Why you should try a plant-based diet
Dietitians and food scientists have raved about the benefits of ‘plant-based’ diets for years; however it is only recently that the diet has become popular - partly due to the health benefits, but also because of its positive impact on the environment. Science has shown that eating primarily plant-based foods can help you lose weight, improve heart health and keep your brain healthy, whilst also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So what is a plant-based diet?
‘Plant-based’ is not a diet in the way that you don’t need to count calories or macros, it is essentially just making the conscious choice to eat more plants. Going plant-based does not mean you have to cut out animal products completely, a few examples of plant-based diets include:
Vegetarian: This diet allows animal products such as dairy and eggs, but no kind of meat. Instead vegetarians choose plant protein such as lentils, tofu and nuts.
Vegan: This diet excludes all types of animal products including dairy, eggs and honey.
Flexitarian: The most flexible of plant-based diets. Doesn’t exclude any types of food completely, but is primarily filled with plants.
Adapting to a whole foods plant-based diet can be beneficial for weight loss. Plant-based diets are high in fibre, which helps you to feel fuller for longer as it is digested slowly. A review of studies found that those on a plant-based diet lost an average of about 2kg over a period of 18 weeks, which was significantly more than those on non-plant-based diets.
Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet could reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, according to studies. A review found that eating just 100g extra of fruit and vegetables a day led to a 13% reduction in the risk of dementia, its suggested that the reason for this is that plants and wholegrains are rich in polyphenols which may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and may help reverse cognitive decline.
The positive impact a plant-based diet can have on heart health may be one of the most well-known benefits of this kind of diet. A study of over 200,000 people found that following a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes and nuts significantly lowered the risk of developing heart disease than a meat-heavy diet. However it is important to note that this study was based on a whole-food diet, and that those following a plant-based diet that includes sugary drinks, fruit juices and refined grains would have a slightly increased risk of contracting the disease.
It has also been found that moving from a heavy meat-based diet to a plant-based one can also lower ‘bad’ cholesterol by 10-15%, which is a condition that can potentially lead to heart attack, stroke or heart disease.
Plant-Based and the environment
From global warming to the destruction of animal habitats, the Earth faces a whole world of problems. However just by eating a few more plants and less animal products, you can do your bit to help save the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, conversing water and lessening air pollution.