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  • Jenny Maloney RD

Plant based diet for long term health

I know what you’re thinking…a life with no meat?! Don’t worry, I like meat too! This doesn’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s just a healthy approach to eating. Focus on eating foods from plants like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds….and then throw in other foods as well. The premise behind it is to eat more whole foods and less processed foods and sugar. Here are 6 benefits to eating a plant based diet.

1. Disease prevention- The Dietary Guidelines of 2015 recommends a plant based diet for disease prevention- diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, the list goes on. The reason is because a plant based diet has more fiber and nutrients and when you eat more nutrient dense foods, you eat less junk.

2. Weight loss- This weight loss diet is actually healthy for you. The fiber will keep you full and satiated. Meat is higher in fat and calories so cutting back on meat means less calories at the end of the day.

3. Reduce inflammation- this goes hand in hand with disease prevention because inflammation in the body can be the cause of many diseases. Fruits and veggies have antioxidants that help fight inflammation. So you can not only decrease your risk of disease, you can help prevent and heal injuries, increase your immune system, improve digestion and gut health, and reduce stress.

4. Improves your mood- Vitamins and minerals, like Magnesium and B vitamins, that help boost your mood and energy are found in plant based foods. In fact, Magnesium is one of many unexpected minerals that Americans are deficient in; they can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains. You feel better when you are getting the right nutrients for your body.

5. Detox- This buzz word gets people’s attention. Detoxes and cleanses are a popular trend that is supposed to get the toxins out of your body with a bonus of weight loss with it. Your body gets rid of toxins naturally through your kidneys and liver every day so an extreme cleanse is not necessary. On the other hand, your diet plays an important role in keeping your body efficient and healthy so why not “detox” with a plant based clean whole food diet? Eliminating processed foods and sugar and eating more plant foods is about as cleansing as it gets.

6. Better for the environment- The production of beef and other animal protein consumes huge amounts of natural resources such as water, fossil fuels and topsoil and also pollutes our water and air. For example, it takes 43 gallons of water to produce a pound of pulses (beans) compared to 1,857 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. You can be healthier while improving our environment.

Sounds like some good enough reasons to at least eat more plant foods, right? How do you get started? Try cutting back on meat, like eat a smaller amount and/or cut back to once a day or every other day. Get protein from other food sources besides meat, like beans, tofu, and whole grains. Eat a balanced and healthy diet- don’t make the mistake of going vegetarian and eating low nutrient carbohydrates and empty calorie foods. And lastly, any big changes in your diet, especially cutting out major food groups, may cause some deficiencies. If you are worried that you might be missing some vitamins or minerals, see a Registered Dietitian to make sure your diet is balanced.

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