Ekta Chheda, M.Sc., Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Talks About Plant-Based Diet
The Netflix series ‘Game Changers’ has got a lot of attention by health and fitness enthusiasts on making that switch to a plant-based or what is famously known as vegan diet. A plant based diet is now being considered as one of the healthiest ways of life, its benefits stretching beyond just weight loss. There is a lot of upcoming research on the numerous benefits of a vegan diet – not just for the human body, but for the environment and our mother Earth!
Vegan food has become quite a buzz word in recent times - and rightly so. It has become more like a way of life instead of consuming counted calories.
Let us deep dive into the health benefits of a plant based diet.
1. Heart friendly:Research studies have shown that switching to a plant based diet can help in lowering blood pressure and risk of developing heart diseases, as compared to consuming a non-vegetarian diet. The saturated fat in the meat, when consumed in excess can be a potential risk factor for developing heart diseases. Benefits of vegan diet also include lowering cholesterol levels, thus helping in reducing the risk of developing heart attack and stroke. The plant based diet is rather a ‘clean diet’ and consists of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables that are proven to be beneficial.
2. Reduces the risk of diabetes:Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most common non-communicable diseases that affects millions of people. Vegan diet has shown promising results in reducing the risk as well as reversing diabetes. Plant based foods are low in saturated fat. This helps to maintain a healthy weight, which indirectly prevents insulin resistance and the development of diabetes.
3. Helps in weight loss:
Consuming a plant based diet has been shown to help shed the extra kilos. A vegan diet is overall high in fiber, low in fat and consists of antioxidants and vitamins from fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy body weight also helps in preventing and keeping other lifestyle diseases at bay.
4. Longevity:It all boils down to this important benefit – longevity. There is evidence to say that consuming a plant-based diet reduces the risk of mortality by a significant percentage. This is attributable to the anti-oxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins in plant-based diet, unlike the animal based diet that has saturated fat, hydrocarbons in meat and other harmful chemicals that accelerate the ageing process.
5. Reduces cancer risk:Vegan diet should be considered as a ‘miracle diet’ for something as fatal as cancer. Consuming a plant-based diet that is rich in cancer-protective substances like fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals helps in reducing the overall risk of developing cancer. These beneficial substances are found in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The upside of a plant-based diet is that it is also beneficial for cancer survivors to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of developing other diseases.
6. Neurological benefits:Recent research has shown that consuming a plant-based diet helps in lowering the risk of developing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia and other types of cognitive impairment. This is again due to the numerous polyphenols found in vegetables and fruits, which are said to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, reverse cognitive decline and keep the brain healthy. Plant-based diets do contain the required proteins and fats, vitamins, minerals for good health. However, they frequently lack vitamin B12, which is mainly found in animal and dairy foods. Vegans may need supplementation to prevent or correct deficiency of vitamin B12.
What to eat and what not to eat in a plant-based diet ?
Foods to eat:
- Whole grains
- Fats and oils
- Plant-based milk and milk products
Foods to avoid:
- Processed and packaged foods
- Foods rich in sugar, bakery goods, desserts
- Sugary beverages, sweetened drinks
- Excess salt, salty foods
More and more research is pointing towards the transformation from non-vegetarian diets to vegetarian and vegan diets. It has, in fact, changed the face of eating and food preferences, all over the globe. Swapping to a plant-based diet will go a long way in maintaining good health and prevent several diseases, not to mention the benefits to our beloved Mother Earth!
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