What Is A Plant Based Diet?
Research has shown that a plant based diet plan has many health benefits and can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and inflammation. An additional benefit is that it can help with weight loss. A plan based diet is focused on eating whole-foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, seeds and nuts. It limits processed foods and animal products in the diet, and excludes highly refined foods like sugars.
Do You Have To Be A Vegan Or Vegetarian?
There are many variations to plant based diets , including the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. However, there are some nutritional researchers who advocate for a totally meat-free and dairy-free plant based diet plan, such as Dr T. Colin Campbell the author of The China Study, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and Dr Dean Ornish, in his book Reversing Heart Disease. The “Forks Over Knives” film and subsequent best selling books also argue the case for a total plant based diet plan that is free of processed foods including oil, white flour products and refined sugar.
While the latest data presented by the American Society of Nutrition indeed confirms that a plant based diet is associated with many health benefits, the question is whether you need to totally give up all animal products to achieve these benefits. Dr Ornish is one researcher who has relaxed his approach in his latest lifestyle program which tailors what you can eat to the goals you’re trying to achieve. It is clear that eating a variety of plant foods which are rich in fibre plays an important role in health and longevity, however most national authorities in nutrition recommend including some lean meat and reduced fat dairy products in a healthy balanced diet.
Tips For A Plant Based Diet Plan
Plant based foods contain high levels of fibre, anti-oxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, therefore these foods should be the mainstay of a healthy diet. To achieve this, here are some tips:
Benefits Of A Plant Based Diet Plan
Apart from helping you maintain a healthy weight, there are many other advantages of a plant based diet, especially with regards to combating disease:
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for a plant based, low-fat diet comes from studies done on people with heart disease. The data shows that people who follow a plant based diet plan excluding refined and processed foods are at significantly lower risk of developing heart disease. Furthermore, a strict plant based diet which is free of added oils can potentially even reverse existing heart disease. The Esselstyn plan for reversing heart disease calls for a diet that is:
- Free of all animal products, including meat, pork, poultry and even fish
- Free of all dairy products.
- Free of oil.
- Free of sugar.
- Low in salt.
- High in vegetables, especially leafy greens.
- High in whole grain foods, especially oats.
- High in beans and lentils.
Research has shown that a plant based diet plan can help reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Cancer is caused by changes to our normal body cells and the right dietary choices can prevent these changes and boost your immune system. Recommendations for a cancer prevention diet include:
- Eating mostly plant based foods that are kept as natural as possible, with minimal processing, peeling and cooking.
- Increasing the amount of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard greens and cauliflower.
- Including other plant based foods such as oatmeal, organic rye bread and whole grains.
- Switching from saturated fats, corn oil and olive oil to use unsaturated fats such as canola oil and flax seed oil.
- Using flavourings that increase immunity such as garlic, ginger and turmeric.
- Avoiding meat and meat products.
Studies have shown that Diabetes is another chronic disease that can be managed with a plant based diet, which promotes healthy weight and control of blood sugar. Recommendations for a plant based diet plan that helps with the control of diabetes include:
- Eating foods high in fibre such as fruits, vegetables legumes and whole grains.
- Lowering carbohydrate intake by keeping high glycemic load carbohydrates to a minimum.
- Switching to low-fat dairy products.
- Avoiding fatty meats and eating lean white meat and oily fish instead.
- Eliminating fast foods and processed foods.
In conclusion, adopting a plant based diet plan can improve your health and lower your risk of developing many of the common chronic diseases that are prevalent today.