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The Advantages of a Plant-Based Diet (Pt. 3)

21 August 2013

Part 3 of this series continues with “Some unexpected benefits of eating a plant-based diet.”

First,

A lot of people who claim to be vegetarian eat more than simple plant-based foods and a little research will show that there are many different types of vegetarian diets and the four most common ones are:

1.    Vegan – Strictly plant based: No animal flesh, no eggs, and no dairy products are allowed.

2.    Lacto-vegetarian – Mostly plant-based: No animal flesh or eggs, but dairy products are OK.

3.    Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – Partly plant-based: No animal flesh but dairy products and eggs are OK.

4.     Pescatarian – Questionably whether vegetarian (The Vegetarian Society, does not recognize pescatarians as true vegetarians): Pescatarians eat no animal flesh except seafood; dairy products and eggs are optional.

The rest of the text in this article (and the preceding two articles) applies to veganism or a strict plant-based diet as opposed to the “vegetarian” types (2, 3, & 4) mentioned above.

Research

In an analysis published in 2009 in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers noted that plant-based diets are associated with:

• Lower levels of triglycerides

• Lower concentrations of inflammatory markers such as C-reative protein (CRP)

• Lower blood pressure

Decreased body weight and body mass index (BMI)

Decreased risk of premature death from any cause, including heart disease

Improved insulin sensitivity

Better blood sugar control in patients with diabetes

The heart benefits of eating more plant foods are well-established by large-scale studies such as the “Nurses’ Health Study” and the “Health Professionals Follow-up Study.” These studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have a 20% reduced risk of heart disease and a 27% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, especially stroke.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada say that plant-based diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegans also have substantially lower rates of the following health problems:

• Heart disease

Blood cholesterol levels

Blood pressure

Hypertension

Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes

Prostate cancer

Colon cancer

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit organization of doctors and others promoting preventive medicine, recommends a quality plant-based diet for the treatment and prevention of many health conditions.

Some of the world’s populations are known to have extraordinary long, healthy and happy lives. There are areas in the world where disease is virtually unknown, even in the oldest persons. Studies have shown that their exceptional health is largely attributed to low-calorie, plant-based, whole foods diets. Genetics are ruled out as a significant factor because when these same people are exposed to Western-style diets they quickly develop the same diseases common to Westerners.

Okay, so here are some unexpected benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

You’ll be doing a huge favor for the environment: Most people don’t realize it, but our insatiable appetite for animal protein contributes 50% more greenhouse gases than our planes, trains, trucks, cars and ships? Needless to say, our environment benefits greatly every time someone cuts animal foods out of their diet.

You’ll feel more connected to your higher (or spiritual) self: Not getting nearly enough fiber is one pitfall of eating the standard American diet, and that equates to sluggishness. When provided with the valuable fiber found in a plant-based diet your body is better able to cleanse itself and space is opened up within. Whenever someone upgrades to a plant-based diet, this naturally brings about a desire to connect to our source and our highest self.  When we can be our truest selves then we are in the best position to share our inherent gifts with others.

Compassion naturally arises in someone when they stop eating meat: This isn’t meant to imply that you didn’t care about animals before, but I’ll bet you didn’t know (and probably didn’t want to know) what was actually happening to the cows, pigs, and chickens before they turned up in your supermarket. Two billion animals suffer and then are killed every week just so they can show up on our dinner plates. It’s unconscionable.

You’ll be saving money: By eating an assortment of veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes as the base for your meals is actually quite cost effective. That difference makes up for the slightly higher priced organic produce, you’ll be comfortable knowing it’s an investment in your long-term health and that can mean big savings.

Creativity is enhanced: Cleaning up your diet and switching to plant-based foods will bring about a profound change in your creative expression. Your thinking will be clearer and new and inspiring ideas will come in abundance.

You’ll lose unwanted weight: Nearly all plant-based foods are much less caloric and very dense nutritionally, a sure “win-win” situation for weight loss. You’ll likely never feel deprived when eating this way, and quite possibly you’ll feel satisfied more quickly because your body is telling your brain it’s getting what it needs.

In summary: Contrary to popular myth, vegans have healthy bones and higher blood protein levels than omnivores. Vegans in fact average fewer nutrient deficiencies than average omnivores. But there are a couple important nutritional considerations. There are two vitamins not readily available in plants: vitamins D and B-12…Unless you live in the extreme northern (or southern) hemisphere, you can get ample vitamin D from the sun, and very little sun exposure is needed to provide your body’s needs. A natural source of vitamin B-12 can be found in nutritional yeasts. One brand of nutritional yeast, Red Star, has been tested and shown to contain active vitamin B-12. Those sensitive to other yeasts can also use it. Also recommended for vegans are algae-based long chain omega 3 fatty acids.

*Of related interest, click on: The Advantages of a Plant-Based Diet (Pt. 1)

& The Advantages of a Plant-Based Diet (Pt. 2)

 

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