Here's how plant-based diets can benefit your health.
Did you ever hear anyone say, “I feel so guilty having another serving of kale?”
Probably not, because a plant-based diet doesn’t typically cause gluttony or guilt. In fact, adopting a plant-based diet is one of the healthiest commitments you can make.
“Meat eaters tend to suffer from increased plaque buildup in their arteries. As the plaque builds, the heart receives less oxygen-rich blood. When that happens you’re at very high risk of a heart attack,” says Venkat Devineni, MD, a board-certified cardiologist at St. Joseph Health, St. Mary in Apple Valley, CA. “It just makes sense to improve your heart –and your overall health – by adopting a diet based on fewer meats and more plants.”
While plant-based diets are a commitment, the benefits are plentiful. Here’s why many people –regardless of their age –are changing to carrots and cauliflower:
- Lower Cholesterol – Plants do not contain cholesterol, even coconut, avocados, and cacao. While you should balance your fat intake even if you’re a vegan (watch out for avocados), a plant-based diet is recommended to lower cholesterol. Plant products like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts can lower rates of cholesterol and heart disease.
- Decrease Blood Pressure – While meat and most animal foods contain sodium that raises blood pressure, a plant-based diet helps keep levels normal. The trick is to take in more potassium, which naturally counteracts the artery-destroying effects of sodium. Try potassium-rich foods like lima beans, kale, mushrooms and bananas.
- Improve Blood Sugar – The fiber found in many plants is great for fighting high blood sugar because it slows sugar absorption in the blood stream, making you feel less hungry, as well as balancing cortisol levels that cause stress. Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and leafy greens are fantastic higher-fiber foods.
- Cancer Protection - Of course, your best move to prevent cancer is to stop smoking. However, a low-fat, plant-based diet is believed to also help decrease your cancer risks. Animal foods, on the other hand, have been linked to cancers of the colon and breast.
- Constipation Relief – We saved this one for last, but many people spend a lot of money on medicines, supplements, and laxatives to rid themselves of constipation. A plant-based diet rich in liquid and fiber acts as a natural stool softener. Try vegetables, cooked grains, soups and stews, cooked cereal, salads, fresh fruit, water, juices and herbal teas. Avoid drier and heavier foods if constipation is a concern.
Beyond your own health benefits, a plant-based diet is more environmentally friendly and, naturally, kinder to animals. Additionally, once you establish a rhythm to your meals, it can be significantly less expensive.
Some people start adopting a plant-based diet by simply eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and leaving less room for meats and animal products. If you are concerned about getting all the nutrients you need, check with your doctor or a dietician. You may need to take a supplement to ensure you’re getting all your vitamins.
And the good news is that many people find that fruits and vegetables just taste better once they become staples. Sooner or later, you’ll be asking for that second serving of kale with gusto.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.