11 Benefits of plant-based diet for overall health

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Plant-based diet 

A plant-based diet consists of nourishing, nutrient-dense foods that are naturally low in fat and high in fibre, which is also healthy for the heart and brain.

Veganism forgoes all animal products, although plant-based eating does not. Instead, they emphasise consuming primarily plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Given their numerous health benefits, more people are starting to adopt plant-based diets. Going meat-free could prevent, treat and even reverse numerous chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, and several malignancies, according to a review of studies in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.

Benefits of a plant-based diet

Reduced inflammation

An anti-inflammatory diet usually involves including fruits, vegetables and other naturally available food items in the diet. These foods boost the white blood cell function against bacterial and viral infections and also foreign substances like allergies that cause inflammation. 

Autoimmune disorders are conditions where the immune system damages the body’s healthy, normal tissue. Chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes or cardiac issues can be attributed to an overactive inflammatory response.

Localised pain and redness are the first symptoms of acute or short-term inflammation, lasting for a few hours to several days. Months or years may pass with chronic inflammation.

Diet and exercise have a significant impact on inflammation. While factors such as obesity, smoking, irregular sleeping patterns and a diet high in added sugars and unhealthy fats can all contribute to an increase in inflammation in the body, nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Enhanced gut health

A vegetarian or vegan diet supports the growth of friendly bacteria that is good for the gut and general health. A healthy gut microbiome facilitates a strong immune system, regular bowel movements, a healthy metabolism and hormone levels that contribute to appetite regulation.

According to studies, a healthy vegan diet centred on whole fruits and vegetables results in a noticeable improvement in gut health.

Improved kidney function and reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Due to the high concentration of heme iron in red meat and poultry, consuming these animal foods has been associated with a higher risk of developing Diabetes.

Plant-based diets not only prevent kidney disease in people with Diabetes but also aid in reversing the condition. Plant-based diets may help lower mortality rates in those with chronic renal disease.

Reduced risk of heart disease

Whole plant-based foods are high in fibre, low in saturated fats and free of dietary cholesterol, which is a boon for heart health. Saturated fats and cholesterol found in foods like meat, cheese and eggs can contribute to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries if consumed in excess.

Just staying away from meat is not enough for heart health. Refrain from processed foods, such as white rice and white bread, which have a high glycaemic index and low nutritional value for heart health when following a plant-based diet. A person is likely to experience a blood sugar spike and appetite increase as a result.

Low LDL cholesterol levels

Plant-based diets have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, particularly a vegetarian or vegan diet that includes nuts, soy and fibre. According to studies mentioned in the American Journal of Cardiology, lower blood levels of TC (Total cholesterol) and LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) were observed in people eating plant-based diets.

Reduced cancer risk

Numerous phytochemicals produced by plants act as both anti-inflammatory agents and protective agents against cellular damage. Studies indicate that eating whole plant foods instead of processed foods helps to prevent up to a third of all cancer cases. 

Plant-based diets have the ability to aid in the prevention of breast, colorectal, gastrointestinal and prostate cancers.

Reduced chance of dementia and cognitive impairment

High fruit and vegetable consumption is directly associated with a much lower risk of dementia and cognitive decline. The nutrients plentiful in plant-based diets, such as antioxidants, vitamins and folate, has adequate cognitive benefits.

Enhanced athletic performance

To perform at their best, many professional athletes are switching to a whole-foods-based, plant-based diet.

The use of entire plants is a fantastic athletic supplement, including whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, which are heart-healthy plant-based foods. Plants’ immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties are also very helpful to athletes. 

Venus Williams, a professional tennis player, switched to a plant-based diet after learning she had the autoimmune condition Sjögren’s syndrome. Virat Kohli, a famous Indian cricketer, turned vegetarian to control his uric acid levels and stay healthy. He stated that cutting down on meat helped him manage his condition and feel fit.

Reduced discomfort from Arthritis

Individuals who consume a plant-based, whole-foods-based diet as low-fat, high-fibre diets have lower inflammation. Plant-based diets are very beneficial for those with inflammatory types of Arthritis, as consuming vegetables reduces inflammation.

Researchers examined the link between osteoarthritis and a plant-based diet in a 2015 study that was published in Arthritis. Within just two weeks, those who followed a whole-food, plant-based diet saw significant reductions in pain and improvements in motor function.

Decreased carbon footprint

The most significant step a person can take to reduce their environmental effect is the transition to a plant-based diet.

Animal protein takes 100 times more water than grain protein, while the production of oat milk uses 60% less energy and releases 80% fewer greenhouse gases than that cow’s milk. However, adopting a plant-based diet does not ensure that we will have access to more environmentally friendly foods. 

The methods used for growing the food, how the workers are treated, how far it travels, how it is packaged and where the ingredients come from affect how sustainable the food on our plate is.

Optimal weight

Since fibre takes time to digest, a plant-based diet that is high in fibre will increase the feeling of satiety. This might help some people who are trying to control their weight since it makes them eat less frequently, which means consuming fewer calories.

In comparison to non-vegetarians, those who followed a plant-based diet consumed much less energy, total fat and saturated fat.

Vegans typically have lower BMIs than omnivores as they consume significantly more carbohydrates than they did on an omnivore diet. Very few people gain weight when following a vegan diet. Others who follow a vegan diet are likely slim down since they won’t be eating processed foods.

What to eat on a plant-based diet? 

Here are certain food choices that assist while beginning a plant-based diet.

  • Eat whole-grain breakfast – Start with barley, oats or quinoa. Add fresh fruit next, followed by some nuts or seeds.
  • Pick some greens – Try different green leafy vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, collards, spinach and other greens every day. To maintain its flavour and nutritional value, stir-fry, grill, braise or steam the food.
  • Consume a lot of vegetables – Vegetables should take up half the lunch and supper plates. Ensure to choose a variety of coloured vegetables. Snack on some vegetables with hummus or salsa.
  • Pick healthy fats – Olive oil, olives, nuts, nut butter, seeds, and avocados are excellent sources of healthy fats.
  • Prepare a new vegetarian dish – Whenever there is free time, prepare a vegetarian dish. Veggies, whole grains and legumes can be the base of these dishes.
  • Build dinner around a salad – Put salad greens with spinach, broccoli or red leafy greens in a bowl. Add fresh herbs, beans, peas, tofu and various other vegetables.
  • Dessert should be fruit – The after-meal hunger for something sweet will be sated by a ripe, juicy peach, a slice of watermelon or a crunchy apple.

Risks involved in a plant-based diet 

Following a completely plant-based diet has beneficial effects on the body.

However, when a plant-based diet is poorly planned, there is a risk of micronutrient deficiencies. When switching to a plant-based diet, it may be necessary to spend extra time planning meals to make sure the person obtains all the nutrients required.

If a person doesn’t like oily fish, they can still get their omega-3s via walnuts, linseeds or rapeseed oil. As an alternative, a supplement made from microalgae will provide enough omega-3 intake.

If a person doesn’t routinely consume dairy, they should look for a milk substitute that has been fortified with calcium, iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

When following a plant-based diet, an individual is more likely to experience nutrient deficiency if their diet is repetitive and lacks variety. 

An individual obtains several nutrients if there is variety. It’s also crucial to switch out an item, like milk, from the diet with one that contains comparable nutrients, like fortified dairy alternatives.

A plant-based diet for the planet 

According to Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, dietary changes shifting from meat and certain other animal products to plant-based diets have a significant potential to lower carbon footprints, mitigate climate change, as well as improve human health.

Switching to a plant-based diet high in pulses, nuts, fruits, and vegetables significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the present dietary habits in the majority of industrialised countries. Other beneficial effects include a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 Diabetes and reduced noncommunicable disease-related mortality.

Benefits of Veganism for the environment 

Every food item we consume has an effect on the environment. Some foods have a considerably more significant impact than others. Our earth suffers greatly as a result of the production of meat. 

Every year, billions of animals are bred, raised and slaughtered for food, requiring vast quantities of natural resources like fresh water and land as well as producing large quantities of waste and pollution. To put it simply, our demand for meat is unsustainable.

Veganism can help in this situation. We can halt the quick depletion of earth’s resources, mitigate the threat of climate change and contribute to the preservation of our world by giving up animal products and switching to a plant-based diet. 

Conclusion

Planning, label reading and self-control are necessary for a healthy plant-based diet. Consuming a range of fruits and vegetables, possibly including beans, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains, is advised for people wanting to follow a plant-based diet. 

Avoiding or restricting animal products, extra fats, oils and refined, processed carbs is also suggested. The main advantages for patients who choose to switch to a plant-based diet are a reduced chance of taking medications to manage chronic ailments, a reduction in body weight, a decreased risk of cancer, and a decrease in the likelihood of ischemic heart disease. 

FAQs 

What are the benefits of a plant-based diet for the environment? 

Healthy plant-based diets have a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These diets also use less farmland, irrigation water and nitrogenous fertiliser and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

What foods do you eat on a plant-based diet? 

Foods to include in a plant-based diet.
 
1. Nuts and seeds
2. Whole grains like rice, quinoa, buckwheat and oats.
3. Legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas.
4. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and peas.
5. Fruits like berries, apples, grapes, oranges, peaches, figs, bananas, kiwis and other fruits.

Are eggs in a plant-based diet? 

Eggs are not vegan because they are animal products and come from animals.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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