Everyday, I promote a whole food plant-based diet. I conduct cooking classes featuring dishes prepared in accordance with a whole food plant-based diet philosophy.
But today I would like to share with you in a nutshell “Why a whole food plant based-diet ?” What are the benefits?
There are tremendous environmental and economic benefits of going vegan, but for today let’s just concentrate on the health aspects ……..because it is fascinating, to me at least, that our health is in our hands….and on our plates
First, I would like to emphasize that a vegan does not equal healthy, and the only scientifically proven eating pattern which can prevent or at some cases reverse certain diseases is a whole food plant-based diet. (WFPB)
That means a diet based on unprocessed products – fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, with a minimal amount of oil and without refined sugars or flour.
There are a lot of ‘accidently vegan ‘products which are packed with fat, oils and salt. Whilst it maybe ok to eat them occasionally, they definitely shouldn’t be part of our everyday diet.
A poor diet is a major contributor to early death (cardiovascular disease is still number 1 killer, in the world).
How can a whole food plant based diet can be helpful ?
Obesity - Your risk of obesity decreases when you swap a from meat-heavy diet to a plant-based one. This is because of the higher fiber content, greater food volume, and lower energy density a WFPB diet offers. Losing weight will not only allow you to look good but will significantly reduce the risk of other diseases, such as; cardiovascular diseases , cancer, diabetes type and hypertension. There are even studies showing that a low fat vegan diet is more effective when it comes to weight loss than a Mediterranean Diet.
Cardiovascular Diseases - here is the big number ! - According to the American Heart Association a plant-based diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 52 percent. Excess sodium, sugar, trans fat and processed foods (which are widely present in the omnivore diet) promote the build-up of plaque in the arteries, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that with the right dietary choices you can not only stop this process but can even reverse clogged arteries.
Plant-based diets benefit heart health because they’re rich in fiber and phytonutrients—like carotenoids, anthocyanins, and lycopene.
On the other hand just a 50g portion a day of processed meat (hot dogs, ham, sausage, etc.) is associated with up to 44 percent increase in heart disease.
Cancer – WFPD foods are packed with anticancer nutrients - fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Studies also show a link between eating red processed meats and increased cancer risk, especially colorectal cancer. So, there's benefit not only from just eating more plants, but also from replacing some less-healthy foods with those plant-based foods.
There is also a proven link in reducing breast cancer with soy and soy products consumption , due to their phytoestrogen content
Type 2 diabetes – There is a link between weight and diabetes type 2, obesity is a major risk factor since more fatty tissue makes the cells more resistant to insulin. As explained before a WFPB helps to reduce obesity so indirectly also can also improve diabetes.
Diets based on whole and minimally processed plant foods reduce insulin resistance and improve glycemic control by a variety of mechanisms. Plant-based diets are high in fiber, antioxidants and magnesium, all of which have been shown to promote insulin sensitivity. This allows the cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar levels.
Hypertension – high blood pressure, is dangerous because it can lead to stroke or heart attack. Potassium , which is widely present in fruits and vegetables helps to lower blood pressure. A WFPB is low in fat, sodium and cholesterol. It helps to improve the thickness of blood (viscosity ) which makes the blood easier to pump. This also brings down blood pressure.
Alzheimer’s – is linked to cardiovascular diseases, similar to heart diseases and the link to clogged arteries. Most people associate clogging of the arteries with heart failure, but atherosclerosis (plague) can affect also other parts of your body. That’s the reason why many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s in later life also suffer from heart disease and strokes. It has been observed that those who have already developed Alzheimer’s, but who had less fat in their arteries, worsened at a much slower rate than people who had a great amount of cholesterol build up in their brains.
WFPB is also beneficial as it doesn’t contain any cholesterol.
Last but not least – WFPB promotes longevity. Black magic ? No! ..there is science behind it.
First it reduces all causes of mortality by about 25%.
Fiber, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins are associated with longer life and WFPB is a great source of these nutrients.
That’s not all, a WFPB can actually slow the aging process. Diet can affect the length of telomeres (end of chromosomes). The longer telomeres the longer we live. Fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes increase the length of telomeres. Other nutrient-rich foods that are high in antioxidants such as seaweed and green tea have also been linked with longer telomeres and increased lifespan.
These are just the major benefits of following a whole food plant-based diet, there are studies showing it can be helpful with depression, eczema, kidney failure and recently it’s also been proven it decreases severe complications of Covid-19 by about 73%.
If going vegan seem like a drastic change, try to implement as many as possible plant-based options in your diet and you will soon see an improvement in your health and generally feel more lively.