A plant-based diet is a way of eating where the focus is on filling up your plate with plant foods. The closer these plants are to resembling how they're found in nature (i.e. the less processing), the better. This way of eating is also known as a whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) diet, and is strongly associated with tremendous health benefits.
Part 1 of this 2 part blog focuses on the benefits of eating plant-based for human health. Part 2 (coming soon) will focus on the benefits for environmental health.
A WFPB diet lowers your risk of heart disease. With heart disease being the number one killer in New Zealand, Australia and the US, it is no surprise this is a major motivator for people to eat more plants.
Vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all very low in saturated fat, and by consuming a diet high in these foods you are naturally lowering your cholesterol level (saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood). Over time, lower cholesterol results in less plaque build up in arteries allowing blood to flow freely to and from the heart. In contrast, a diet high in cholesterol (animal foods) results in high plaque build up in arteries, restricting blood from being able to flow freely to and from the heart.
In addition to a WFPB diet not containing saturated fats, it naturally includes heart healthy fats (Omega 3 and monounsaturated fat), which are instrumental in lowering cholesterol.
Supports Your Immune System
A diet rich in plant-based foods supports your immune system and reduces your chances of getting sick. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes naturally contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes and antioxidants, helping to keep your cells healthy and your body in balance so that your immune system can function at its best.
Disease Prevention, Control, and Reversal
There is strong scientific evidence that suggests many chronic diseases can be prevented, controlled, or even reversed with a WFPB diet. The same abundance of phytochemicals and antioxidants that boost your immune system also go around your body neutralising toxins from pollution, processed food, bacteria, viruses and more.
Prolonged inflammation (which comes from animal products) can damage your body’s cells and tissue and has been linked to cancer and other inflammatory diseases like arthritis. A plant-based diet may protect you because it removes some of the triggers to these diseases.
Scientific research highlighted in the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted 'The China Study' by T. Colin Campbell shows that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other major illnesses. This book is an excellent read for anyone interested and in a nut shell concludes that the lower the percentage of animal protein consumed, the greater the health benefits.
A WFPB lifestyle is an ideal diet plan to lose weight because plant-based foods are naturally more nutritionally dense than most animal-based meal options.
If you eat mostly plants, you remove many of the foods that lead to weight gain. The diet makes it easy to lose weight and keep it off—without counting calories.This is largely due to minimal saturated fat and the addition of sugars being present in plant-based foods.
Increased Fibre Intake
Fibre is present in all unprocessed plant foods. Fibre is best seen as the "strings" in celery or the tough texture in kale. Because we can't digest it, it passes through our body and helps to move all the other food and nutrients along with it. This is very good because it helps prevent heart disease, cancer of the intestines, diabetes and obesity. High-fibre diets are usually low in fat and very filling.
Eating a plant-based diet improves the health of your gut so you are better able to absorb the nutrients from food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fibre can lower cholesterol and stabilise blood sugar and it’s great for good bowel management.
Improve Quality and Length of Life
All of the other potential benefits listed here roll into one major one: improving quality and length of life. The Journal of the American Heart Association study found that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all causes of mortality by 25 percent. And of course, greater health provides a great foundation for greater happiness.