The Health Benefits of Eating More Plant Based Foods

Vegan Food Health

A plant-based diet consists of eating primarily fruits, vegetables,
 nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. To eat plant-based broadly means that you avoid animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy.


Why Plant-Based? 

 Eating more plant-based foods can offer an array of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, as well as promoting healthy weight loss and skin.


Wellbeing

A plant-based diet is made up of more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. These foods are rich in fibre, antioxidants and essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.

Studies show that eating a diet rich in plant-based foods can be incredibly beneficial for your mental wellbeing - particularly with reducing stress levels and improving sleep health. [1].

 

Healthy Skin

Eating more plant-based foods and eliminating dairy consumption can promote healthy skin and reduce acne and breakouts. This is because dairy cows are treated with artificial hormones in order to keep up with the mass production. This affects their milk supply and studies have shown that this can throw your hormones off balance, thus promoting acne irritation and breakouts [2].

Further studies show that the growth hormones already naturally occurring in cow's milk can trigger acne breakouts. When digesting the proteins in dairy (whey and casein), they stimulate a hormone similar to insulin, called IGF-1. This hormone is known to trigger breakouts [3]. It's not surprising that 65% of people are lactose intolerant [4]. 

 


Lower Risk of Cancer

A wealth of studies are available that show strong evidence of a correlation between the consumption of animal proteins and cancer. In fact, a 2017 review showed evidence of a plant-based diet reducing a person’s risk of cancer by 15%. 
Plant foods are naturally higher in fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals - biologically active compounds in plants that protect against cancers [5]. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation classifies processed meat as carcinogenic to humans [6].

What's more, studies have shown that a diet rich in animal fats, such a red meat and dairy products can increase the risk of breast cancer. A study of 90,655 women found that the rate of breast cancer in the quintile of women who ate the diet highest in animal fat was a third higher than that in the quintile who ate the diet lowest in animal fat [7].


Improved Athletic Performance 

A plant-based diet can have advantages for those who are highly active or are building and maintaining muscle.

By eating less meat, your body doesn't have to use as much energy to digest your food. Animal proteins typically tend to be very dense and therefore takes your body longer for it to break down. However, plant-based proteins are more easily digestible and contain energising properties that help you to feel more alert and able to sustain longer periods of intense workouts [8, 9]. 

 Another key benefit to eating more plant-based foods as an athlete, is increased muscle efficiency. Evidence has found that by eating more plant-proteins, muscle fatigue decreases, thus allowing you to accelerate your workouts, by increasing your reps and performance. [10]

Athletes on plant-based diets have also shown a faster recovery time. This is due to the increased blood flow - providing muscles with more oxygen, and transporting more of the nutrients required for preventing and healing injuries. Plant proteins can also reduce inflammation, therefore allowing a shorter recovery time between workouts [11].


Heart Disease

A recent study of 29,682 US adults found that the intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry was significantly associated with incident cardiovascular disease. Indeed, it found that reducing the intake of these animal proteins can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death [12].

Weight Loss

Because plant-based diets are typically higher in fibre, it aids healthier digestion and more frequent bowel movements. Fibre also keeps us satisfied and fuller for longer - both key to aiding weight loss [13]. As well as plant-based diets being richer in fibre, they are typically lower in saturated fat. Particularly on a whole-food plant-based diet, which is filled with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and 'good' carbohydrates.

Additionally, a Harvard University study found that vegetarian dieters lost more weight than non-vegetarians after 18 weeks, and vegan dieters actually saw the most weight loss, losing five pounds more than non-vegetarians [14].

 


Learn more

If you want to learn more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, we recommend books such as The China Study and How Not to Die.

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