There are many ways in which a plant-based whole foods diet is beneficial. Health. The environment. Animal welfare. Athletic Performance. Cognitive Abilities. Spiritual awakening. And there are even more articles, books, scientific studies, films, and social media influencers that explain the reasons.
So for the sake of your time and my sanity, I’ll focus on just one of the reasons why many people (including myself) consider this lifestyle: optimum health. This is my “why.” When I originally began exploring this way of eating a couple years ago, it was because I had become aware of the blindfolds that the USDA and FDA puts over the eyes of American citizens when it comes to the health standards of our food industry.
For example, did you know there is a metric for determining the somatic cell count that is allowable in milk products? FYI “somatic cell count” = PUS CELLS. Yes. Pus from the infected udders of cows that is allowed in small quantities in milk and dairy products.
In fact, here’s a cool article that lists all the disgustingness that is allowed in manufactured (usually highly-processed) foods.
And here’s the actual list of rules that the USDA produces for labeling of manufactured foods. Pretty extensive, and confusing. I’d like to point out the several Federal Acts that are in place to specifically avoid a USDA inspection. And did you know that “100% white meat chicken” and “white meat chicken ONLY” are two different things? I personally believe the labeling system is designed to be misleading to encourage consumerism. I mean, if you knew there was a percentage of unidentifiable “other” ingredients in your food, wouldn’t you think twice about buying it?
There’s also the rising cost of healthcare and the chronic disease epidemic. If you don’t believe that chronic disease is an epidemic, you need to read this. The leading causes of death and disability (in the U.S.) are chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis, all of which are extremely life threatening, costly, and preventable.
After these discoveries my research on a plant-based whole foods diet continued, and I realized just how amazing it can be for achieving optimum health. It requires eating food in it’s most natural state, the way our bodies are designed to digest it. I could break down exactly what a plant-based whole foods diet is, but these guys already did it pretty well.
So let’s get to it – the main health benefits of this diet. Hey, I may even write a blog post on each of these benefits – there’s enough research and evidence out there to support all of them.
- Lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Yes, eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy plant-based fats will help you lose that unwanted weight. No surprise there.
- Lower risk of heart disease. Do you know what causes heart disease? Cholesterol. Do you know what amount of cholesterol plants have? ZERO. Plants contain ZERO cholesterol. Bad cholesterol comes from animal products. Good cholesterol… your body actually makes that stuff on its own.
- Lower risk of osteoporosis. Animal products have been scientifically proven to create an acidic pH in the human body. In order to neutralize that acid, the body breaks down calcium from the bones. Even this website devoted to bone health agrees.
- Lower risk of (some types of) cancer. Speaking of pH, there is scientific evidence that links an acidic environment to a predisposition to certain types of cancer. Eating a plant-based whole foods diet creates an alkaline environment in the body, which stifles cancer cell growth. Also, fruits and vegetables contain a high amount of antioxidants, which bind to carcinogenic free radicals and prevent them from causing cell damage.
- Prevent (and even cure) type II diabetes. Studies have found that a plant-based diet actually regulates blood sugar levels and can help those suffering from diabetes. Here’s a neat video from NutritionFacts.org:
- Prevent (and even cure) autoimmune diseases. Most autoimmune diseases have one thing in common: inflammation. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that diets high in refined starches, sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids appeared to turn on the inflammatory response. However, a diet rich in whole plant foods reduced inflammation.
- Improve digestion. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and very easily digested by the human body. They quickly move through the digestive system, and a clean and healthy colon is the key to a vibrant life. Dr. Norman W. Walker believed this so much he wrote a book about it. The synopsis? Veganism and juicing.
- Regulate blood pressure. Another great thing about plants – very little saturated fat, and absolutely no trans fat! This results in lower blood pressure and a healthier cardiovascular system.
- Increase energy. This is one of the main reasons many Olympic and professional athletes are turning to veganism. Consistent energy and better athletic performance. Who, you say? World tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. Pro NFL defensive lineman David Carter. Ironman champion John Joseph. A crap ton of UFC fighters, including Rhonda Rousey. And my personal inspiration, bodybuilder and WNBF Bikini Pro Sam Shorkey.
- Improve sleep. This is sort of a chain reaction. Increased energy leads to increased desire to exercise. Increased exercise, among other habits and nighttime rituals, leads to better sleep. Better sleep encourages dreaming of fruit…
- Balance mood. An 18-week study on a group of GEICO employees, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, determined that a plant-based diet alleviated employee symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even improved their productivity at work.
- Improve cognitive abilities. Various research studies have shown that the brain is largely dependent on dietary DHA, found in Omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, you can get Omega-3 from fish oils, along a slew of toxins. But did you know that DHA is present in even higher quantities in micro algae? And did you know that Omega-3 ALA, found in flaxseeds, actually helps the body produce more DHA, and thus reducing the need for dietary supplementation? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proved that vegans have the same blood levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and higher DHA levels than fish eaters or those who supplement with fish oil. *Memories of my mom spoon-feeding me cod liver oil as a child is making me want to hurl at this moment.
- Shiny, strong hair. Case and point: FullyRawKristina. This chick has been a raw vegan for 10 years… just look at that mane!
- Radiant skin. Yahoo! Beauty says a plant-based diet will solve 90% of your skin problems. And there are tons of testimonials out there from those suffering from severe acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Still looking for more proof after all that? ForksOverKnives.com is one of my favorite websites that displays a multitude of success stories from individuals following this lifestyle. They also produced a film, based largely off the results of a scientific study called The China Study. If you want to read the study for yourself, it’s about $9 on Amazon or iBooks.
Here is another interesting case study from the National Institute of Health.
Even the USDA has recently produced new dietary guidelines that advocate a vegetarian diet (they haven’t quite made it to veganism yet, but don’t worry, they will).
Some really great books that also prove the health benefits of this diet include:
- How Not to Die, Micheal Greger (NY Times Bestseller)
- Eat to Live, Joel Fuhrman
- The Starch Solution, John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall
- Eat Pretty, Jolene Hart
- Skinny Bitch, Kim Barnouin
Lucky for you I’ve read most of these books and studies already, and I created this blog to tell you exactly what I’m doing to transition to this lifestyle, the challenges and results I’m experiencing, and how you can follow me if you want to do it too. For updates on my progress, recipes and how-to guides, subscribe to my newsletter!
Lauren ✌🏼 💚 🌱