Growing up, we all were told we need our dairy products, our animal products, our protein, vitamins, minerals; the list goes on. Conditioned from a young age, you may have believed protein only comes from animal meats and you can only get your bone strength from cow's milk, but those aren’t the only ways to receive your nutritional needs.
Plant based eating, at first, seemed crazy and unrealistic to the public. Now that there has been more research and proof backing the health benefits of plant based foods, more and more people are making the nutritional switch to a plant based diet.
Today we want to help further your knowledge on plant based meals and what you can eat to make sure you're getting all of your nutrients while being able to eat healthier. Before we get into our top ten benefits, remember that plant based diets don’t just mean salads, fruits and vegetables. These days, there are countless options for plant-based diets.
Top Ten Benefits Of Plant Based Diets
Photo by Viktoria Slowikowska.
1. Reduced Carbon Footprint
Switching to a plant based diet is one of the biggest impacts you can individually make to reduce your environmental impact. By eating more sustainably you can save energy, water and just be more eco-friendly to you and the environment around you. You can also help the world around you by eating locally sourced foods to cut back on travel and look for sustainably packaged foods.
Some ways you can help the environment around you is by buying items that save energy compared to products that utilize a lot of energy. The production of coconut milk not only requires 60% less energy than the production of cow’s milk but also emits 80% fewer greenhouse gases.
By getting your protein from plants, you can save unbelievable amounts of water because, per pound, animal protein uses 100 times more water to produce. All of these factors together can not only help you and your health but can significantly help the world outside your door.
2. Lower Health Risks
Of course, choosing to eat a plant-based diet can lower many health risks!. The consumption of red meats can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by about 20%, respectively. Type 2 diabetes is when fatty tissue starts to make the cells in your body more resistant to insulin. In multiple studies, vegetarians were about 70% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Plant based diets can also reduce your risk of heart disease and dementia. Plant based foods provide fiber and low amounts of saturated fats that can support heart health. Foods and ingredients such as sweet potatoes or olive oil are the heart healthy alternatives to white rice or other fatty oils. The antioxidants, vitamins, and folate found in a plant based diet help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia or any cognitive impairment.
3. Reduce Cancer Risk
It might honestly shock you how helpful a plant based diet can be to reducing your risk of cancer. From a bunch of long-term studies, it has been shown that whole plant based food diets can reduce up to a third of cancer cases. Fiber is a very important factor in reducing risk of cancer, so naturally, a plant-based diet is helpful since it is loaded with fiber from black beans to sweet potatoes.
A chronic disease like cancer can eat up someone’s life and those around them, but by switching to a plant based meal, you can decrease your risk of getting sick. Some cancers that studies have shown plant based diets possibly help avoid are breast, prostate, gastrointestinal, and colorectal cancer.
Photo by Ella Olsson.
4. Improvement in Gut Health
Naturally, eating healthier will improve your intestines that process that food. Vegetarian and vegan diets have a healthy mix of beneficial bacteria that promotes good gut health. A plant based diet can also help promote a high-functioning metabolism, healthy bowel movements and an appropriate amount of hormones that can all contribute to appetite regulation.
5. Boost Immune System
With the reduction of risk for all these different illnesses, of course a plant-based diet can improve your immune system. Diets that are heavy in added sugars and unhealthy fat can cause inflammation, which is when the white blood cells attack healthy, normal tissue. By eating plant based foods, you are supporting your immune system with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that your immune system needs to function at full power.
Having your immune system at 100%, while seeming obvious, is essential to fighting everyday illnesses. If your immune system is being supported by the right amount of vitamins and minerals, it can spot illnesses or cancer mutations sooner and fight them off easier.
6. Maintain Healthy Weight
Of course eating healthier will more than help you maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to most of the points listed here because when your body is able to function at high speeds, you are more likely to improve other parts of your body’s health and fight off any illnesses easier.
Animal foods and other animal based products can cause weight gain and processed foods can be high in added sugars and unnatural fats. By switching a meat heavy diet to a plant heavy diet, you can significantly help yourself reach any weight loss goals and improve your overall health.
7. Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
High blood pressure can lead to certain illnesses like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Foods that are high in carbohydrates can cause a raise in blood sugar which can increase your chances and lead to high blood pressure. By eating plant based foods, which are low in carbohydrates, you can reduce your risk or lower any high blood pressure.
More processed foods or full fat foods can cause a spike in cholesterol. Red meats, eggs and fried foods can also lead to a raise in your cholesterol. When you consume a plant based diet, you can not only decrease LDL (bad cholesterol), but you can also raise HDL (good cholesterol).
8. Strengthen Your Brain
As mentioned earlier, not only can a plant-based diet help decrease your chances of dementia but it can actually improve your brain function. The antioxidants in plant based foods like fruits and vegetables can clean up cellular waste in your body and protect cells from damage. By eating an extra 100 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, you can protect your brain from diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.
Photo by Pixabay.
9. Improved Athletic Performance
In the past it seemed like to be the best athlete you need to have a meat heavy, protein based diet. Now, with more research, some of the top athletes in the world run on plant-based diets. Venus Williams, Alex Morgan and Diana Taurasi are just some of the world's best athletes that work off of vegan diets.
A plant-based diet is beneficial to athletic performance in many ways. One is heart healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts can help improve stamina and prolong energy. The anti-inflammatory factors and immune system support from a plant diet can greatly improve an athletes health and performance too, whether in the gym or on the biggest stage in the world.
10. Extend Life Expectancy
With all of these points added up, you may have seen this one coming and, yes, it’s true. A plant based diet can lower your risk of mortality by 25 percent. With every factor that plant based foods provide to protect you from different illnesses, it’s no wonder you can literally extend your life by switching over to a plant based diet.
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Written by Kayla O'Sullivan