Power to the Plants

Thursday, June 28, 2018
David Abrams

Dieting fads and trends come and go. Low Fat/High Carb - Low Carb/ High Protein, The Zone, Atkins, Blood Type Diet, Paleo, Whole 30 have enough advocates and detractors that it can be difficult to discern what is considered a healthy diet nowadays. More recently with the promotion of several popular books and documentaries, there is an increasing public awareness of the proven benefits of a plant-based diet.  A plant-based diet is just as it sounds based on foods derived from plants including vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, soy products, and little to no animal products particularly red meat and dairy.

When you redesign your plate by centering around plant-based products, you are enriching your diet with important fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and healthy fats. In one way or another these elements when added to the diet are known to contribute to reducing the incidence and severity of chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. There is also some evidence that the opposite is true of a diet dominated by processed and animal-sourced foods.  

Beyond promoting cardiovascular health following a plant-based diet supports and can promote good health in a variety of other ways. Legumes and veggies high in fiber help aid in the healthy flora of the gut, naturally increase healthy bacteria and may decrease gastrointestinal problems. Fruits and vegetables have plenty of vitamins and antioxidants that are beneficial for collagen production and skin health. And, while most adults gain weight as they age, a plant-based diet often helps maintain weight perhaps even lose excess weight in a healthy way that does not involve strict calorie-cutting guidelines.

There is no doubt that transitioning away from processed foods and incorporating more plant-based foods can be challenging or even intimidating. Constant media attention aimed towards processed foods and accessible 24/7 drive-thru's are alluring and convenient. On the other hand, most food markets now have significantly enlarged their plant-based product section and most restaurant menus will highlight their “vegetarian friendly” menu items. The best way to begin a plant-based lifestyle is to start off by a simple substitution system. Consider substituting some dairy products with those created from almond milk or soy milk. Try replacing at least some of your animal protein sources with legumes such as foods created from beans peas nuts. When you do include animal protein in your menu as much as possible avoid red meat and replace that with fish and remember to use olive oil.

In my practice, I encourage my patients to recognize the real value of incorporating plant-based foods and reducing the intake of red meats. Then, combining this with a regular exercise program together we monitor their significant progress to better health.