The plant based diet has been a big part of my life for the past 2 years and there are just so many reasons why I would never return to my old meat eating ways, the biggest being my general energy and well-being which has hit an all time high through the eating of nutritious, whole plant foods.
In this post I will discuss all the other plant based diet benefits, and why vegan foods in general are healthier for both you and the planet alike.
The Rise of Plant Based Eating
Veganism and plant based eating is on the rise in the Western world, and this fact makes me very happy indeed. The demand for animal free foods is at an all time high and this is evident everywhere you turn, from restaurants, cafes, fast food joints and supermarkets. In fact, some fast food chains have been blown-away by how popular their vegan options have been from day one of their release onto menus, which has sparked more and more different food chains and outlets to follow suit.
It’s a victory for vegans the world over to see so many every day people turning to plant foods more and more, and statistics show that these numbers are only going to increase in the coming years. This means more healthy people and ultimately less strain on the medical system in the long term if people decide to adopt a whole food plant based diet specifically, and not just consume unhealthy vegan junk foods – there’s a big difference, and I shall explain:-
WHOLE PLANT FOODS
A ‘whole plant food’ means a food that is in its most natural state that hasn’t been refined, had free sugars, preservatives, trans fats, additives or anything else added to it that would turn it into a junk food. Examples of a plant based diet grocery list are:-
- Fresh fruits
- Pulses – beans, lentils, chickpeas, legumes
- Buckwheat flour or grouts
- Buckwheat noodles
- Wholegrain rices
- Fresh coconut
- Soy beans
- Green superfood powders. See full list here.
VEGAN JUNK FOODS
There are LOTS of foods that are actually plant based but still considered a ‘junk food’. Obviously refined sugars and many trans fats are both technically plant based yet the worst offenders when it comes to some of the most unhealthiest foods on the planet. Examples of such junk foods are:-
- Sweets and confectionery
- Crisps and chips
- Refined flours in breads and doughs
- Anything containing free sugars
- Anything deep-fried
Now you can see a BIG difference in the very different kind of foods I am talking about here in comparison to the first list. This is one of the main reasons why some people who turn to veganism actually become more unhealthy than ever, due to the fact that without proper knowledge and seemingly fewer options to choose from they naturally turn to a diet filled with refined carbohydrates and sugars with little protein.
But where do I get my protein?
The plant based diet when done correctly is abundant in protein, but you do need to be vigilant in order to make sure you meet your dietary needs. Regardless of what some people may say, protein is an issue and something that you must be mindful of when you turn to this lifestyle. It is vital to understand which foods you need to be eating regularly to get enough essential amino acids into your diet, otherwise you may end up with issues that can include lower immunity and losing muscle mass (especially if you are an exerciser – this happened to me so I speak from experience).
Plant based diet v’s vegan
Usually the above issues will only occur if you end up eating too many refined carbs from the vegan junk foods list and not enough foods from the whole foods list. In fact, talking about this subject reminds me that I met a vegan once who actually told me she didn’t like fruit or vegetables, which left me astounded as I couldn’t at the time imagine what she could possibly be eating.
Now I know it must have been foods mostly from the junk food list, which of course means her health would have been worse than the average meat-eater. But then again veganism isn’t necessarily about health and is more about animal welfare and environmental issues, whereas plant based eating does focus on the health side of things, and for the purpose of this website this is what I will mainly be focusing on.
High protein plant foods
The foods from the following list contain high amounts of protein and should ideally be incorporated in some shape or form into all your main meals and snacks if possible.
- All legumes, including beans, peas, soybeans, pulses, lentils, chickpeas.
- Nuts – the highest being peanuts and almonds.
- Sugar and palm oil free nut butters.
- Tofu (made from soybean curd)
- Tempeh (made from fermented soybean)
- Seitan (made of hydrated gluten and VERY high in protein).
- Buckwheat – flour, grouts or flakes.
- Hemp – seeds and powder.
- Plant based protein powders (vital if you are in training or doing lots of exercise). See full list here.
There are few protein sources in the plant world that contain a ‘complete amino acid profile’ but the exceptions are quinoa, buckwheat, soya, amaranth and hemp. This is why I make sure that I eat from at least one of these sources every day – which is actually quite easy when you start getting the hang of things and learning lots of exciting new plant based recipes.
BENEFITS OF EATING PLANT BASED FOODS
You may notice instant benefits when you decide to clean up your diet and take out all the rubbish that has been bogging you down, keeping you sluggish, tired and bloated. OR, you may not even realise you suffer any of these low-grade problems until suddenly you don’t. Sometimes we simply don’t know how good it is to possibly feel until we have felt it for ourselves, but the benefits of going plant based are many and they include the following:-
1. YOUR BEST SKIN EVER
You will notice this fast once you start eating clean. Your skin will glow and you may even find that mild skin complaints or issues will just clear up on their own, which will more than likely be down to the elimination of dairy products and the upping of antioxidant rich fruits and veggies. You may find that you no longer need to cover up with so much make-up, especially foundation, which is a great feeling.
Drinking LOTS of filtered, pure, or spring water instead of caffeine and sugary drinks will also amplify this effect 10 fold!
2. CLEAR THINKING MIND
Junk and inflammation causing foods can keep your brain all fogged up and your memory not as sharp as it could be. Eliminating these culprits will more than likely elevate your mind to a higher place where you can think clearly, learn faster, and recall information more easily.
3. ENERGY FOR LIFE
You will notice that with the introduction of so many more antioxidants into your diet that you will feel an energy boost (even an exhilaration) for everyday life, including work and menial tasks that are usually a grind. You will feel calmer and happier and this will show in the way you act, converse with others, and go about your work.
You may even find that you have the energy, confidence and drive to go out there and achieve your dreams now that your mind is clearer, and that’s just a feeling that money can’t buy!
4. MORE STABLE MOOD
You will find that good nutrition is at the heart of good mood. You may feel happier in general, and other people will notice and that will rub off onto them too. The fitter and healthier you become the more elated, calmer and stronger you will feel and the more impetus you will have to carry on taking your health to new amazing heights.
You will also find that other people will want to know what it is you are doing to look so well and happy, and of course you can tell them with great pleasure how they can do it too. I mean, who wouldn’t want a slice of this pie?
5. HIGHER FITNESS LEVELS
I’ve probably felt more physically fit than I have ever felt on a plant based diet – fact! I haven’t changed my exercise routines but I can definitely do more than I used to be able to do. I can go further, faster, and also don’t get the aching muscles after exercise like I did previously – not as badly at least, and I’m guessing this is down to less chronic inflammation from my highly alkaline diet.
If you don’t believe this just check out the many athletes who are beating their previous endurance and times by fuelling their workouts on plants.
6. LESS SICKNESS
All these delicious and nutritious whole plant foods will boost your immune system naturally, thus making you less prone to bugs and viruses. And that’s not to mention the long-term effects of getting more nutrients into your body and eating less junk foods, which include a stronger cardiovascular system, more evened out blood sugar, weight loss, and the many benefits to health that come with all those things alone.
7. SOUNDER SLEEP
You may find that when you are naturally eating less junk foods (especially in the form of refined sugars) you will slumber more soundly and deeply. This is a natural side effect of feeling less stressed, being more physically fit, and eating a lower GI diet. And don’t forget how fantastic a good night’s sleep in itself is for giving you energy and making you feel great the next day.
8. LESS AFFECTED BY STRESS
7. Do you fly off the handle regularly? Or get anxious, depressed or hormonal? You’ll find that a high sugar and junk food diet can keep you wired, wound up and on edge. All the side effects of a psychological dependency to sugar (and by sugar I mean ALL refined carbohydrates, including white flours, breads, pastas and rices).
Cutting down drastically on these, and adding in low GI, plant based foods will help get you off this sugar train, leaving you feeling much more relaxed and calmer; as will eating these metabolism boosting snacks. It will also help shield you against those deadly high stress levels that can quite literally kill you in the long run.
9. ANTI AGING – BOTH INSIDE AND OUT
Anti aging isn’t just about what you look like on the outside – well it is, but that’s just aesthetics. The most important indicator of age is what’s going on in the inside. We’ve all seen those programs on TV where somebody has a full body scan to reveal their biological age and they find out to their great shock that they are actually 10 or even 20 years older than their chronological age. Scary right?
This biological age is all down to the lifestyle factors of diet, exercise, sleep, and whether the individual is a smoker, drinker, on certain medications, or an abuser of drugs (these are just the common factors, there are many more). In some people their biological age has been accelerated way beyond their actual chronological age (which is the amount of years they have actually been alive) due to the fact they have intentionally or unintentionally abused some or all of the above.
Aging is all down to our telomeres which are strands of DNA that shorten as we age, but can also be accelerated in their shortening by certain lifestyle factors like those mentioned above. The good news is however, that some studies suggest that not only can we slow down this shortening of our telomeres, but we can actually reverse it! I’m serious – just think what this could potentially mean, and the anti inflammatory plant based diet done correctly could play a BIG role in this
Gone are the days when we thought that we were at the mercy of our genes and that was that. Scientists have since discovered we can actually change our gene expression to a certain extent by the deliberate choices we make in terms of diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco, too much sun exposure, drugs, sugar, trans fats, and too much alcohol.
This is why a plant based diet will keep you much younger for longer on both the inside and out as it will be full of the phytochemicals and antioxidants that help to delay the aging process. And don’t forget that aging on the inside exposes you to higher risk of diseases of all kinds so it’s crucial to slow it down as much as possible.
I hope I have given you some food for thought and even the impetus to give the plant based diet a go for yourself. You’re lucky, it’s so easy these days as you can buy the appropriate foods everywhere and a few years ago this just wasn’t the case. It’s never been a better and more convenient time to take the plunge into the world of plants.
If nothing else, you’ve got nothing to lose in giving it a trial run so you can feel the above benefits for yourself.
If you need a bit more help then please find more information in my Beginner’s Guide to the plant based lifestyle. You may also find helpful this plant based diet 1 Week Meal Plan which will give you a sense of how to correctly combine your macronutrients together to make a nutritionally complete, healthy and satisfying meal.
Good Luck, and thanks for reading this post today and supporting Zestforever.
Don’t forget to join up below for more great tips and guides; or share with your friends so they can feel the benefits of the plant based diet too!