We’ve heard about how a plant-based diet can help us lose weight. However, its benefits go beyond weight loss. Before we get into that, what exactly is a plant-based diet? Now considered the healthiest approach to eating, a plant-based diet is about eating more plant-based foods and doing your best to avoid consuming animal-based ones.
A plant-based diet has different variations, including veganism, where all animal products are completely eradicated from the lifestyle. Some vegans pick raw food only, while others prefer vegetarianism, where they still consume honey, eggs, milk, and other similar animal products except their meat.
A common misconception is that going plant-based means being a vegan. In reality, you can still consume meat and other animal products, but the goal is to limit the intake.
5 Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Losing weight is much easier and more effective if you’re on a plant-based diet. A study showed that vegans have a body mass index of 23.6 whilst meat eaters have a BMI of 28.8, which is classified as overweight.
But apart from dropping the unwanted pounds, switching to a plant-based diet can give you the following benefits that could eventually change your life:
1. Lower Blood Pressure
The silent killer, high blood pressure or hypertension, is rampant in Australia, with one in three adults or over six million people suffering from it. High blood pressure usually does not show any symptoms but can quickly increase a person’s risk for heart disease or heart failure, as well as stroke.
When detected, hypertension can usually be managed, thanks to the medications available. But the foods you eat can make things much easier. The key is to reduce your meat consumption, especially those high in fat and sodium.
If you have a family history of high blood pressure, it’s time to make the switch. A 2016 study found that choosing a vegetarian diet can lower hypertension risk by up to 34%. You can still eat meat products but always consume more veggies.
2. Healthier Heart
More than one million Australians have one or more forms of a heart condition. Many of these people eat a lot of meat, particularly those loaded with saturated fat. Cutting back on meat consumption can reduce your risk of developing heart diseases by 16%.
Again, if you love to eat meat, you do not have to give it up completely. You can still consume meat as long as you eat more plant-based food. But we’re not talking about refined grains and other options that disguise themselves as healthy, such as fruit juices, breakfast cereals, and energy bars. Instead, choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil.
A plant-based diet is a lifestyle. You should not just view it as a means for preventative care. It should be a part of your life that you need to stick to see the benefits for your heart.
3. Lower Cancer Risk
Until now, there has been no cure for cancer. And there are no studies that claim the miracles of a plant-based diet in treating certain cancers. However, consuming more plants and especially avoiding red meats can reduce your cancer risk. That’s because plants contain the best cancer-fighting nutrients, such as fibre, phytochemicals, and vitamins and minerals. You can find them in vegetables and fruits, as well as grains, nuts, and seeds.
A plant-based diet lifestyle is recommended for people who have survived cancer. Some studies back the protective elements of plants in stopping certain cancers from re-emerging by about 10%. Although that’s not a significant amount, eating healthy can promote a healthy weight, help improve immunity, and reduce inflammation.
4. Better Brain Performance
Forgetting where you put your keys just a moment ago is not a cause for concern. Everyone goes through that. But what’s not normal is if it happens many times. If brain fog and memory issues have become a common occurrence, it’s alarming. Prevent cognitive decline by incorporating more plants into your diet.
Some foods, including specific meat products, contain high amounts of nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives are predominantly found in canned goods. Continued consumption will only increase your risk of developing dementia, particularly if you’re already at risk.
To boost your brain performance, ensure that you add antioxidant-rich sources, such as berries, asparagus, avocados, and onions. A plant-based diet with nuts, oats, lentils, and beans can also help stabilise your moods throughout the day and achieve better sleep at night. The mentioned foods have high tryptophan content that creates serotonin, an essential amino acid that regulates mood and sleep.
5. Longer Life
Combining all the benefits of a plant-based diet above, we can all conclude that consuming more plants and little to no meat can help us live a longer, healthier life.
According to the Queensland Brain Institute, more than 60 million people around the world have suffered from a stroke at least once in their lives. In Australia, approximately 50,000 people suffer from the disease each year. A plant-based diet is one of the easiest routes to take to prevent a stroke, which becomes more common as people age.
Stroke is deadly, and so are cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. These conditions should never be ignored, whether or not you’re at risk. It’s important to start building up on a healthier eating habit whilst you’re still young. It’s crucial to strengthen your gut microbiome and fill it with natural probiotics and prebiotics, along with other health-promoting nutrients.
Must-Try Recipe: Cauliflower, Hummus, and Green Herb Dressing in One Healthy Meal
You can get creative with your plant-based diet because there are so many things to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a new recipe or you have just started changing into a healthier lifestyle, here’s a good recipe you can follow.
This easy recipe requires these ingredients:
- One cauliflower, large with the base removed and some leaves intact
- One teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds
- One teaspoon of ground coriander
- 400 grams of chickpeas, drained and removed from the can
- Two tablespoons of tahini
- One garlic clove
- ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup of pistachios
- 1/3 cup of coriander leaves
- 1/3 cup of mint leaves (add more for garnish)
- 1/3 cup of fresh parsley leaves (add extra for garnish)
- Two tablespoons of pomegranate arils
Here are the simple steps:
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Mix cumin seeds and coriander as you place the large cauliflower in a baking dish.
- Add about one and a half cups (375mL) of water to the dish under the cauliflower.
- Add oil on cauliflower and rub the spices you just mixed.
- Cover the baking dish using foil and bake in the oven for about an hour.
- Once done, remove the foil and put it back in the oven to bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
- While waiting, place the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and crushed garlic in a food processor. Add one to two tablespoons of warm water and process all the ingredients until you see a thick and creamy mixture.
- Season the processed ingredients and transfer them to a bowl.
- Next is to remove the bits left in the processor before adding the other ingredients, mint, parsley, pistachios, and coriander. Also, add lemon juice, olive oil, and one to two tablespoons of water (optional). Check that everything is finely chopped before proceeding.
- Now it’s time to spread hummus on a serving plate.
- Place the roasted cauliflower and sprinkle with herb dressing.
- Add more herbs, pistachios, and pomegranate to serve.
Delight yourself (and your family) with this plant-based dish that will make prepping, cooking, and eating healthy food a great experience.