becoming more and more popular, with millions of people cutting out animal-derived products from their lives in order to take advantage of the many plant-based diet health benefits.
Recent reports explain that the recent increase in awareness of how processed meats are made, as well as the potential adverse effects that certain meat products might have for the human body, has somewhat contributed to the increasing popularity of millions now turning toward a plant-based diet plan.
There are numerous reasons for people to turn to a plant-based diet. Some follow a plant-based diet to help them lose weight faster. However, others want to reduce their risk of heart disease or perhaps improve the stability of their blood sugar levels.
The first step to benefiting from a plant-based diet is to understand what it entails. It is important to learn about not only the benefits but also the potential risks. This, in turn, helps a person make a decision that will consider their well-being. This post looks at what a plant-based diet is, and we share a useful seven-day eating plan.
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
There is still some confusion as to what exactly a plant-based diet is.
With similar diets like veganism and vegetarianism being very popular, many people are not sure how a plant-based diet would defer from such a diet or exactly the same thing.
Forks Over Knives explains that the idea of a plant-based diet is to follow a diet that includes unrefined, whole foods.
In some cases, minimally refined foods might be acceptable. The entire diet revolves around, including food that comes from plant sources in one’s diet. These foods may include:
- Whole grains
While the diet usually excludes all other food types, some people still tend to include a minimal amount of fish and chicken, as well as eggs and dairy products in their diet.
However, highly refined foods, such as oil, refined sugar, and bleached flour, are all completely “no-no’s” when following a plant-based diet.
Remember that this particular type of diet’s goal is to benefit from the health effects it has on the human body; thus, any foods that may be harmful to the human body should be cut entirely out of a person’s diet if possible.
What Does Current Research Say?
Several studies have been conducted to determine how a plant-based diet would interact with the body.
Numerous positive effects are associated with a plant-based diet. To provide more depth on this subject, we should look at a few of these studies.
- One study showed that increased consumption of nuts, fruits, oils, vegetables, and whole grains might significantly reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors.
- Some studies show that a plant-based diet might be a useful option for improving fertility in both men and women. Fertility parameters seem to improve significantly among those individuals who follow a plant-based diet.
- Scientific evidence shows that a plant-based diet is an effective prevention option against type 2 diabetes. Among those diagnosed with the disease, improvements in symptoms and current severity of the disease have been observed too.
What Are The Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based foods contain a wide range of nutrients and chemicals that play important roles in the body. Apart from reducing the risk of malnutrition, these diets also fight against free radicals.
It is, however, important to understand the specific benefits. This helps a person understand whether switching to a plant-based diet might be an appropriate option for them.
Current research suggests that a switch to a plant-based diet can be great for people with cardiovascular problems. There is also evidence related to the benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes. We take a closer look at the specific benefits associated with the diet below.
Regulating Blood Pressure
Research has shown that many people who live on a plant-based diet automatically have lower blood pressure. This is due to the regular or high intake of potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps in managing blood pressure that causes anxiety and stress.
Some of the foods that high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6 include all whole grains, legumes, seeds, as well as all vegetables and fruits. However, it is also important to understand that meat and other animal foods contain little amounts or no potassium, and therefore they raise your blood pressure.
Balanced Blood Sugars
The most effective way to manage high blood sugar is by feeding on fiber. This is because fiber helps in slowing down the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream, and therefore it can influence how hungry you are throughout the day.
Besides, eating more fiber balances your cortisol levels that lead to stress. On the other hand, studies have shown that animal foods usually raise blood sugar despite the myths that it helps in fighting it.
Reduces the Cholesterol Levels
Lowering cholesterol is one of the leading Plant-based diet benefits that you will enjoy for adopting these foods. This is because no plants, including saturated sources like cacao and coconut, contain cholesterol.
Therefore, a plant-based diet offers the most straightforward way of balancing your fat intake because it is essential to your health regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not.
Plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains help in lowering the cholesterol levels and the risks of heart disease. On the other hand, animal foods are known to raise the rates of cholesterol. For instance, an egg contains twice the amount of cholesterol in a fast-food hamburger, while fish has the same or even more cholesterol than poultry or meat.
Taking plant-based diets, especially the one that is low processed sugars and in fats provides a natural way to lose weight. Besides, feeding on food high in raw, whole grains may help in boosting your chances of losing weight and much more. However, cooked foods are also important as they may help in enhancing nutrient absorption.
The process of losing weight naturally occurs when you take more vitamins, minerals, and fibers than what you consume from animal proteins and fats. According to Kathy Freston, a vegan expert, a plant-based diet helps people to lose five pounds within feeling deprived within two weeks.
Besides, taking this diet ensures less inflammation, sleep, and constipation problems and reduces the risk of suffering from diabetes, according to Dr. Neal Barnard from the Committee for Responsible Medicine. Finally, it is important to ensure that you eat clean, whole foods if you choose to adopt a plant-based diet to optimize all the health benefits.
Reduces Rates of Cancer
The best way to lower the risks of suffering from cancer is by taking a whole food plant-based diet that is low in fat as well as avoiding alcohol and smoking. On the other hand, some studies have linked animal foods to cancer, especially breast cancer and colon.
Rich In Essential Nutrients
Many people think that a vegan or plant-based diet will restrict a person’s nutrient intake, but the opposite is quite true. Plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, are actually amongst the highest recommended food to consume on a daily basis. These foods are rich in essential nutrients that can offer a wide variety of benefits to the human body.
PETA explains that many plant-based foods offer the human body high-quality omega-3 fatty acids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties and benefit many parts of the human body.
They also explain that vitamin B12 can be found in many food sources apart from meats, such as fortified nutritional yeasts, as well as in rice milk and fortified soy. Many plant-based foods are also high in calcium, vitamin D, iron, and many other important nutrients.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Plant-Based Diet?
While many benefits can be obtained from a plant-based diet, there are also some concerns among individuals considering making the switch. These concerns should be considered by a person who wishes to turn to a plant-based diet in order to take advantage of the benefits that could gain from this particular diet choice.
UC Davis Integrative Medicine explains that a primary concern is often the fact that quite a lot of reports claim that plants do not contain proteins that are considered “complete,” but this has been deemed a myth. Research has proven that plant foods contain all nine amino acids that are considered essential for protein production.
Some people also tend to think that a plant-based diet may be more expensive than their current diet. Still, the truth is, when you do some “smart shopping,” you will notice that many items that can be included in a plant-based diet eventually works out less than meats and other foods included in a diet that does not only focus on plant-based foods.
Food List: What To Eat, Limit, And Avoid
Most people find it hard to decide on what to eat and what not to eat when turning to a plant-based diet. The following are some of the tips on what to include and what to avoid when getting into this diet.
• Eliminate Animal-Based Foods
A 100-gram beef portion offers an estimated 27 grams of protein. While this is a high amount of an essential nutrient, some studies have linked meat consumption to health ailments.
• Embrace Whole Plants
When it comes to whole foods, eat all you want while including a variety of such foods and unrefined plant-based food.
In one review paper, researchers explain that multiply prevalence studies of cancer have looked at meat consumption. Red meat, including veal, pork, lamb, and beef, might increase colorectal cancer risk.
Another study found a higher incidence of certain diseases among populations where red meat, as well as processed meat products, are consumed more frequently. In this study, the prevalence of coronary heart disease was higher among red meat-eaters. A lower intake of red meat also seemed to reduce the prevalence of diabetes, and there was lower cancer mortality noted.
• Avoid All Diary
Eliminate all dairy as it is not necessary for bone health, contrary to what most people believe and is also linked to diabetes, prostate and breast cancers, and autoimmune diseases. Besides, dairy proteins promote the growth of hormones that increase tumor growth. Are you worried about getting calcium? Well, you can get enough calcium for strong bones without including dairy in your diet.
• Eliminate Processed and Refined Foods
Refined foods are linked to diseases, while processed foods lack their original fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Moreover, processed foods convert to blood sugar, which increases the risks of colon cancer, insulin resistance, vascular disease, and weight gain.
• Avoid Eliminate Oil
Contrary to most people’s belief, all oils are not as healthy as even the finest oil contains 100% fat, nutrient deficient, and calorically dense. Therefore, just like animal fats, oils increase the risks of vascular diseases and are dangerous for heart disease.
• Include Water
The other essential component that you should include in the plant-based diet is water. Water helps in the transportation of oxygen, nutrients, and electrolytes throughout the body. Therefore, it should form the basis of any balanced diet to ensure that you take advantage of all the plant-based diet benefits.
A 7-Day Sample Menu For A Standard Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet is less limiting than some people realize. When it comes to following this diet, the first step should be to explore current eating habits. This allows a person to see where they need to make changes in terms of their current diet.
Even when presented with a list of foods to eat, it can still be a challenge to set up a complete meal plan. Many people have grown used to the idea of including meat in every meal. With this in mind, planning meals around plant-based foods can be hard.
To make things a little easier, we’re going to look at a meal plan below. This is only a sample of a meal plan for a plant-based diet. It can, however, provide a guideline to help a person plan ahead.
It is also important to note that these meals are based on plant-based foods – but that does not mean they are not as filling as a meal with meat products. In fact, some people find that they feel full for longer with these high-fiber options.
Plant-based foods have been proven beneficial through scientific research. Moving toward a plant-based diet is beneficial for the cardiovascular system, reduces blood glucose levels, and provides the body with essential nutrients. Switching to a plant-based diet is not the same as becoming a vegan. It is, however, a relatively simple process. We outlined the benefits and possible drawbacks of a plant-based diet in this post.