The main advantages of a plant based diet
A plant-based diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. These foods are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. They are also naturally lower in calories than foods originating from animals and they have less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber.
There are many different types of plant-based diets. Some of the most common ones are:
Vegan diet – It bans meat, eggs, or dairy products. Two more restrictive vegan diets are:
Fruitarian diet – You can eat only fruits, nuts and seeds.
Raw vegan/Raw food diet– It consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).
Lacto-vegetarian diet – You’re not allowed to eat meat or eggs, but you can have dairy products.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet – You can’t eat meat but dairy products and eggs are allowed.
A plant based diet can be a healthy lifelong option, because eating plants or different parts of the plants can provide all the macronutrients necessary for the body to function at its best, leaving aside the noxious substances that usually come from a mix vegan-meat diet. Here are some of the substances contained by plants, which make the plant based diet a very good option for feeding ourselves:
- Phytochemicals – They are biologically active compounds found exclusively in plants (“phyto”=plants), which are responsible for the color, flavor, and smell of a plant. Phytochemicals have an essential role for the immune system of a plant and, when consumed, they can protect humans from disease as well. There are thousands of known phytochemicals, with nearly as many functions in the human body. Some phytochemicals are:
- Flavonoids—green tea, onions, kale, soybeans, legumes, cocoa;
- Terpenes—citrus fruits, cherries, ginko biloba
- Lignans—flaxseed, berries, nuts
- Carotenoids—tomato, pumpkin, squash, carrots, watermelon;
- Vitamins and minerals –The richest sources of micronutrients come from plants. Vitamins and minerals are essential to proper body functioning.
- Antioxidants – Many of the phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals contained in plants serve as antioxidants. They defend against harmful free radicals, which can damage cells leading to premature aging, and increasing the risk of many diseases including cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. A diet rich in antioxidants protects the body from all these terrible diseases and, at the same time, keeps the body younger.
- Fiber – Plants are an excellent source of fiber. Fiber, a non-digestable carbohydrate, is important for digestive health, and it can help regulate blood sugar and lower blood cholesterol levels. Fiber is also very helpful for weight management as it promotes satiety. High fiber diets have been linked to lower body weight, and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer.
The main advantages of a plant based diet are:
- Increased longevity– Vegetarian women live 2.5 years longer than nonvegetarian women; vegetarian men live 3.2 years longer than their non-vegetarian counterparts.
- Lower risks of heart attacks and stroke– Non-vegetarian men have twice the rate of fatal heart attacks as vegetarian men (there are no clear results for women).
- Lower cholesterol levels – The LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides are lower in vegans than in lacto-ovo vegetarians. To be more specific, vegans have 28 percent lower LDL cholesterol levels than meat-eaters. Lacto-ovo vegetarians and fish-eaters have levels between those of vegans and meat-eaters.
- Lower blood pressure – Hypertension, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, is twice as common in non-vegetarian as in vegetarians. ThEse findings apply to both men and women.
- Lower incidence of diabetes and cancer – Diabetes is twice as common in non-vegetarian people, whether male or female, as in vegetarians, with semi-vegetarians having an intermediate prevalence.
- Lower BMI – For the average 5’10” males, non-vegetarians weigh an average of 14 pounds more than vegetarians. For 5’4” females, nonvegetarians weigh 12 pounds more than vegetarians. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that “diets low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables led to spontaneous weight loss.” Four studies involving more than 100,000 adults in all reported an association between higher fruit and vegetable intake and lower weight.
- Lower concentrations of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP)
If you think to switch to an entirely plant based diet, when planning your meals, you have to pay attention on balancing the nutrients. You should get about 20 to 30 percent of your calories from protein, 40-60% calories from carbohydrates, and 10-30% of calories from fat. You can replace easily the dairy with soy and soy-products (milk, cheeses, yogurts) and as meat eat substitutes you can use tofu, Tempeh (fermented soy), Seitan (wheat protein).
ASK FOR YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN OR NUTRITIONIST BEFORE TRYING ANY NEW DIET, INCLUDING THE PLANT BASED DIET.