I love food. I believe most people do. Does your food love you back though? This might sound weird but think a minute and check in on your body after a meal. Do I feel satiated? Do I feel energised? Or do I feel bloated and sluggish?
You could argue you should love your body more than your food. But what if you can have both? Loving your food and feeling great!? Don’t believe me? Well, read further…
There has been a lot of controversy about what is the optimum diet for humans. The truth is our nutritional requirements have their roots in the prehistoric past. The human kind has been evolving for the last 20 million years and the majority of this time we have been eating plants (mostly fruit, greens and seeds). Only in the last 2 million years, during the Paleolithic, we added meat, fish, and with that a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. Unfortunately, life expectancy was only 25 years back then. The main takeaway from various studies on ancestral diets is that diets which are largely based on plant foods promote health and longevity. If you are interested in learning more about the natural human diet, I recommend to watch this short video.
There is a lot of evidence that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet has amazing health benefits. Research papers suggest it is the best kept secret in medicine that, given the right conditions, the body heals itself. That’s right, our body has internal mechanisms to repair or destroy damaged cells. In addition, we use vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to protect our body against disease. Phytonutrients are derived from plants and are essential to keep us healthy.
Here are the top 9 reasons to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet:
1. Better cardiovascular health
Sadly, heart disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide. In a 20-year study, Dr. Esselstyn proved that a low-fat plant-based diet can prevent and reverse heart disease. If you come from a diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and dietary carnitine from animal foods, chances are you (will) suffer from clogged coronary arteries. Switching to whole, oil-free plant-foods which are high in dietary fiber and devoid of cholesterol will dramatically reduce the concentration of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and hence, lower the cardiovascular disease risk.
2. Lower rates of cancer
Research shows that a low-fat, plant-based diet slows or stops many forms of cancer, including cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and skin. Whole plant foods contain many cancer fighting elements that help to stop the development, growth, and spread of cancerous cells and tumors in the body. John McDougall successfully uses this dietary approach with his patients and sees high rates of spontaneous regression of cancer.
3. Prevent and reverse diabetes
There are over 420 million cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide. More and more people are suffering from this form of insulin resistance, meaning that their body cells cannot make use of glucose anymore and become resistant to insulin. Several studies revealed that dietary choices along with a sedentary lifestyle are the root cause of type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in highly-processed, calorie dense fast foods, animal fats, refined grains, and sugary beverages may not only lead to obesity but also type 2 diabetes. In most cases, the disease is preventable, treatable, and even reversible. The key is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds as well as moderate exercise.
4. Lower blood sugar
Feeling hungry all day long? Maybe you are not eating enough fiber. Consuming plant-based foods provide you with plenty of fiber, slowing down absorption of sugars in the blood stream. To keep your blood sugar level balanced include plenty of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, berries, legumes, avocados, nuts, seeds, and spices in your diet. Check out this list of high-fiber foods that will not only decrease your blood sugar but also balance your cortisol levels to help you feel less stressed.
5. Lose weight
Sure, you can lose weight by simply eating fewer calories than your body burns. That works with every diet. Is it sustainable though? If you go for a whole-food, plant-based diet you consume foods low in calorie density, yet high in fiber and nutrients which will make you feel satiated for longer. Weight loss occurs naturally when you switch to starches, vegetables, legumes, beans, leafy greens, and fruits. Be aware of vegetable oils though as they have the highest energy density of any food.
6. Better digestion
If you have trouble going to the bathroom, it could be related to your diet and lifestyle. The biggest study on bowel movement frequency compared bowel habits of 15,000 meat eaters with 5,000 vegetarian and 1,000 vegans. It was concluded that vegetarians and particularly vegans have a higher frequency of bowel movements. Whole-foods are packed with insoluble and soluble fiber aiding digestion and bowel movement frequency. If you are tempted to switch to a plant-based diet, start to slowly increase the amount of legumes, beans and raw vegetables as these can be tougher on your stomach at first. You can help digestion of protein and fat with digestive enzymes which you can find in papaya and pineapple.
7. More energy
Ever felt sluggish and tired after a big steak or cheeseburger? The more animal protein you consume the longer it takes your body to break it down. Processing whole, living foods on the other hand is less work for your body and it can provide you with more energy. If you want to have more energy on a plant-based diet, you need to nourish your body with plenty of nutrients and vitamins – simply eat enough. 🙂
8. Look younger
If you want to look younger you need to make changes from the inside. Plant-based foods are rich in water and contain antioxidants which remove free radicals, a cause of premature aging, from you skin. When preparing your food, make sure to choose a cooking method that retains the maximum amount of nutrients and antioxidants, like steaming. Be sure to eat a variety of different plants as well as enough omega-3 fatty acids by adding flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
9. Less muscle pain
If you are into weight lifting (like me) you probably like the feeling of muscle soreness after a good workout. The quicker your body recovers, the sooner you will be able to train again. The key to quicker recovery is to lower inflammation. Eating a nutrient rich plant-based diet with plenty of dark leafy greens helps alkalise the body and reduce inflammation. Try to stay away from animal foods as they are acidic and have high inflammatory properties.
While the aforementioned benefits may make you reconsider your current diet, you might not be used to the flavours of whole, plant-based foods. There is evidence that if you cut down on junk foods and animal products your taste will change within a few weeks. The longer we eat healthier foods, the better they taste!