Switching to a plant-based diet can lead to a healthier planet and a healthier you. As well as minimising environmental damage and supporting animal welfare, following a plant-based diet has demonstrated incredible results for our health and wellbeing.
Many of the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet are a result of eating a variety of nutritious whole foods and avoiding the not so beneficial effects of animal products, such as saturated fat, cholesterol and nasty chemicals.
Those following a whole food plant-based diet are more likely to have a healthy body mass index and are less likely to be overweight due to a higher intake of dietary fibre and a lower intake of saturated fat. Plant foods also tend to have a lower glycemic index which can help keep blood glucose levels under control and prevent a surge in appetite. (1,2)
A healthy heart
Several studies have demonstrated that the consumption of plant-based foods can reduce the likelihood of having a stroke and type 2 diabetes, and developing heart disease. Consumption of meat products has been shown to increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are a precursor for these. (1)
It has been said that a plant-based diet can not only prevent your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place but reverse the condition if you already have it. (3)
Improved gut health
Consuming a plant-based diet has been shown to improve gut health, primarily due to the high fibre content of plant-based foods. The microbiota in our gut is highly susceptible to our diet. A diet rich in fibrous vegetables, fruit and legumes helps to feed the friendly bacteria in our gut, which prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria. A fibrous diet also allows for a more diverse range of microbiota - essentially the more good bacteria there is, the more protection.
Not only does a healthy gut promote regular bowel movements and minimise bloating, but it also maximises nutrient absorption which in turn can lead to a stronger immune system, a glowing complexion and a healthy mind.
Although inflammation is a positive response to fight off illness and heal the body, too much inflammation for a long period of time can be detrimental to our health. Chronic inflammation is the root of many diseases. Plant-based foods are high in phytonutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, many of these nutrients have anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect against disease. Research also suggests that the consumption of fibre-rich foods, including fruit, can help to lower the inflammatory process associated with many chronic diseases. (4)
Stronger immune system
Immunity and nutrition are tightly linked. Diets in excess of processed and refined foods, especially those high in saturated fats and sugar, can have a detrimental effect on the immune system. A well balanced plant-based diet is sure to be packed with micronutrients, which support healthy cell function and play an essential role in optimising immunity.
Eating a variety of plant-based foods will provide an abundance of vitamin C, A and D, as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium. These nutrients work synergistically to fight infection and contribute towards optimal immune function.
Studies have shown that individuals who consume high levels of bad cholesterol, saturated fat and excess calories are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementias. Eating an abundance of vegetables has been shown to provide neurological protection against Alzheimer's. (5)
To avoid cognitive decline it is suggested that we consume a plethora of leafy greens, whole grains and legumes to optimise mental function. These foods are high in B vitamins, including folate, and antioxidants, which are responsible for regulating a chemical compound in our brains associated with the onset of Alzheimer's. (6)
3. Chowdhury, B. R. (2017). Diabetes reversal by plant-based diet. Journal of Metabolic Syndrome, 6(04).