For years we’ve been told fruits and veggies were good for us. We now look at broccoli and spinach with a bit more gratitude than we did as children when most of us were forced to eat them before leaving the dinner table. While most of us would certainly love to get by with eating desserts and sugary sweets to stay healthy, we know that health doesn’t work that way. Fruits and vegetables keep our bodies from getting sick and keep us from becoming overweight and sluggish. But the benefits of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables go way beyond keeping us slim and illness-free. They’re also the key ingredients to approaching a healthier lifestyle choice: a plant-based diet.
Why a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet Works
Numerous studies show that a plant-based diet provides the body with enough protein, quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Besides the fact that everyone should take a B12 supplement (plant-based or not), a plant-based diet has no short-comings in serving up dietary needs. It’s filling, nutritious, and so versatile that it can be customd designed to fit any lifestyle or culinary preference.
The key is to eat a whole foods plant-based diet, not a processed vegan version. Many processed foods can make up your diet and still be vegan, but going that route won’t serve your health as best as eating simple whole foods and turning them into tasty meals. Giving your body these whole food sources of nutrients like calcium, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, protein, Vitamin D, essential fatty acids, and potassium will keep your cells functioning exactly as they were meant to. They recognize whole foods as sources of energy to break down. Man-made foods require your body to have to decipher what they are supposed to do with them, use what they can and detoxify the rest. A diet heavy in animal-based and processed foods makes it harder on your body and makes you tired and often sick in the meantime.
Benefits You’ll See From Making the Switch
A longer life is most likely one of the best benefits you’ll see from making the switch, but short term, here are five that most everyone sees within a week or two of eating whole, plant-based foods.
1. Better Blood Sugar
One of the most noticeable effects you’ll see from eating plant-based sources of protein (that are often rich in fiber) is better blood sugar levels. Animal foods contain IGF1 (insulin growth factor) which promotes higher blood sugar causing cravings, blood sugar swings, and often that shaky, moody feeling you get if you don’t eat something right away, or if you skip meals. Plant-based proteins don’t cause this. In fact, they do the opposite; they keep you full a long time and provide greater satiety. They also don’t spike your blood sugar. Contrary to belief, animal foods do raise blood sugar, even more so than some fruits or some starchy veggies.
2. Better Digestion
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans are all made of one similar ingredient: fiber. Fiber is the most essential nutrient for healthy blood sugar, digestion, and heart health combined. Products with refined sources of fiber added like processed crackers, etc. are not the best source. Whole foods, on the other hand, such as the foods mentioned above, are full of natural insoluble and soluble fiber to support digestion and regularity, along with keep you full. Their fiber breaks down more slowly, lowering blood sugar. This is one reason a low-fat (oil-free) plant-based diet is so effective at helping control diabetes. Keep in mind that sometimes people go high-fiber too fast, which may cause a bit of digestive activity you may not be used to. If this happens, back off the beans just a bit and follow some other digestion tips to solve this simple issue. The good news is, your digestive system will work much better in no time and won’t have so much work to do!
3. More Energy
Do you think your body would prefer to break down whole, living foods from the earth or the result of another living being (animal products.) Think of it this way: the less work your body has to do, the more energy it can provide you. When did eating animals become a natural way of life? We have all the foods we need for energy right at our finger tips. All plants are full of carbohydrates and fiber, plant-based protein that contains amino acids, healthy fats that benefit the metabolism, and vitamins and minerals that support the body. They energize us and keep our bodies from having to break down foods like animal products that have been linked to diabetes, cancer, and poor heart health.
4. Less Muscle Pain
Animal foods are high in inflammatory properties. They’re acidic by nature and create an imbalance in our pH level that keep our body alkaline and free from pain and inflammation. Inflammation also causes different forms of disease such as: arthritis, diabetes, cancer, leaky gut syndrome, and even heart disease. Take a look at a plant-based food that’s full of fiber, color, and nutrition and compare that to a piece of raw meat that’s tough and the result of another creature’s suffering. Which one do you think your body would prefer? Keep in mind that sugar, refined grains, and most processed foods also lead to inflammation, which is why a diet of pure, plant-based foods work best.
Lastly, let’s talk about how much delicious and filling food you get to eat on a plant-based diet! Take a look at all the foods in the produce section, all the grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes in the bulk section and then take a peek at the meat section – which do you think offers more variety? Besides, a plain piece of meat by itself doesn’t taste good, nor does dairy milk after it first comes out of a cow or an egg that comes directly out of a chicken seem very palatable. Those foods need to be dressed up with sauces, spices, and marinades to taste good, and go through certain forms of heat and pasteurization before they’re even safe to eat. A juicy apple, crunchy sweet carrot, sweet pear, crunchy almond, or creamy bowl of oats? They’re pretty good by themselves, actually. Plants satisfy your body the way it was meant to be nourished. Embrace that and run with it. Your diet has never been so exciting (or more affordable!)