If you’ve ever thought about making a lifestyle change to prevent health risks, you have probably thought about your diet. We see a new trend is hitting the health food headlines every other day, making it practically impossible to decide on what to eat and not eat. But there is one diet that is always a standout and has been consistently proven to reduce your health risks ─ plant-based diet. 

If you’ve been eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and meat alternates like soy, you’re doing the best for your heart. The benefits of plant-based eating are clear: Improved health and lesser risk of developing illnesses. Going on a plant-based diet can prevent heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers, 

It can also treat or reverse chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and high blood pressure.

But remember eating plant-based does not imply you can’t eat meat at all. It only means your meals are primarily vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Meat is often loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, the major contributors to poor heart health. Processed meats usually excess sodium as well. However, lean meats, skinless poultry, and fish can be good protein sources.

What is a plant-based diet?

Plant-based diet is a generic term that can be interpreted in many different ways; however, a plant-based diet, in general, is built around a meal filled with primarily vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. A plant-based diet could also mean a vegan diet or a diet that includes occasional consumption of meat, fish, or dairy products, with plant foods being the main focus of the diet. A plant-based diet also centers on consuming healthy whole foods rather than processed foods.

Why plant-based?

A plant-based diet strengthens your immune system. Plants have antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamins that keep your cells healthy and your body in balance. Plants help fight off infections by protecting your body against germs and microorganisms.

  • Plant foods reduce inflammation.

Excess weight and hormonal imbalances can cause inflammation in the body. The phytochemicals and antioxidants in plants neutralize toxins from processed food, bacteria, pollution, and more and reduce inflammation. 

  • A plant-based diet helps maintain a healthy weight

If you’re consuming mostly plants, you eliminate many of the foods that lead to weight gain. Combine this with physical activity, and you’re on a path towards weight loss.

  • Plants are high in fiber.

Fiber is present in all unprocessed plant foods. Having a plant-based diet improves your gut health, allowing better absorption of nutrients from foods that support your immune system. Fiber can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.

  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions. 

According to the American Heart Association, consuming less meat can decrease the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Plant-based diets can help prevent or manage diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.

Types of plant-based diets

Although there is an entire range of different plant-based diets, these are the most common:

Vegan

No animal products such as meat, eggs, or dairy products.

Lacto-vegetarian

No meat or eggs, but dairy products are OK.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian

No meat, but dairy products and eggs are OK.

You can eat a plant-based diet without going completely vegetarian. You can be a “flexitarian,” meaning you can occasionally eat meat, poultry, pork, or fish. Or a “pescatarian,” which means having a plant-based diet plus fish

Are plant-based diets healthy?

Research reveals that following a plant-based diet rightly has significant health benefits. A diet that focuses on plant foods will help you prevent many illnesses and feel better overall. If followed correctly, a plant-based diet limits oils, added sugars, and processed foods, leaving only whole foods to provide nutrition. This maximizes nutrient consumption and practically eliminates foods that can lead to poor health outcomes. These diets are low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

How to get enough protein

Making sure that your diet contains enough protein is essential to maintain muscle mass, strong bones, and healthy skin. Foods like beans, lentils, quinoa, and soy products like tempeh, tofu, soybeans, soy milk, nuts, and seeds are packed with protein.

The Bottom Line

While plant-based diets may not be for everyone, most of us could certainly benefit from including more plant foods in our diet. Still, it’s not necessary to entirely exclude animal products to reap the health benefits. It is more important to focus on eating plenty of whole plant-based foods and reduce highly processed and refined foods. 

Remember, you don’t need to make radical changes to your diet to improve your health; in most cases, small, sustainable changes are far more efficient in the long run. Consult with us at DrNewMed to learn more about how you can make the best lifestyle changes for your overall wellbeing.

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