Starting a plant-based diet is more of a lifestyle change to your eating approach than a diet. There are so many benefits of a plant-based diet and cutting back on meat. It has almost become a trend to start eating this way due to its positive mental, physical and environmental impacts.
Eating plant-based does not mean you have to cut out meat entirely, although you can. It means you primarily fill your plate with things like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, beans, and seeds. With the remaining section of your plate, you can fill it with lean proteins or plant-based options like tofu.
When taking on any new diet changes, it is vital to remember medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies. When making this change, you will want to be sure you get the proper levels of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
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Trying a plant-based diet your way
Plant-based diets are very versatile. You can go about them in different ways:
- Vegetarian: Vegetarians do not eat meat but do eat eggs, cheese, and milk. Protein can come from plant-based options, eggs, and dairy. Some vegetarians may eat eggs but not dairy, or vice versa.
- Vegan: This style of eating cuts out all animal products. Vegans strictly rely on plants to get their protein and other nutrients.
- Raw Vegan: Raw vegans have the same rules as vegans but only eat raw plant-based foods.
- Flexitarian: Plant-based is the majority of the diet, but flexitarians occasionally enjoy animal products.
Now that you know what each plant-based diet is about, it may help you decide what is best for you. You may be wondering what positives you will see from going plant-based.
Benefits of a plant-based diet
Everyone can benefit from prioritizing the plant portions on their plate. Not only does this help your body nutritionally, but it can improve your physical health and fight against diseases. Plants have nutrients you can’t find in other foods providing you with what your body needs to function optimally. Your food choices can have the power to help the environment as well. Here are ten incredible benefits of a plant-based diet.
1. Improve gut health
A healthy gut is essential for your metabolism, immune system, bowel movements, and regulating hunger hormones. When eating more plants, you allow more beneficial bacteria into your stomach. Focusing on whole fruits and vegetables can improve gut health dramatically in as little as four months.
2. Reduce inflammation
Nutrients in plants work to help inflammation in your body. Phytochemicals and antioxidants work to neutralize toxins in the body that may have caused issues with inflammation. Processed foods, bacteria, viruses, and others could also be causes. Lack of exercise can be a massive reason for inflammation as well.
Inflammation can be more short-term or — in the worst cases — chronic. Short-term inflammation can present as swelling, redness, localized pain, or loss of mobility. It can last a couple of days or a few hours. Chronic inflammation can come from allergies, eczema, or prolonged exposure to something irritating.
3. Keep your heart healthy
Some meat, cheese, and egg products contain saturated fats and cholesterol, which can cause heart issues when you eat them too often. Plant-based foods contain no cholesterol and small amounts of saturated fats that will not create a build-up in your arteries.
A study on plant-based diets associates them with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by 16% in middle-aged adults. It is best to avoid or at least limit processed meats, fried food, and refined sugar. Besides avoiding meat, consuming anti-inflammatory foods will also help.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Yellow vegetables
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Whole grains
4. Assist addiction recovery
Good nutrition is a great holistic approach to recovering from addiction. Plant-based foods have a complete amino acid composition, which is essential to addiction recovery. These compounds help repair your body and brain from the damage that may have been done.
Your body cannot produce amino acids — specifically tryptophan — which are crucial in assisting the functions of serotonin. Some foods rich in the tryptophan amino acid you can include in your diet are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Brown rice
5. Reduce the risk of cancers
Filling your plate with plant-based foods may be the best way to prevent certain cancers. Vegans and vegetarians have been shown to have lower cancer rates than any other diet. Although there are other reasons for developing cancer, taking control of what you eat is one part of the puzzle. Phytochemicals and fiber are two crucial nutritional components that are typically high in plant-based diets and lacking in meat-focused diets.
Processed meat like deli meat and hot dogs raised the risk to 29% for colorectal polyps. When cooked, chemical compounds in red meat could contribute to cancer. Although processed meat comes with added health risks, there are potential health benefits from decreasing or eliminating any type of red meat from your diet.
6. Help you lose weight
If you cut out or decrease your meat intake, the benefits of a plant-based diet will show. The main reason to eat more plants is a nutritious diet, but weight loss may also come. It has been shown that adults with type 2 diabetes, additional weight, or cardiovascular disease who switched to whole food and plant-based diets lost weight. Possible contributing reasons include reduced energy intake, increased fiber, and reduced saturated fat and animal protein intake.
7. Improve athletic performance
Many athletes like football player Tom Brady and soccer star Alex Morgan have turned to a plant-based diet to improve their performance. Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are heart-healthy, which will help with staying in peak athleticism. It can also aid in dealing with diseases without having to turn to medication in some cases.
8. May lower blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension can increase the risk of health issues, but the foods you eat can make a difference by reducing heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes. One study found a vegetarian diet effectively prevented or managed hypertension.
Food is produced and processed from many places associated with environmental costs. Animal protein requires a significant amount of water compared to grain protein. The energy required from cow milk to oat milk is decreased by more than half. Individual carbon footprints can be reduced by 73% when switching to a plant-based lifestyle — and that’s only one person.
Although it’s not a guarantee, you can get more environmentally friendly food-choice practices that can help affect the chain of food production. Knowing you are making a difference on your side of things can give you a sense of reward while getting the benefits of a plant-based diet.
10. Reduce cognitive issues
Eating plenty of fruits and veggies can reduce the risk of cognitive issues such as dementia. The nutrients found in these fresh items likely contribute to the benefits. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and folate, which are vital nutrients for a healthy, functioning brain.
Final takeaways of the benefits of a plant-based diet
You may be eating plant-based, but make sure it is still healthy. Some plant-based alternatives are high in sugar, fats, and other additives. Choosing whole-food, plant-based options is your best bet. Processed foods may fall under the category of a plant-based lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean they’re your healthiest choice. Be sure you choose the foods that allow your body to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet.
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