The Wonderful World of Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition
Switching to a plant-based diet is a great idea. Not only will you be eating food that is healthier, but you will also be helping the planet. Not too many dietary regimens can give you such benefits, but a plant-based one surely can.
While you probably don’t need much convincing to follow this healthy lifestyle, it does help to understand what you are getting into. It’s also a good thing to know what your options are and what you can gain from them.
To help you out, here are some of the frequently asked questions about this way of eating.
What is a whole-foods, plant-based diet?
When we talk about plant-based foods, we are referring to foods that come from the earth instead of from animal sources. If you eliminate everything in your diet that comes from animals, including meat, eggs, honey, and dairy, you are consuming a plant-based diet.
There are several different forms of diets that incorporate mostly plant-based nutrition but aren’t fully plant-based. These could include “pescatarian,” “flexitarian,” or “vegetarian.” However, a truly 100% plant-based diet excludes all animal-derived ingredients, and it aims to involve primarily unprocessed plant foods in their whole, original form. This type of diet is where we see the majority of benefits in regards to increasing health and avoiding or recovering from illness or disease.
Vegetarian – This type of diet is plant-focused, but includes cow’s dairy, bees honey, and chicken’s eggs.
Vegan – A vegan diet is a completely plant-based diet that excludes everything that comes from animals. The reason someone adopts a vegan lifestyle may be similar, but different to choosing a plant-based diet. A person who decides to live a vegan lifestyle does so for ethical reasons - to save the animals, the environment, and protect human rights - therefore, a vegan has no qualms when it comes to eating junk food like cake and icecream!
It’s important to note that a fully plant-based diet is the most optimal for health. While other forms of mostly plant-based diets are done, we reap the full rewards in regards to our health when we completely avoid animal-based products and processed food. And who doesn’t want to transform their lives and live as healthily as possible?
Whole foods are endless and include all of the different varieties of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in their natural form. Avoiding types of processed flours, sugars, oils, sweeteners, and junk food is ideal. The beauty of changing our diet to include primarily whole foods is the relationship to our food that we gain. Learning how to cook differently and using ingredients in new ways is exciting!
How is this beneficial for our health?
A plant-based diet is the only way of eating that has been found to categorically prevent, stop, or reverse certain illnesses, like heart disease. The list of ailments that can benefit from simplifying our diet down to whole foods is endless.
For all of these reasons, schools that serve food to children and young people, and food charities that help feed humans affected by disaster or malnutrition are starting to incorporate plant-based foods and vegan meals. The goal is to help everyone be as healthy as possible, especially those that are at a disadvantage.
Better for your heart – It lowers your chances of developing heart disease, which is the leading killer of humans in the United States. According to a recent study made by the American Heart Association, removing meat from your diet can reduce your chances of suffering from a stroke, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension by 16 to 32 percent.
Better for your weight - As they are lower in calories and saturated fat, plant-based foods help lose weight and avoid obesity, which has been linked to many different types of diseases.
Better for allergies - A plant-based diet helps to avoid the major allergens that could be causing more issues than we realize. For example, lactose intolerance has been found to be more common in people from Africa and Asia, as they naturally lack the enzyme to properly break down mammalian milk.
Better for the immune system - By consuming less problematic foods and focusing instead on nutrient-rich plant foods, our immune system benefits. Certain plant foods, like berries, are very rich in antioxidants, which help us heal amongst many other things.
Better for your overall health – In the same study done by the AHA, it was also found that going plant-based reduces your chances of getting type-2 diabetes. It also helps prevent the onset of some cancers.
Why is this good for the planet?
A major benefit to adopting a plant-based whole foods diet is to help the planet. What a lot of people don’t know is that farming animals to be used for human consumption is the leading cause of most of the planet’s environmental degradation.
- Farming cows produce a huge amount of greenhouse gasses, more than all of the transportation industries combined.
- Land is cleared and deforested in order to graze animals who are raised for their meat when instead the land could be used to farm crops.
- Farming animals requires more food, water, and land than farming crops.
- Animals produce waste that, when able to leach into water supplies like lakes and oceans, cause an abundance of nitrogen and create dead zones where aquatic animals can’t live.
- Farming animals is also the leading cause of habitat destruction and species extinction.
All of these factors are bad enough, but we also need to think about those who live in close proximity to these farms. They suffer from land, water, and air pollution more than the rest of us, which can cause them to have health issues later in their lives. We often forget that humans have to work closely with all of these issues, and the people who are forced to work inside of a slaughterhouse generally don’t do it because they want to.
There are so many good reasons to switch to a plant-based diet, that no one’s reasons have to be the same. Some care a lot about the environment, while others want to ensure they live a long, healthy life.
Whatever your motivation, let this be the motivation that you can achieve your goals, be healthy, happy, and make the world a better place all at the same time.