5 ways a plant-based diet makes you happier and healthier
Plant-based diets, whether you decide to embrace being fully vegan, stick to being vegetarian or just incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, come with numerous health benefits. With more celebrities and athletes than ever before adopting this style of eating, why don't the rest of us follow suit? We take a look at the health and happiness benefits a plant-based diet can bring.
#1. It lowers cholesterol
Embracing a plant-based diet will naturally lead to lower cholesterol. Did you know that plants contain no cholesterol at all? Even sources of saturated fat like coconut oil and coconut milk are totally cholesterol-free. Adopting a vegan or plant-based diet will help to lower your cholesterol even if you're eating 90% plant-based and 10% animal products. Nuts and seeds, whole grains and fruit and vegetables all lower cholesterol and help to cut your risk of heart disease (1).
#2. You'll lose weight
Eating a plant-based diet is not only super-tasty, it's a natural way to shed those excess pounds you've been struggling to shift! Cutting out processed sugars and fat will lead to weight loss, no two ways about it. Focus on clean, raw whole foods and you could lose even more weight. When you consume more vitamins, minerals and fibre than animal fats and proteins, weight loss is the natural outcome. You could find you lose around 5lbs within the first two weeks of adopting this type of lifestyle, without feeling deprived or hungry - result!
#3. It reduce your diabetes risk
Diabetes rates (as well as obesity rates) are rising across the UK - it's a worrying trend, but there is something you can do. High blood sugar levels can put you at risk of developing diabetes, as can carrying excess weight. So maintain a healthy weight and fight high blood sugar by consuming more fibre! Fibre slows down the rate at which your blood stream absorbs sugars, meaning you should feel less hungry as a result. It can also help to reduce stress by balancing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) your body produces. Sounds like a win-win situation to us.
#4. It keeps your heart healthy
A plant-based diet can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. You might decide to go fully vegan or just eat more plant-based foods - either way you'll reap the benefits when you cut out or reduce animal products in your diet. Eating a plant-based diet lowers blood pressure as you'll be consuming more foods rich in potassium. Potassium lowers your blood pressure and helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Most fruits, legumes, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all packed with potassium and vitamin B6 to lower blood pressure and lead to a healthier heart. Of course, regular exercise helps too!
#5. It could improve athletic performance
Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman Triathlete and nutrition consultant, attributes his successful sports career to adopting a plant-based diet. He found that cutting out animal products from his diet had the following benefits:
You don't have to change your diet all at once though - this isn't about striving for perfection. Making little, constant changes from the outset will cause your palate to change, and you'll start to find the taste of plant-based whole foods more appealing than processed foods (2). So you could find yourself craving pumpkin seeds or a salad, rather than chocolate. Or maybe just a healthier bar of chocolate!
Tips for adopting a plant-based diet
It can be tricky making the switch from a diet packed with animal products to one that contains fewer (or none) of these foods - but these tips should help!
- Avoid refined carbs and the urge to replace meat with starchy bread, bagels and other baked goods. Whole grains, nuts and seeds are your go-to here, and there's plenty of variety so you'll never be bored!
- Try vegetarian/vegan versions of your favourite meals. Adding tofu to a stir-fry instead of meat, preparing veggie chilli or making a bean burger are all good examples. Steer clear of processed 'fake meat' and stick to plant-based meat substitutes such as seitan (wheat gluten), smoked tempeh or Portobello mushrooms for that meaty texture.
- Buy some cookbooks! There's a reason why books by Deliciously Ella and Hemsley & Hemsley are so popular. Packed with stunning photography, they're a pleasure to thumb through and contain plenty of inspirational recipes as well as shopping and eating tips.
- Experiment by eating out at vegetarian or vegan restaurants and cafes to see which flavours work together and get inspiration for your meals at home.
- Treat yourself! Even if you're embracing a completely vegan diet, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy a delicious dessert as a treat! Try using avocados to make chocolate mousse or as a creamy cheesecake topping. You'll find plenty of vegan recipes for cookies, cakes and even ice cream online - we recommend the Oh She Glows site.
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