Benefits of a Plant Based Diet

benefits





 

Watch Rip Esselstyn’s (author of Engine 2 Diet) TEDTalk on how the Plant Strong Diet improved the health of his fire house.

By the way, Rip Esselstyn is the son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who was trained as a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and at St. George’s Hospital in London. Dr. Esselstyn has been associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1968. He was studying about how a plant-based diet can reverse chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, etc.

No kidding…we have cures for these common killers already?! Pharmaceutical companies are not advertising it. Doctors are not believing it, because they’re trained to prescribe medications.

Anyway, watch “Forks Over Knives” documentary in Netflix, and you’ll know who Dr. Esselstyn is and what the China Study discover.

BENEFITS OF A PLANT BASED DIET

Lower Oxidative Stress & Inflammation

Studies show that high intake of whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, tea, coffee, red wine and olive oil, decreases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, which are associated with the development of chronic disease. (Nutrition, 2004 and JACC, 2006)

In the Adventist Health Study II, a vegetarian diet was linked to lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a marker of inflammation. (Ethn Dis, 2011)

Healthy Gut/Immune System

Increasing evidence fiber-rich, plant-based diet promotes healthy gut microbiota, linked to immune support and digestive health.

EPIC study found lower rate of hospital admissions and risk of death from diverticular disease among vegetarians. (BMJ, 2011)

Brain Protection

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress lead to development of Alzheimer’s. Adherence to Mediterranean, plant-based diet linked with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (Archives Neurology, 2009)

I recently attended a nutrition conference called “The Pharmacy in Your Kitchen” presented by Dr. Michael Lara, who is a neuropsychiatrist. There was a lot of great information about “medical food” that are used for treating many conditions. One of the things that I learn is that the ADHD brain and Alzheimer’s brain behave very similarly. Dr. Lara explains that ADHD and Alzheimer’s is like diabetes of the brain cells. Because the brain cells are not able to use glucose efficiently for energy similar in diabetes where tissue cells are not able to use glucose. The alternative source of energy, fat, which bypass the defects, seems to work very well in patients with ADHD and Alzheimer’s.

The fat of interest is short-chain fatty acid in coconut oil, specifically caprylic acid.

Environmental Working Group

All meat is not created equal. Lamb, beef, pork and cheese generate the most greenhouse gases. They also tend to be high in fat and have the worst environmental impacts. Meat and dairy products requires large amount of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water and generates greenhouse gases, toxic manure and other pollutants that contaminate our air and water.

Challenges of a Plant based Diet

  • Misperceptions, such as getting adequate protein and calcium intake.
  • More food preparation required.
  • Lack of cooking skills regarding beans, whole grains, tofu.
  • Unfamiliarity with new foods, such as tofu, tempeh (Indonesian fermented soy), seitan.
  • Meeting nutritional needs.

Developing and Planning a Plant based Eating Style

Include more whole plant foods, such as plant proteins:

  • Legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
  • Whole Soy Foods (tofu, tempeh, soy milk)
  • Nuts and Nut Butters (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamias, Brazil nuts, peanuts)
  • Seeds and Seed Butters (sunflower, sesame, hemp, chia, pumpkin seeds) walnut, hemp and chia good source omega-3 FA.
  • Whole grains (quinoa, wheat berries, oats, brown rice) can be good protein source (up to 11 g protein per cup, i.e. Kamut)
  • Vegetables, such as peas, spinach, and broccoli (can contain up to 6 g protein per cup)
  • Plant proteins, such as legumes, nuts and seeds, are excellent “protein packages”—packed with fiber, micronutrients, phytochemicals.

Calcium

  • If no dairy, choose total of two servings per day of calcium-fortified foods, such as plant-based milk alternatives, tofu, or orange juice.
  • Choose more dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Calcium supplement to meet daily calcium needs.

Related article: 15 Non-Dairy Plant based Sources of Calcium that Will Surprise You

Vitamin D

Ten minutes of sunlight exposure a day.

Consume vitamin-D-fortified foods, such as soy milk and orange juice, and consider a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B12

Available only in animal foods: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

Also available in nutritional yeasts and fortified products, such as cereal and soy milk.

Vegans should take a vitamin B12 supplement daily.

How to Start Plant Based Eating Style

Start the day right. Go veggie at breakfast or fruits and veggie smoothie.

Join the Meatless Monday bandwagon.

Shop for plants first. Instead of planning your menu around meat, plan it around plants.

If you eat meat, use it as a seasoning. Cut down on animal food intake while pushing plants by using meat as a flavoring in dishes instead of main event. Idea from indigenous diet. Great ways to reduce meat intake, but not completely giving up.

Create a plant-based pantry list. Many plant based foods like beans and whole grains are shelf-stable, convenient, and economical.

Get cooking! Plan at least one night a week to try a new vegetarian recipe. Do it with Meatless Monday night.

Keep it simple. Not every meal has to involve cookbooks and cutting boards; it can be as easy as black bean burritos, vegetarian chili, or hummus pita sandwich.

Try ethnic flair. Some cultures know how to do vegetarian meals right!

Convert your favorite dishes. Turn your favorite meat-based recipes veggie for an easy dinner solution. New family favorite.

Dust off your slow-cooker. Just throw in veggies, herbs, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, whole grains, and dried beans; then turn the dial on.

Try plant-based dairy products. Try more plant-based alternatives for milk, yogurt, and cheese. Popular as there are many alternative choices available.

Think “yes”. Don’t dwell on what you can’t have, think about what you can have! There are thousands of choices.

Helpful tips

1. Puree, chop, or dice vegetables into smaller pieces to hide them in dishes and stuffed foods to increase taste and nutrition without the family noticing.

2. I recommend green smoothies as a way to include vegetables in diet. The chlorophyll in green vegetables and spirulina are particularly cleansing.  For convenience and cost, use frozen vegetables and add juice.

Here’s my recipe: 1-2 handful of frozen mixed greens or fresh spring salad mix, frozen strawberries, frozen mango, frozen acai, 1 tbsp spirulina, 1 tbsp chia seed, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tbsp raw honey and water. Since I use frozen fruits and veggies, I don’t add ice. Blend until smoothie. I found that the VitaMix is indeed the best blender. Because when I first started making my smoothie with the chased or flaxseed, the smoothie was grainy and I would choke on the seeds. Then, my mom bought a VitaMix for $400. I was like why does a stupid blender cost so much. When I made my first SMOOTHie (real smooth smoothie) that’s not grainy, I agree that’s $400 well-spent.

3. Warn patients that not all meat-free vegan foods (especially the packaged products) are healthy. Many are highly processed food with little nutrients. Focus on wholesome natural food made the way God intend for human consumption.

4. I always recommend my patients to eat fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack. And the portion of food from fruits and/or veggies must be greater that the starch and protein. This way you’ll be should to have a plant-based meal or snack every time.

5. Add veggies to your traditional recipes. Try adding a can of pumpkin puree to your favorite chili recipe. You can’t taste the pumpkin at all, but it boosts the nutrient profile and gives it a fabulous texture! Be creative, make homemade veggie noodles in place of traditional grain noodles. You’ll reduce your carbs intake and increase your veggie intake – killing 2 birds with one shot.

6. Buy in bulk. Purchase more when there is a good deal or when something is especially delicious. Most fruits and vegetables keep well in the freezer and then you will always have them on hand. I buy my gluten-free pasta by cases from Amazon.com. It’s a lot cheaper than buying from local grocery stores.

7. Be adventurous and try different spices and herbs! Every day is a mini food adventure trying new foods and flavors while becoming healthier.

8. On Sunday afternoons, turn on some good music and invest an hour to chop up veggies and prepare “food for the week”…This way you have “ready to go” options to get you through the week for lunches, meals and side dishes!

9. No time to slice fresh veggies for a salad? Add frozen peas or frozen mixed veggies instead. They will be defrosted by lunch and ready to top with your favorite dressing.

10. Start your grocery store trip in the produce isle. Only shop on the outside of the store. This helps eliminate most processed foods and helps your cart contain fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables should fill up the bottom of your cart.

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Essential amino acids in plant-based diet:
Complement plant food. Plant protein always missing a few amino acid (soy, spinach and quinoa). New idea is the amino acid intake throughout the day, not focus in a meal. Plant protein with lower digestibility, thus recommend increasing intake about.

Allergy to soy, nut, legumes, peanut:
Consider if true food intolerances. May introduce dairy product to meet protein needs.

 

Watch these amazing documentaries to learn more…

Food Matters

Fork Over Knives





 

Author: Anna

I'm a board-certified Pediatric Nutritionist, who takes care of medically-fragile infants and children in the US Defense System; I'm mother of a teenager and a real estate investor. I love spending time with friends and family playing tennis, golf, hiking and stand-up-paddling. And we live in Honolulu, Hawaii.