Here are just a few reasons to make the switch to a plant-based diet:
Here are just a few reasons why you might want to make the switch to a plant-based diet:
1. Immune System Support
A plant-based diet supports your immune system. Plants include the necessary antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to keep your immune system balanced. Cells need good nutrition for optimal function. While low in calories, plant-based diets are high in nutrients. (7 Great benefits of a Plant-Based Diet is an original Newshealthwatch Article
To combat invaders such as bacteria and viruses, the body relies on white blood cells. In a study published in the May 2019 edition of the international review Advances in Nutrition, researchers found that vegetarians have more effective white blood cells compared to non-vegetarians. The difference is due to a lower fat intake on the part of those consuming a plant-based diet as well as a higher intake of vitamins.
Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants. These compounds, found chiefly in plant foods, inhibit oxidation. The molecules fight the harmful free radicals found in the body. Produced by cells as waste, free radicals can produce oxidative stress in the body if not removed. This stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and many other maladies. Antioxidants boost the immune system and work to keep it strong.
2. Inflammation Reduction
Inflammation influences the development of all kinds of diseases, ranging from cancer to arthritis. A plant-based diet reduces inflammation and can improve symptoms. Such a diet may also prevent the onset of chronic conditions.
Take rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as an example. According to the Physicians for Responsible Medicine, plant-based diets reduce inflammation in various ways. Those adhering to a plant-based diet usually have lower Body Mass Indexes, and high BMI correlates to a higher risk of RA–and other disease–development.
Plant-based diets may influence circulating levels of inflammatory biomarkers, according to one review. Vegan and vegetarian diets are associated with lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP levels rise when there is inflammation in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of a plant-based diet may help manage kidney disease, diabetes, neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments, as well as reduce the risk of developing these diseases.
3. Healthy Weight Maintenance
Want to lose weight? Consider a plant-based diet. Some diets may succeed at helping shed pounds initially, but keeping the weight off becomes a struggle. Consuming a plant-based diet makes staying at a healthy weight much easier. How? Plant-based diets contain lots of fiber. This fiber makes you feel full but is low in calories. A totally plant-based, or vegan, diet should result in the greatest weight loss and ability to keep it off.
4. Improved Gut Health
Good gut health depends on a healthy microbiome. That’s the genes of microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and similar microbes found in the large and small intestines. Good gut flora protects you, and this good bacteria depends on diet and individual metabolism.
A study reveals the influence of diet on the microbiome and disease risk. More than 1,100 people were enrolled in a trial analyzing individual food responses. The results show that specific microbes in the gut were associated with “specific nutrients, foods, food groups, and overall diet composition.” Many health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, were impacted by dietary changes to the microbiome.
“Bad” dietary influences–think processed foods and rich desserts–boosted the microbes linked to higher levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation. A healthy diet, consisting of vegetables high in fiber, nuts, and whole grains, produced measurements linked to lower risks of certain diseases.
Keep in mind that food quality affects the gut biome. Processed plant foods full of salt, oil, or sugar will not help you achieve a healthy gut.
5. Cancer Risk Reduction
While a plant-based diet cannot eliminate your cancer risk–variables such as genetics, toxin exposure, and environmental factors play a role in the development of some cancers–it can greatly reduce it.
Cancers of the breast and colon are among those found less often in consumers of a plant-based diet. The same holds true for prostate cancer.
As the renowned Mayo Clinic explains, the phytochemicals produced by plants protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. Because a plant-based diet contains so much fiber, this can reduce breast cancer risk by as much as 25 percent and colorectal cancer by 10 percent.
Then there’s weight reduction. Obesity is a major cancer risk factor, and consumers of a plant-based diet are less likely to become overweight.
There is also a link between meat and cancer. While daily consumption of red meat raises the risk of developing colorectal polyps–a frequent precursor to colon cancer–by 2 percent, even eating a relatively small amount of processed meat daily can raise the risk by a whopping 29 percent! That’s one less thing people consuming a plant-based diet have to worry about.
6. Reduced Risks for Other Diseases
Along with cancer, eating a healthy, plant-based diet can reduce your risk for other diseases. These include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Animal products contain lots of cholesterol and saturated fat, which negatively affect the cardiovascular system. Diabetes is increasing worldwide, and much of the rise correlates to diet and lifestyle. A study published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology found that plant-based diets are effective tools for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. As per the study, “Plant-based diets―i.e., eating patterns that emphasize legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and discourage most or all animal products―are especially potent in preventing type 2 diabetes and have been associated with much lower rates of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer.”
Rates of Alzheimer’s disease are climbing. Can a plant-based diet prevent you from losing your mind in old age? The antioxidants and phytochemicals available in plant foods may offer protection from cognitive decline. Animal-based foods, loaded with saturated fats, may contribute to dementia.
7. Improved Mental Health
Most people feel much better after transitioning to a plant-based diet. That goes far beyond their physical health. According to an Australian study, such a diet also improves mental health. The study, consisting of 219 adults aged 18 to 44, found that a “high-quality plant-based diet may be protective against depressive symptoms in vegans and vegetarians.” The study also found that “higher-quality dietary patterns are associated with a reduced risk of depressive symptoms.”
One caveat: The study did not find an association with diet quality for those who were already diagnosed with depression. In other words, while a plant-based diet may prevent depression, it appears to have little effect on those already struggling with the condition.
Making the Switch, but Doing it Right
As mentioned at the very beginning of this article, while the notion of a totally plant-based diet might be very appealing, there are some factors to be taken into consideration prior to taking the plunge. These include the quality of ingredients, the integrity and ethics of the supply chain (i.e., how the ingredients are actually sourced in terms of harvesting and transporting) and the quality of the processing (Note: by “processing,” we mean the final combination, preparation and packaging of ingredients, and not the denaturing of the product that so often is associated with that term when it is used pejoratively). It is best to take the time to become an educated consumer and to select the best brands.
One exemplary brand is Mezcla, a niche-positioned company that offers some wonderfully nutritious high-protein plant-based snacks that are not only delicious (in terms of consumer reviews), but which also conform to the highest standards of quality in this increasingly competitive industry. Their Peruvian Cocoa Peanut Butter Plant Protein bar, by way of example, is crafted from real Peruvian cocoa – some of the world’s finest chocolate-tasting product – which is ethically sourced from small farmers. The balance of its ingredients are also certified organic (a designation issued by the USDA), as well as vegan, and the company employs the cleanest and best manufacturing processes (cGMP) in bringing its products to the consumer. Several protein bar flavors are available. As a side note of interest, as many have seen from the captivating images depicted on its protein bar wrappers, the company is an ardent supporter of the visual arts and a celebrant of Incan culture. In sum, Mezcla offers the beginning plant-based dieter a tasteful, ethical way to join the fold.
Your Next Steps…
With all of these benefits, doesn’t it make sense to switch to a plant-based diet? You don’t have to take the plunge all at once, and you don’t have to give up meat and other animal products entirely. Start by cutting out one animal-based product at a time. Try one new meat-free recipe weekly. Perhaps use small amounts of meat as a condiment to add flavor rather than make it part of the meal. These actions make transitioning to a plant-based diet more achievable. The goal is always optimal health. Remember, no truer words were ever spoken than “You are what you eat.”
Disclaimer: Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.