Note: this post has been updated in September 2020.
While some people pursue a plant-based diet for ideological reasons, most do so for the health benefits it provides. There are many benefits plant-based diet, one of the major benefits is in disease-proofing your body. While there are many variables involved in attaining and maintaining ideal health, there is a growing consensus that the biggest single factor affecting human health and well-being is diet. Certainly, diet is one area over which most people potentially have a large degree of control. I do want to point out that a whole food plant-based diet is not the same as a vegan diet.
What is wrong with the diet and food we have now? According to the World Health Organization, we are in a health crisis, and we are digging our graves with the food choices we make.
We are in a society that individuals want instant gratification, which includes processed foods and fast food establishments and most everything else. The modern world has gotten increasingly addicted to processed food. That’s a fact. The tragic complementary fact is that processed foods are bad for our health. Port diet and nutrition is the main reason why people all over the world are getting fat and sick. And it seems to get worse every year.
In America, we are blessed to have access to good, quality food. Every city and small town has grocery stores that carry food, and they generally handle that food with careful safety practices. We can find a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy proteins in any grocery store in any town in America. This is the good side of the American diet.
Now for the bad side. With all the availability of good food and the money to buy it, in general, Americans are not eating what is best for them. We can see from the studies that are being conducted and the health care cost in the billions that Americans are not eating properly eating and the result is evident. Obesity is rampant, along with diabetes, heart disease and other health issues related to poor diet. So, is the American diet killing you?
Researchers who have studied the effects of plant-based foods claim that adopting this type of diet can eliminate up to 80% of diseases. Some people living with cancer say they have achieved remission by following specific plant-based diets. These diets usually also involve forsaking grains and focus on particular whole vegetables and fruits. That’s why we should consider transiting to a plant-based diet and receive the many other benefits of a plant-based diet.
Listed below some major benefits (and a couple of bonus benefits you might not have thought about) of switching to a regular eating schedule focusing on plant-based foods.
Are you overweight? Could you lose a few pounds? Are you obese? Odds are, you answered yes to at least 1 of those three questions. That is because individuals are heavier than we ever have been due to being more sedentary than we ever have to. Physical movement is linked to reaching and maintaining healthy body weight. There is another factor that doctors and health professionals believe is more to blame than lack of exercise for the weight problems of modern man what you are eating.
We now understand that as much as 65% to 75% of your level of physical fitness and health is derived from nutrition. Studies show that 70% to 80% of the food found in your grocery store contains refined sugar. MSG, salt, preservatives, steroids, and man-made chemicals are also present in most processed foods to some degree. Because of this, simply by changing your eating patterns, you will begin to lose weight if you are overweight. This means trading in processed foods (foods that come in a box, wrapper or can) for fresh and healthy vegetables, fruits and other healthier, nutritious, plant-based options.
Type II diabetes is 100% preventable and is not argued by health professionals. It is a debilitating, life-sapping disease that is dictated by lifestyle choices only. When you eat a lot of processed food and consume high levels of sugar, research shows your risk of developing diabetes skyrockets. There is also significant research which shows eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, berries, and good fats leads to a much lower incidence rate of diabetes.
You probably don’t want to suffer a heart attack. Experiencing a stroke is likely not high on your list of priorities either. Keep your heart healthy, and you positively lower your odds of experiencing either one of those heart conditions. How do you get your heart healthy? Stop eating processed and fast foods, and start eating fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods from the plant kingdom. Like many other studies, research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that “a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure.”
Why is this important? It is significant because often, the number one high blood pressure (HBP) symptom is death! That’s right, there are no warning signs, so if someone does not get checked frequently by a doctor for heart health, the first outward signs that there is any problem with your heart may be that you die from HBP. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 adults in the United States has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, which can be treated effectively with a diet change to plant-based foods.
When you experience negative health symptoms, that is one way that your body tells you there is a significant problem somewhere. If you are underweight, you may not be getting enough calories. If you are overweight, it could be a sign that you are eating the wrong kinds of food, or you are simply consuming too many calories daily. When your hair and skin develop problems, it is simply a way that your body is telling you, “Hey, we have a problem here.”
Today’s Standard American Diet (SAD, the same high-processed, low-nutrition diet enjoyed by the first world, modern nations everywhere) leads to overall poor health. Eating the SAD can display accompanying signs of that poor health, like weak, brittle hair, hair loss, acne, eczema, rosacea, prematurely aged skin, wrinkles, liver spots, and other hair and skin conditions. Simply by trading in your meat, dairy, refined flour, sugar and unhealthy oils for plant-based foods, you can return your skin and hair to a healthy, youthful appearance.
We highlighted this earlier in the introduction. It is such an important point that it bears repeating. Limiting the number of toxins and harmful bacteria that enter your body leads to a lowered risk of developing some cancers. Processed foods are full of additives, chemical compounds, sugar, MSG and other ingredients which have been linked to higher levels of cancer. Fruits and vegetables are chock-full of powerful antioxidants and other immune-boosting nutrients, enzymes and “natural medicines” that keep cancer at bay.
“All disease begins in the gut.” That is a quote that comes from Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine. He made that statement in the 4th century BC. He knew then what doctors know now, that as much as 3 out of every four human diseases begins with a problem in your digestive process. Fruits and vegetables are high fiber foods.
When you eat plenty of fiber, which is virtually nonexistent in processed foods and most meat and dairy products, that fiber cleanses your digestive tract, gut, and intestines. Eat more high-fiber fruits and vegetables, and you promote a healthier gut, which is where a lot of infections, illness, and disease begin.
When you reach for a cup of coffee, a sweet treat or an energy drink, you may enjoy a burst of energy. However, you are also familiar with the crash that usually follows. The resulting crash is because using sugar to give you an energy boost is not the healthiest way to experience a “pick me up.” Eating fresh, delicious and nutritious fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide you with natural energy and vitality that lasts the entire day. The fresh fruits and vegetables help to limit stress and anxiety and improve your natural feeling of energetic wellness.
Most people change their diet to change their well-being. They want to lose weight, look better, have more energy or achieve some other set of physical or mental results for personal reasons. There is nothing wrong with that. You can’t help others, or the planet, until your heel and help yourself. What is wonderful about a plant-based approach to nutrition are the far-reaching effects your healthy eating habits have.
Do you enjoy a good cheeseburger? Who doesn’t? When you find out how that beef makes it to your hamburger bun, you may never eat meat again. The animals used to harvest meat for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners live an entire lifetime of cruelty, mistreatment and horrific living conditions. As many as 20,000 animals are slaughtered every single day for their meat, flesh and the liquids they excrete, and that is just in the United States.
Switching to a plant-based diet means treating your animal co-inhabitants of the planet humanely, as we should be doing. Factor in the point that plants offer humans all of the nutrition they possibly need, and you will see that the horrific treatment of animals regarded as food products is simply not needed.
Modern agricultural practices used by big industrial farms and meat producers are killing our planet. These companies worry about nothing but the bottom line. They couldn’t care less if they are damaging the planet in pursuit of the almighty dollar and they are doing exactly that. When you go plant-based, you become more aware of how food makes it to your dinner table.
This means you invariably begin to look into purchasing organic plant-based foods whenever you can. You start buying local produce. You are switching to this diet to become healthy, so you logically will start to look for the healthiest foods available. Simply by saying no to meat, and opting for the healthiest plant food, you can get, you promote a healthier, more sustainable planet.
Some people think buying fruits and vegetables are expensive…but compared to what? Why not do a simple but realistic calculation yourself? Compare the cost of meals based on meat with their plant-based alternatives. Beans, lentils, and peas are among the cheapest foods you can buy, and they are nutritious and delicious!
Whether you’re already a convert and just want a dietary reboot, or you’re trying a plant-based diet for the first time The Forks Over Knives Plan makes it easier than ever to transition to this healthiest way of eating…and to maintain it for life. Below are other great resources that will help you get on the right track.
The Food Revolution Network is committed to healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all. Guided by John and Ocean Robbins, with more than 500,000 members and with the collaboration of many of the top food revolutionary leaders of our times, The Food Revolution Network aims to empower individuals, build community, and transform food systems to support healthy people and a healthy planet.
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