What are the benefits of a plant-based diet?
Eating a plant-based diet means cutting out processed and refined foods, and eating little to no animal products. It’s a lifestyle led by people who are passionate about healthy choices and about a healthy environment.
There is extensive research proving that eating processed, refined foods along with hydrogenated oil, flour, and sugars can directly impact and raise the risk of developing dangerous health conditions. Unhealthy diets put one at more of a risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Let’s explore some of the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
1. ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
It takes a huge toll on the environment to raise animals for food. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 51 percent or more of annual worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. It’s no secret that excessive carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions are responsible for climate change.
Thousands of tons of grain—about 2 of every 5 tons produced in the world—is fed to livestock each year. This weighs heavily on the land and uses a lot of manpower, water, and transport.
In addition, the food industry impacts the environment with the amount of production, transportation, storage, distribution, and marketing. Food processing itself releases pollutants into our air and water, directly impacting our health before we even consume the food.
Eating locally grown, organic produce is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint on the world.
2. GOOD FOR THE GUT
Diets based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are heavily packed with lots of water and fiber, which are both essential for smooth and easy digestion and elimination. Fiber is only found in plant-based food products, so eliminating animal products will automatically increase fiber intake.
Insoluble fiber is especially important for healthy digestion—it bulks up stool to provide easy-to-eliminate bowel movements, preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and fecal incontinence.
3. STABILIZES BLOOD SUGAR
There is no question that a plant-based diet significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improves insulin resistance.
The reason is twofold. Steering clear of refined sugars and carbohydrates—which cause diabetes—is a major part of the plant-based whole-food diet.
In the plant-based diet, not only are you avoiding foods which lead to diabetes, but you’re increasing your intake of foods which actively fight diabetes. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream, preventing a sugar-rush and keeping you full throughout the day.
According to the American Diabetes Association, a diet high in whole grains and low-glycemic index foods can reduce inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes.
4. REDUCES INFLAMMATION
Plant-based foods contain many important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that seek out and remove harmful toxins from the body, and repair damaged cells. Among the foods which fight inflammation the most: dark, leafy green vegetables; broccoli; berries; garlic, turmeric; ginger; beets; almonds, walnuts, and cashews; and chia, flax, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.
You may be wondering why anti-inflammatory foods are so important. Normally, inflammation is a good thing. It indicates that there is a foreign invader in the body, and that your white blood cells plan on doing something about it.
What we’re talking about here, though, is chronic, low-grade inflammation. This is the bad kind of inflammation—the kind that plagues the body for years on end and plays puppeteer in countless diseases including arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, degenerative diseases, and some cancers.
5. FIGHTS FREE RADICALS
Free radicals are toxic substances which enter the body and wreak havoc on all systems—even changing healthy cell DNA through a process called oxidation.
Some foods contain free radicals, including fats and oils that become oxidized during storage or when they are heated to high temperatures. Processed and cooked meats may also contain free radicals.
Fortunately, there are compounds which fight free radical damage, and those are the antioxidants found in plant-based foods. Cancer-fighting foods like broccoli, blueberries, and turmeric are consumed in greater rates by a person on a plant-based diet.
6. EASY ON THE BLOOD VESSELS
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, means that the heart is working too hard to pump blood throughout the body. High blood pressure can be caused by many things including stress, being overweight, too much sodium, too much alcohol, and family history of high blood pressure, among other things.
How is high blood pressure treated? With a change in lifestyle. People with high blood pressure are recommended to eat healthier foods that are low in sodium, lose weight if they are overweight, and to get physically active.
Many plant-based foods contain potassium, which is a blood-pressure-regulating essential mineral found in whole-grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and in fruits and vegetables, while many animal foods actually raise blood pressure.
7. LOWERS CHOLESTEROL
High cholesterol levels are caused by eating foods which contain saturated fats and trans fats. Many animal products and processed foods contain these fats, which raises ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.
Plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds lower LDL cholesterol levels in a few ways. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol, bringing it through the digestive system and out of the body. Polyunsaturated fats, found in walnuts and flax seeds, and monounsaturated fats, found in avocados, nuts and vegetable oils, lower bad LDL cholesterol and maintain good HDL cholesterol levels.
8. CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
One of the many benefits of a plant-based diet is good heart health. It’s proven that people who eat more fruits and vegetables lower their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Since eating a plant-based diet lowers cholesterol and blood pressure levels, it alleviates pressure on the heart, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
9. HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Plant-based dieters eat fewer calories on average than people who are not on a plant-based diet. Same goes for vegetarians and vegans.
Choosing fruits and vegetables over meats and processed foods will surely lend to a lower calorie lifestyle, enabling you to lose those stubborn pounds.
10. TREATS SKIN CONDITIONS
Hydrogenated oils, saturated fats—these are the words of skincare nightmares. You may be surprised at how clear your skin looks after only a few days without processed, refined, or hydrogenated foods.
On the flip side, many plant-based foods contain nutrients which are essential for smooth, healthy, glowing skin, including lycopene (in tomatoes), vitamin C (fruits), vitamin E (almonds), and selenium (brazil nuts).
BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET
It’s clear that there are many benefits of a plant-based diet, and not too many disadvantages. The plant-based diet may not be for everyone (e.g. pregnant and nursing women) so talk to your doctor to find out if this lifestyle may be right for you!
Have you noticed any benefits after switching to a plant-based diet? Be sure to let us know which benefits you’ve noticed in the comments below!
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