The science of a plant based diet

The “plant based” diet is all the rage at the moment, but it’s certainly not a new idea. It’s basically the nutrition advice we’ve been ignoring for decades: “Eat more plants and put down those chicken nuggets.”

It’s also basically how humans have eaten for the past 2 million years.  Animals are hard to catch and they get upset if you do catch them. In contrast, plants don’t move around all that much and don’t put up much of a fight.

Here are some reasons to try a plant based diet…

To cut out the junk

A plant based diet is high in “greens, grains and beans” and low in processed or refined foods.  You’ll start to think about what you’re eating and where it comes from.

To improve your fitness

Eating plant-based may help you run faster and longer[1]. You might become stronger and lighter. A surprising number of top ultra runners eat plant-based or vegan.

To lose weight

A plant based diet may help with weight loss[2]. When most of your meals are based on vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes, it’s actually quite hard to eat too many calories. It’s possible to eat too much on a plant-based diet, but it’s harder.

To improve your food knowledge

You’ll start to learn about the origin of your food, what it’s made of, and how to tweak your favourite dishes to make them more healthy. Almost any dish can be made plant-based.

To improve your health

A plant-based diet has been found to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, with further evidence that shifting plant protein consumption to more than 50% of total protein intake may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, although further clinical research was recommended.[3][4] A diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and colorectal cancer.[5][6]

References

[1] Venderley, A.M. & Campbell, W.W. Sports Med (2006) 36: 293. doi:10.2165/00007256-200636040-00002

[2] Barnard, ND; Levin, SM; Yokoyama, Y (June 2015). “A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets”. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics115 (6): 954–69.

[3] Li, S. S; Blanco Mejia, S; Lytvyn, L; Stewart, S. E; Viguiliouk, E; Ha, V; De Souza, R. J; Leiter, L. A; Kendall, C. W; Jenkins, D. J; Sievenpiper, J. L (2017). “Effect of Plant Protein on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”Journal of the American Heart Association6 (12): e006659. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.006659PMC 5779002PMID 29263032.

[4] Yokoyama, Yoko; Levin, Susan M; Barnard, Neal D (2017). “Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. Nutrition Reviews75(9): 683. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nux030PMID 28938794.

[5] Boeing, H; Bechthold, A; Bub, A; Ellinger, S; Haller, D; Kroke, A; Leschik-Bonnet, E; Müller, MJ; Oberritter, H; Schulze, M; Stehle, P; Watzl, B (September 2012). “Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases”European Journal of Nutrition51 (6): 637–63. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0380-yPMC 3419346PMID 22684631.

[6] Steck, S. E.; Guinter, M; Zheng, J; Thomson, C. A. (2015). “Index-based dietary patterns and colorectal cancer risk: A systematic review”Advances in Nutrition6 (6): 763–73. doi:10.3945/an.115.009746PMC 4642428PMID 26567200.

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