Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

When you hear the words "vegan" or "vegetarian", you may think of trendy people who disavow T-bone steaks and leather jackets and are ardent supporters of PETA. You may think of activists who throw red paint on people wearing fur. You may even think of yoga-practicing, granola-crunching hippies flashing peace signs. But what you might not realize is that a plant-based diet has many health advantages, and can benefit anyone regardless of age, gender or personal philosophy.

The Cure

A plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing a number of diseases and serious conditions. Loma Linda University found that vegetarians are 36 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by a large waist circumference and high cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. This condition can drastically affect your life, making you less able to perform your daily activities. If not treated properly, these illnesses can lead to physical incapacitation to the point where you rely on wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible vans to stay mobile.

A vegetable-rich diet can lower your risk of obesity and certain types of cancer, as well as your cholesterol and blood pressure. This is because a plant-based diet includes more nutrients the body needs like vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, as well as fewer of the elements that should be limited like cholesterol and saturated fat. Additionally, vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories and keep a healthy weight.

The Alternative

In contrast, a recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that the consumption of red meat, regardless of the amount, is hazardous to your health. This study, which observed the life and dietary patterns of 37,698 men and 83,644 women for more than 20 years, found that eating less than half a serving or red meat each day could have helped to prevent many of the subjects' deaths. "Any amount of red meat you eat contributes to the risk [of death]," said An Pan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Consumption of dairy products has also been shown to contribute to coronary heart disease, and can actually impair a child's ability to absorb iron. The human body isn’t naturally equipped to digest another mammal's milk, which leads to lactose intolerance in many people. Studies have shown that the diarrhea that most lactose intolerant individuals suffer after dairy consumption not only prevents them from gaining any nutrition from what they ate, but can cause them to lose additional protein as well.

Do It Right

Although a plant-based diet is healthy, you need to be sure you get all the nutrients you need. There are many options available: legumes, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and fruits, just to name a few. The nutrients that are a concern with this diet are protein, iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and iodine. As long as you are mindful of your consumption of these nutrients, a vegetarian diet can provide everything else your body needs. If you are unsure of proper dietary guidelines, talking to a nutritionist or dietitian can help.

According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian meals, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all staged of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."

If you’re thinking of making a change in your present lifestyle, or if you are already following a plant-based diet and are merely looking for information, investigate the benefits of a plant-based diet for yourself. What you will find is that this is more than just a trend or an experiment in ethics. Abstaining from animal products and focusing on a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables will not only make you feel better, but it will make you healthier overall. So, what's stopping you?

Photo credit: elisafox and aidswarrio (sxc.hu)


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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

Check out Dustin Rudolph's book The Empty Medicine Cabinet to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today's common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on foods versus medications in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!

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1 comment:

  1. Love the post. ... and Don't forgot that many plants are cancer-fighters. I'm a cancer support educator and work with clients who have cancer or would like to do all they can to prevent cancer. Along with clean water, I always recommend a plant-based diet, free of animal products! thank you so much for spreading the word. Great research as well.

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