If you ask anyone who is passionate about eating a plant based diet why they eat the way they do, they’ll typically respond with one of three answers: health, environment or ethics. Personally, my motive for eating plant based is mostly health with the environmental and ethical aspects being more of the ‘icing on the cake’. So, how does eating a plant based diet affect your health? In this post I’ll do my best to summarize the research I’ve read that has impacted my decision to eat a plant based diet.
Chronic disease scares me. I don’t want to be told by my doctor that I’m sick with a lifestyle disease like high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, etc. and that I’ll be on prescription drugs for the rest of my life.
I’ve also experienced weight gain and that’s something I NEVER want to feel again. Physically, I felt sluggish and uncomfortable. Emotionally, I felt terrible for letting myself get that way.
From everything I’ve read, eliminating animal and processed foods is the best and proven way to avoid chronic disease and weight gain.
The physical, mental and emotional impact of eating plants are truly well with my soul.
It’s the only diet that research shows can prevent, arrest, or in some cases reverse cardiovascular disease.
If that’s not enough of a reason, I don’t know what else could be. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of premature death of men and women in America. I bet you know more than one person (maybe even yourself) suffering from cardiovascular disease. In the words of Dr. Michael Gregor, “shouldn’t that make plant based eating our default diet?”
One of the biggest factors in having cardiovascular disease is the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol consumed. Cholesterol clogs the arteries and in turn restricts blood flow in the body. The ONLY source of saturated fat and cholesterol is animals products. We have absolutely no need to consume either of these things for optimal health. All of the cholesterol your body needs is produced by your liver and your body has no need at all for saturated fat.
But, where do you get your protein?
Protein is overrated. We truly don’t need as much as we’ve been led to believe. Yes, protein is essential to tissue (muscle) repair, but too much protein will put your kidneys into overdrive and all of the excess protein consumed is just excreted as waste in urine. Please remember that my hobby is bodybuilding. I do care about getting enough protein and have indeed eaten a ‘high protein diet’, even as a vegan. As little as 7-10% of calories consumed from protein can be enough, with some people needing slightly more (I.e., people consistently breaking down their muscles – body builders, athletes, etc.). This amount of protein (and more) is easily consumed when calories are obtained from whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, and even green (non-starchy) vegetables and fruit.
Micronutrients are abundant in a whole foods plant based diet.
But, what are micronutrients? When I refer to micronutrients, I’m generally speaking about vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even fiber. Getting enough micronutrients aids in optimal functioning of all body systems. Plain and simple. Your body is amazing in that if you accidentally consume too much of a micronutrient, it will almost always only absorb as much as it needs.
With the exception of B12, you can get more than enough micronutrients in a plant based diet. Whereas a diet based on animal products is significantly lacking in micronutrients. Even the B12 in meat and dairy is artificial, given as a supplement to the animals, but more on this in another post.
Fiber. Oh glorious fiber.
Absolutely essential for regularity. While this may not be the most ladylike thing to write about, it’s hugely important to health and should be talked about more! If you aren’t ‘going’ regularly and with minimal effort, you’re not getting enough fiber. More and more research is emerging with findings that show people who eat more fiber are far less susceptible to many chronic illness because their digestive systems are functioning properly.
My kitchen is not a morgue
One thing that freaked me out when I was eating meat (and still makes me cringe to think about) was making sure my kitchen was sanitized after preparing meat. Think about it. Meat is literally a decaying body part in your refrigerator. So much potentially harmful bacteria thrives on that decaying bit of flesh. Without that in my kitchen, I don’t have to stress about cross-contamination and using bleach and other harsh chemicals to be sure all of that bacteria is dead.
Even regardless of all those reasons, I’d still choose a plant based diet over any other diet because I just feel so good. The physical, mental and emotional impact of eating plants are truly well with my soul.