While there is a growing body of scientific evidence that proves the many benefits of consuming plant-based foods, there are still a lot of controversies among medical professionals and everyday people interested in improving their health naturally.
For instance, you will see discrepancies over what is considered a plant-based diet and whether it eliminates meat, fish, eggs, and other animal products or not. We’ll discuss the definition of plant-based foods and diets here, and then we’ll dive a bit deeper to explore some of the health benefits of consuming a plant-rich diet.
While it’s always difficult to start eating healthy after following the standard American diet for years, the benefits of doing so are overwhelmingly encouraging.
What Are Plant-Based Foods?
Any food that is derived from a natural-growing plant can fall into the category of plant-based foods. Plant-based foods typically include:
- Whole grains
If food comes from an animal in any way, it’s not plant-based. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to eliminate all animal products and become a vegan to enjoy foods that are plant-based. The more plant foods you regularly include in your diet, the more health benefits you’re likely to enjoy.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is a nutrition plan that includes a variety of plant-based foods that are minimally processed, if at all. There is some controversy over whether you have to eliminate animal products entirely. You may see the following definitions of a plant-based diet, depending on the source:
- A plant-based diet eliminates all foods sourced from animals or animal byproducts. Your diet isn’t completely plant-based if you even occasionally enjoy meat.
- A plant-based diet primarily consists of natural plant foods, but you can include some animal products for balance.
Where you fall in this debate depends on a variety of factors, including your health and fitness goals. The best way to determine if you should consume meat products and how much is to seek help from a nutritionist with experience in plant-based diets. The more you exclude animal products and byproducts, the more health benefits you’re likely to enjoy.
The Benefits of Plant-Based Foods for Health
Eliminating meat, eggs, and other animal products from the standard American diet isn’t easy. It requires dedication over time, which comes easier if you understand what you’re working towards. Let’s look at some of the benefits of consuming more plant-based foods on a routine basis.
Plant-Based Foods Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation throughout the body is known to contribute to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, depression, and other medical conditions. When the immune system is triggered against parts of the body, inflammation can play a serious part in autoimmune disease as well.
One of the most significant benefits of plant-based foods is that they reduce inflammation. In a study that included 100 heart disease patients, a vegan diet rich in plant foods was found to reduce inflammation markers more than the meat-based diet recommended by the American Heart Association.
Plant-Based Foods Boost the Immune System
Researchers are proving that consuming more vegetables can reduce the risk of contracting communicable diseases spread by viruses. Plant-based foods like vegetables also contain valuable vitamins and minerals that can help boost the immune system for significant gains in overall health and wellness.
Whether your immune system is compromised or you just want to get sick less often, consuming more natural plant foods can help.
Plant-Based Foods Promote Healthy Weight Management
A plant-based diet that eliminates all animal products will naturally reduce the calories that you consume while favoring foods rich in nutrients that promote health.
There are still some unhealthy vegan and vegetarian foods that contribute to weight gain and obesity, but a diet focused mostly on healthy, minimally processed foods is a proven approach to naturally losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight.
One systemic review of scientific literature found that there is a general trend toward weight reduction when people adopt a plant-based diet.
Another study found that plant-based diets are beneficial for treating obesity and come with a variety of additional health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and glucose metabolism, as well as lower blood pressure.
Plant-Based Foods Reduce Risk of Hypertension
Eating more plant-based food can help prevent hypertension or overcome existing high blood pressure. Research has proven that consuming a healthy plant-based diet with minimal to no animal products is associated with lower blood pressure levels.
Plant-Based Foods Reduce Risk of Diabetes
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has tested a plant-based diet with thousands of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They have found through NIH-funded research that plant-based diets are more effective than other diets that rest on calorie and carbohydrate restriction.
In addition to curing, preventing, and managing diabetes, study participants enjoyed healthy weight loss.
How to Get Help Developing a Personalized Diet Plan
Are you excited by the health benefits that can come from eating more plant-based foods or embracing a fully plant-based diet? It may seem overwhelming to think about eliminating all animal products, but you can start by making just a few simple changes to your diet.
For instance, you may start by eliminating red meat and challenging yourself to fill half of your dinner plant with fruits and vegetables every night.
Hiring a dietitian can deliver guidance and personalized tips when starting a plant-based diet or even just adding more plant-based foods to your existing diet plan. When you select the right nutritionist, you will have an invaluable resource that provides answers to your questions about the plant-based lifestyle and helps adjust your nutrition plan to fit your unique needs and taste preferences.