A plant based diet for health
There are so many meal choices and ways to eat available today, all having diverse benefits, that it can be confusing trying to choose a plan that works for you.
I have found there are four ‘ways of eating’ that have tremendous benefits, either used alone or in combination with one another:
Plant based diets, Calorie restriction, Intermittent fasting, and Intuitive eating
Let’s get a closer look at the rationale behind these ways of eating and how you can incorporate these into your daily routine for optimum cellular health. Starting off in this blog with plant based diets.
A Plant Based Diet for Cell Health
With the popularity of vegan diets on one hand and the Paleo craze, with its emphasis on high protein intake from meat, on the other, it’s difficult to know what might be the best diet for you to follow for long term cellular health. So, let’s look at some interesting evidence in favor of a plant based diet on your overall health.
First, what exactly is a plant based diet? This is a diet that emphasizes the consumption of what we call ‘nutrient dense’ plant foods. In other words, you won’t just be eating lettuce and celery sticks all day! At the same time, a plant based diet minimizes the consumption of processed foods as well as oils, meat, and dairy products.
Some interesting research done by Australian scientists seems to counter the Paleo claims and found that diets high in carbohydrates and low in protein are the best to produce an elevation of something called FGF21. This stands for Fibroblast growth factor 21 and it is an endocrine (hormonal) ‘signal’ that is activated by protein restriction. Lead research author Dr. Samantha Solon-Biet, explains their findings when compared to a high protein Paleo diet, “Our research suggests the exact opposite may be best for us as we age, that a low protein, high carbohydrate diet was the most beneficial for later life health and longevity.”
Also, a plant based diet tends to be naturally anti-inflammatory. Dr. Dean Ornish’s research on low fat, plant-based, vegetarian diet (along with lifestyle changes such as reducing stress) suggested that this type of diet could reverse symptoms of heart disease. As well, one study showed that after five years, those that participated had lost an average of 24 pounds on the Ornish Diet and most had kept the weight off.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics now recommends wellplanned, plant-based nutrition for people with diabetes. In countries where the majority eat a plant-based diet, rates of diseases like diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease are extremely low.
Let’s look at some of the foods you should emphasize on a mostly plant based, anti-inflammatory diet.
Fruits and vegetables: Pick fruits and vegetables with varied and vibrant colors and you can’t go wrong! Green vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, or dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, mustard and turnip greens all are high in vitamin K and help fight inflammation. Vegetables and fruits that have a red or purple color, such as beets, red cabbage, blackberries, cherries, and raspberries, have also been demonstrated to be high in antioxidant rich flavonoids, which fight inflammation. There are so many delicious fruits and vegetables, I’m sure you can find a handful that you will love to eat!
Whole grains: Choose whole, nearly unprocessed grains such as steel cut oatmeal, brown rice, and other unrefined grains that have their fiber and vitamin content intact.
Beans: Choose kidney beans, pintos, lentils, lima, great Northern beans, and more, for dishes high in fiber, antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Nuts: Limited to a handful a day to avoid excess calories, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts are loaded with good fats. (Among good fats, Avocados, and olive oil in moderate amounts are good choices too.)
Herbs and Spices: Not only do these wonderful culinary additions make your food taste great, many are filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Choose ginger, turmeric, garlic, and more to give your food an even greater nutritional boost.
Personally, when deciding what to eat, I like to follow Dr. Michael Greger’s Traffic Light system and Daily Dozen checklist from his book, How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease (2015).
The Traffic Light categories are:
Dr. Greger states “Simply put, eat more green-light foods. Eat fewer yellow-light foods. And, especially, eat even fewer red-light foods.” For more information on Dr. Greger, the Traffic Light and his Daily Dozen checklist visit: https://nutritionfacts.org/book/.
A 2015 study confirmed that apple eaters were more likely to avoid prescription medication. Since the 1990’s researchers have examined the protective effects of fruits and vegetables. A 2003 study linked intake of fruits and vegetables to a reduced risk of breast cancer in woman in China.
Fruits and vegetable intake has also appeared to have a protective effect against coronary heart disease, cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer disease and asthma.
Now that we’ve looked at what kinds of food you should be eating, in the next blog let’s examine some interesting ways in which to consume those foods that can have a major impact on our health.
- Maday Labrador