PHOTO: UNSPLASH/EDWARD HOWELL
Why go plant-based? A healthy, whole food plant-based diet is easier to digest for the body, and can help improve health and boost longevity.
Plant-based foods are lower in fat, with a higher amount of fiber, which slows digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes and drops. A plant-based diet helps build up the gut microbiome with natural probiotics and probiotics, giving you more energy, and also positively affecting our mental and heart health. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can not only prevent and even reverse heart disease, but can also reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 40%; reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%; ease blocked arteries in up to 91% of patients; and reduce the risk of hypertension by 34%.
Here are some things you might experience when you go on a plant-based diet:
1. Increased fiber means better gut movement
This is one of the most immediate changes you’ll see in your diet. Dietary fiber is important for heart and gut health as well as managing blood sugar, bowel movements and weight. Meat is usually void of any fiber, hence the reason many meat-eaters struggle with constipation and other gut ailments. Consuming more plants and fewer animal proteins causes an increased amount of more beneficial bacteria in the gut, while decreasing constipation and keeping bowel movements regular.
2. You could start losing the extra kilos
Going plant-based could kickstart your body into losing weight more easily when you swap simple sugars (carbs) and sweets for whole foods and high-fiber options that are more nutritionally-dense (e.g. sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, brown bread, avocados, etc). A plant-based diet is much easier for the body to digest, and is without the extra fat, sugar, salt and oils that come from meat, processed foods and dairy, all factors contributing to overeating and unhealthy weight gain. When you stop eating quick-burning, simple carbs and fat-laden animal products, and start nourishing yourself with plants, your body will have the nutrients to fuel you properly, giving you lasting energy too.
PHOTO: UNSPLASH/MIKE VON
3. You could lower your blood cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Apart from foods heavy in palm and coconut oils, plant foods generally have zero cholesterol and a much lower saturated fat content, making it much more heart friendly. Plants are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps slow the absorption of cholesterol, thereby reducing the amount of cholesterol the liver produces. Oatmeal, barley, beans, leafy greens and berries are all good sources of soluble fiber that are great for your heart.
4. Diabetes could get easier to manage
People who ate a mostly plant-based diet reduced their risk of diabetes by 23%, as the body is able to better regulate blood sugar levels due to all the fiber in vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains. This helps the body burn fuel steadily rather than cause insulin to spike, which leads to storing calories as fat.
5. You can reduce inflammation in the body
Inflammation is the normal protective response of the body to clear infections, repair tissues, and heal itself after injury. Signs of inflammation include redness and warmth from increased blood flow; swelling from increased blood vessel permeability; pain; and loss of function. Acute inflammation is normal and is characterised by rapid onset and resolution (such as with a sprained ankle), and as the body clears the infectious agent, the inflammation subsides naturally. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, is more persistent, lasting much longer. If inflammation sticks around for too long, it can cause damage to the body and be the root cause of many other chronic diseases such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Processed foods and animal products are brimming with inflammatory triggers like saturated fat and endotoxins; while a plant-based diet low in sugar, oil and refined grains is not only low in both the unhealthy saturated fat and endotoxins, but is also full of anti-inflammatory fiber, which helps better manage inflammation in the body.
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