Plant Based Diet: What and Why?

Over the past few years a lot of information has surfaced regarding “plant based diets.” Many are claiming that it is the ideal diet, it can reverse disease, and that it may even reduce your risk of cancer greatly. You may be left wondering what exactly is a plant based diet, why is it good for me, and how do I change decades/years worth of eating to resemble a diet that seems so foreign? 

A plant based diet is defined as a diet that largely focuses on food that does not come from animal sources and foods that are not highly processed. This means mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A plant based diet does not mean excluding dairy, eggs, and meat based products, but limiting them greatly.  The reason for this is that dairy, eggs, and meats contain large amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat, and tend to be highly processed leading to numerous health problems.  

The China Study came out in 2005 and was the most comprehensive study done about nutrition, weight loss, and overall health. This study found that a diet that is largely composed of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will escape, reduce, or reverse the development of numerous common diseases. This was a huge kick starter for many documentaries, articles, and studies that have since educated people on why a plant based diet may be the ideal diet for human health. The China Study recommended limiting intake of external dietary cholesterol and adding in supplements to provide adequate nutrition, specifically vitamin D. The study points out the growing number of people in the United States dying of heart disease (the #1 killer for the past 80 years) and the factors that contribute to it. Heart disease risk factors include: elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, physical activity, and smoking. 3 out of these 5 can be largely prevented by eating a whole food, plant based diet. Another ailment this study points out is diabetes, something that is plaguing more and more individuals in our society every day. The China Study showed that plant based diets high in fiber can be protective against diabetes. 

Shifting your diet away from the standard American diet and towards a plant based diet can be a challenge, but is something that is recommended because of the many health benefits that you will receive. The important thing to remember is that small wins are wins indeed. Introduce a plant based diet slowly, begin by swapping out your white rice for brown or switching your white bread for whole grain bread. You may also make one day a week “meatless” where you try making all meals or your dinner center around a plant based protein like beans, tofu, or a meatless substitute. A good rule of thumb is to fill all of your “plates” halfway with fruits and vegetables. Slowly try to shift your focus away from the foods that are high in sugar or sodium and you will notice a huge difference in the foods you enjoy or crave.

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