Introducing a Medical Miracle
What if we told you there was a way to extend your lifespan by delaying or completely preventing the types of chronic illness that lead to an early death? Would you assume we were talking about an experimental wonder drug, or maybe some type of expensive treatment only available overseas? If so, you’d be wrong. The real answer is much simpler, safer, and more affordable than that, and you can find it at your local grocery store.
We’re talking, of course, about a healthy diet. That’s right: The secret to long life isn’t found in million-dollar spa treatments or genetic modification—it’s held within the foods we eat every day. A popular holistic health guru puts it this way: “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” And the very best way to protect your body against potentially devastating chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome is to follow a plant-based diet.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is simply a diet that is composed mainly of plants rather than meat and animal-based foods.
Animal-based foods include beef, pork, venison, and other red meats as well as poultry, eggs, lard, milk and dairy products, fish, and other seafood like shrimp and crab. These are the foods that you should limit, depending on which type of plant-based diet you choose to follow. So what types of plant-based diets are there? Let’s take a look:
Vegans eat no meat or animal-based foods at all.
Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but no other meat or animal-based foods
Lacto-vegetarians consume milk and other dairy products, but no other animal-based foods.
Ovo-lacto vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products, but no other animal-based foods.
Pesco-vegetarians consume fish, but no other animal-based foods.
Partial vegetarians (aka flexitarians) eat a vegetarian diet the majority of the time, but may indulge in fish or poultry a few times a week.
As you can see, following a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean giving up meat entirely. You have complete freedom to choose whichever type of plant-based diet best suits your lifestyle and personal preferences.
Why You Should Follow a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based diets have gotten a bad rap in the past because previous studies tended to focus on the nutritional deficiencies they may potentially cause. Today, a significant amount of rigorous scientific research shows that plant-based diets provide more than enough nutrition if properly planned and carefully followed.
As a matter of fact, recent studies show that cutting back on animal-based foods (especially red meat) in favor of a plant-based diet is one of the very best things you can do for your health. Excess protein from animal sources increases your risk of kidney damage, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease and can also cause inflammation and digestive issues.
In a growing number of studies, plant-based diets have been shown to prevent, treat, and even reverse heart disease. A recent analysis of several studies involving a total of more than 76,000 participants shows that on average, vegetarians are 25% less likely to die of heart disease than those following a typical American diet heavy in meats and processed foods. Put another way, this means that people who don’t follow a plant-based diet are four times more likely to die of heart disease.
A plant-based diet can help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes as well. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, a nutrient that regulates blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, keeps the digestive system functioning optimally, and fills you up faster on fewer calories compared to protein, carbohydrates, or fat. Meat and animal-based foods contain no fiber at all.
How To Begin a Plant-Based Diet
If you’re ready to reap the rewards of following a plant-based diet, start by simply eating more fruits and vegetables each day while reducing your meat intake. Ideally, ⅔ or more of your plate at lunch and dinner should be made up of beans, vegetables, and/or whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, plus a serving of fruit for dessert. Have as many green vegetables as you want, in any form you want (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried), but limit starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes—these can cause blood sugar spikes.
(By the way, when it comes to vegetables, we have to be honest—sometimes they taste better with a little added flavor. Instead of reaching for the salt or ranch dressing, consider using a salt-free seasoning mix or a low-fat, low-sodium sauce like the ones available at our online store, Foods4YourHealth.)
Like vegetables, fruits are nutritious in just about any form, so feel free to honor your preferences. Dried fruit is particularly high in fiber, but it’s also much higher in sugar, so watch your portion sizes when indulging. Also, make sure to choose fruits that are canned in water or in their own juices, not in syrup—the huge amount of added sugar in the syrup will negate any potential health benefits!
And speaking of sugar, just because sugar and flour come from plants doesn’t mean they’re good for you, so you’ll need to limit sweets and junk food in addition to animal-based foods. Save treats for special occasions, and when you get a sugar craving, have a piece of whatever fruit you find most delicious (ripe plums, raspberries, and pineapples are particularly sweet and savory).
Worried about protein? Don’t be. You can easily get the protein your body needs from nuts and seeds, lentils and legumes (the technical words for peas and beans), and foods made from soy, like tofu, edamame, and tempeh. Just be aware that nuts and seeds are high in fat and calories as well as protein, so a handful a day is enough.
If you feel like giving up meat entirely just isn’t going to work for you, consider celebrating Meatless Mondays. It’s a great way to start the week with a healthy food attitude and set the tone for mealtime choices during the rest of the week. You could also try eating vegan every day before 5:00 PM, with animal-based foods allowed at dinner.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
To get the most out of a plant-based diet, you’ll need to create a meal plan that fits your lifestyle and your budget while providing for all your nutritional needs. Check out the Vegetarian Resource Group for more information on plant-based diets, and if you need help creating a plant-based meal plan that’s right for you, we invite you to reach out to us here at 2YourHealth.
That’s it for this week! We wish you good health and peace of mind in the days ahead. Join us again next week to learn what your feet might be trying to tell you this summer—and what you can do about it!