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Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet

Plant based diets, when done right, can be a game changer, a health changer, and on a broader scale, they could even be an environment changer! But seriously, adopting a plant-based diet or even adding more plant-based foods to your diet can trigger many benefits that extend far beyond health. And let’s be real, we’ll take all the benefits we can get these days! 

While everyone has their own personal reasons for adopting a plant-based diet, keep reading for some of the science-backed benefits to eating plant-based.

 

But first, what is a plant-based diet?

Surprise, surprise! Plant-based diets are just as they sound. They’re diets that are centred around eating plant-based foods or if you’re fancy, plant-forward foods. These foods may include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes and beans
  • Oils, herbs and spices

These days, plant-based diets can come in many different forms and take fancy names. People who eat plant-based may also be vegetarian, vegan, or follow another similar diet. But eating plant-based doesn’t mean that you have to follow one of these diets or never eat meat and dairy again. It can be as simple as adding more plant foods into your daily eating and replacing some of the animal-based ones in the process! Or choosing to eat more foods that come from plant sources. What sets plant-based eating apart from these diets is that there is no “all or nothing” mentality. No restrictions or limitations. Just lots of plants and good vibes!

 

Five Science-Backed Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

1. Load up on those polyphenols!

Polyphenols are micronutrients that are found exclusively in plants. They’re known for their antioxidant effects and health benefits. A fun fact to sprinkle into your small talk: polyphenols are responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables their unique colours. For example, Carotenoids are polyphenols that produce the bright yellow, red and orange colour in vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers. 

These pigments play an important role in plant health and are equally important to human health too! Research shows that polyphenols can prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, digestive issues and neurodegenerative diseases. Let’s go plant power!

2. Live longer through eating plant foods (and prosper!)

Psst, plant-based foods can help you live longer, pass it on! Yep, the rumours are true that eating more plants could add years to your life. Research from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that following a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all-cause death by 25%. Who knew that plants were the Elixir of Life all along?

3. Plant foods nourish your gut

Recent research has scientists guessing that many of the health benefits from eating plant-based may be rooted in our gut microbiota. Seeing as though our gut is so responsive to change in diet, it’s no big surprise that eating more plant-based can affect gut health. In fact, research shows that a high-quality plant-based diet can promote a more diverse and stable gut microbiota, which we now know is key to a healthy gut!

Much of this can be attributed to the fact that all plants contain fiber, and our resident friendly gut microbes feed off of fiber. To add math into the equation: more plants = more fiber = more fuel for gut microbes. To sweeten the deal, polyphenols, the micronutrients in plants that we talked about earlier, also fuel the good bacteria in the gut! This is key because science shows that gut health influences our overall health in a major way. So, the scientists may be right, and we’ll take all of the plants (and gut health) we can get!

4. Plants can temper that Inflammation

Chronic inflammatory diseases are one of the most significant causes of death in the world. That’s some serious stuff. But thankfully, there are proven ways to counter inflammation, like eating plant-based!  

Plant-based diets have been shown to lower inflammation. For example, a randomized study from the Journal of Nutrition Research found that a plant-based diet decreases inflammation in comparison to an animal-based diet. This adds to the growing body of research to support that a plant-based diet can reduce inflammation and may help manage chronic inflammatory diseases!

5. Eating plants is good for the planet

As the climate crisis rages on, many are interested in simple changes to shrink their personal carbon footprint (we see you, climate warriors!). As it turns out, one of the best ways to make an impact is to adopt a more plant-focused diet. 

Research indicates that eating plant-based can prevent greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity losses and reduce land and water use. With animal products linked to climate change, water use and air and land pollution, it’s no wonder that many people are switching over to a plant-based diet. Eat plant-based, your future self might just thank you later!

 

When it comes to a plant-based diet: quality is key!

When it comes to the science and health benefits, most research on plant-based eating includes participants following a high-quality, plant-based diet that is packed with fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, oils, and other nutrient rich foods. Which brings up an important point - you can follow a plant-based diet and still eat unhealthily. If we’re being real for a minute, many delicious but not-so-healthy foods like potato chips can be highly caloric, processed, lack nutrients, but still be considered plant-based. And no shade to the potato chip, but if you’re expecting to get health benefits from a plant-based diet that is lacking vitamins and minerals, you may be disappointed.

So, when it comes to the health benefits of a plant-based diets, it’s key to consider the quality of the food in your diet. Here are a few guidelines that can help you in your transition into becoming a plant-powered machine:  

  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and/or vegetables at each meal. This one is key and goes back to what Mom and Dad always preached – you have to eat your veggies!
  • Aim to eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible. Think locally sourced market fresh foods and eating in-season fruits and vegetables.
  • Cook with oils!Consider swapping out butter and margarine in your cooking for alternatives like avocado oil, olive oil, canola oil or coconut oil.
  • Your diet is not whole without Whole Grains!Aim to eat whole grains instead of refined. Buy whole wheat or multi grain breads, cereals, oats, pastas, rice and more.
  • Don’t forget about nuts and seeds! If you’re wondering how to add more seeds into your diet – you’ve come to the right place! Try Holy Crap Superseed Cereals, packed to the brim with chia, buckwheat and hemp hearts. 

Lastly but surely not least - always chat with your doctor or dietician before making any big changes to your diet. As you could imagine, changing up your diet can greatly impact your health and nutrient intake. So, keeping your doctor or dietician in the loop is always a great call.

 



References

Pandey, K. B., & Rizvi, S. I. (2009). Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2(5), 270–278.https://doi.org/10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498

Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2020 Nov 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

Tomova, A., Bukovsky, I., Rembert, E., Yonas, W., Alwarith, J., Barnard, N. D., & Kahleova, H. (2019). The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in nutrition, 6, 47.https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00047

Turner-McGrievy, G. M., Wirth, M. D., Shivappa, N., Wingard, E. E., Fayad, R., Wilcox, S., Frongillo, E. A., & Hébert, J. R. (2015). Randomization to plant-based dietary approaches leads to larger short-term improvements in Dietary Inflammatory Index scores and macronutrient intake compared with diets that contain meat. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 35(2), 97–106.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2014.11.007

Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61–66.https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085

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