Top 3 Reasons Why A Plant-based Diet Makes Sense
By: Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS
Contributor: Melissa Nieves, RD
Not too long ago, it was a barren landscape for anyone who wanted to eat vegetarian or vegan! Vegetarians and vegans barely had any food options when eating out or even when shopping for food. But all that’s changed now.
Over the past few years, more and more people are showing interest in following a plant-based diet. Even restaurants and fast food chains are jumping on the plant-based bandwagon, and it’s easy to find a meat-less burger on practically everyone’s menu.
This is obviously great news in terms of health and nutrition. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend including more plant-based foods in your diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics even has a position statement on this topic. And all with good reason.
- Less risk of chronic health conditions.
As noted in an article published by the Permanente Journal, a plant-based diet is associated with lower incidences of obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and overall mortality. Indeed, this makes sense because lower intake of animal products means less saturated fat and dietary cholesterol in our bodies, which in turn can help prevent heart disease.
Eating more fruits and vegetables, due to their high antioxidant content, also helps prevent these chronic conditions. Plus, plant-based foods are great sources of potassium, which is necessary for blood pressure management. And you can take into account that plant-based diets are also high in fiber, which helps control blood glucose levels. With all that, we have even more reason to trade that greasy beef burger for a black bean with mushrooms instead!
- Improved overall quality of life and psychological well-being.
What does this really mean? Like the Judy Garland or Partridge Family (take your pick) song goes: “Hey, come on, get happy!” Plant-based diets can help with your disposition. It’s not a miracle worker but I’m not kidding! There’s even credible research that supports this claim!
Research published by the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that “plant-based diets were associated with significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health, HbA1c levels, weight, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol…” in adults with diabetes.
Diabetes is an extremely psychologically demanding chronic health condition. So it makes sense that using a cost effective, non-invasive treatment such as a plant-based diet to manage it and actually get results can positively impact your emotional well-being.
Vegetarian diets are also thought to promote a better mood due to the higher intake of total polyunsaturated (healthy) fats. Plus, the high antioxidant and phytochemical content of plant-based foods may help decrease inflammation, including in the brain. Some research has linked depression to inflammation in the brain and chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters. Plant foods may help to repair damage and decrease inflammation in brain cells, promoting good mental health.
- Better environmental protection.
A plant-based dietary pattern could make better use of natural resources and cause less environmental degradation. Animals produce a large portion of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, so avoiding meat and other animal products may help decrease global warming…always a good thing.
Food systems also account for a large use of natural resources and contribute considerably to climate change, degradation of land, water use, and other impacts. This research paper, published by Advances in Nutrition, states that “Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from vegan and ovolacto vegetarian diets are ∼50% and ∼35% lower, respectively, than most current omnivore diets, and with corresponding reductions in the use of natural resources.”
Better health for you AND the planet? This paper, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports that following a plant-based diet, “The monetized value of health improvements could be comparable with, and possibly larger than, the environmental benefits of the avoided damages from climate change.” Sign me up for some of that awesome vegan chili!
Better health, happier mood and helping the environment – three good reasons to start cooking plant-based meals. And if you don’t have time to shop and/or cook, let Healthy Meals Supreme make the meals for you! Here are a couple of my current favorites and there are more to come in February 2020, so STAY TUNED!
* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.