Plant-Based Diets: A Wealth of Health Benefits
We’re learning more every day about how including more plants in our diets is good for our bodies, our minds, and even the planet. It’s also becoming easier to make the switch to a plant-based diet, thanks to the increasing availability of clean, organic produce, and a growing selection of natural food products that can take the place of animal products on our plates.
Throughout March at Native Sun, we’ll be highlighting the advantages of plant-based living, plus the foods and products that can help you reap the benefits. Be sure to scroll down for some extra-special savings on clean, plant-based supplements and vitamins from Garden of Life.
If you're curious about a plant-based diet, but not sure where to start, try going meat-free for the month of March. "No Meat March" is a Jacksonville-based campaign presented by The Girls Gone Green that supports participants with recipes, community events, and communications that explores the benefits of a plant-based diet.
The Power of Plants
At its 2018 flagship meeting, the American Society for Nutrition shared the results of several recent studies that illustrate the effects of plant-based eating on health. “Nutrition 2018: New Data Confirm Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diet,” an article from Medical News Today about the meeting, cites these findings:
A study of nearly 6,000 people in the Netherlands showed that those who consumed “a high ratio of plant-derived protein to animal-derived protein were at lower risk of developing coronary heart disease later in life.”
In Brazil, a study of 4,500 people found that those who had “a diet rich in plant-based protein were 60 percent less likely than people who had a diet rich in animal-based protein to develop a buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart.”
A study of South Asian people living in America showed that “vegetarianism was associated with fewer risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.” When compared to peers who were not vegetarians, South Asian vegetarians had lower cholesterol, blood sugar and abdominal fat, and a lower mortality rate.
For some individuals, the change to a plant-based diet may allow them to reduce or eliminate the use of medications to treat some chronic conditions. In “Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets,” an article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, the authors share the results of a case study featuring a patient with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol and blood pressure. After following a low-sodium, plant-based diet for 16 weeks, he had lowered his blood pressure and improved his cholesterol, and was able to stop taking four medications, including insulin. Because he had not been obese and did not have notable weight loss, the authors note that “the dramatic improvements appear to be related to the quality of his new diet.”
All Plant Foods Are Not Created Equal
Just because a particular food may be derived from plants doesn’t mean it will support your health goals. Even the most rigorous vegan diet can fall short—or even raise some health risks—if healthier plant food choices are replaced by refined grains, fries or sugary beverages. Highly processed plant foods, such as white bread and white rice, are often depleted of the important nutrients that their less-processed versions deliver.
So what does a healthy plant-based diet look like? It can be as simple as making sure that whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (with a bit of healthy oils and a handful of nuts) take up the most real estate on your plate at each meal. If you can also limit or forego sugar in your tea or coffee, choose clean seafood or a meat alternative instead of red meat, and pay attention to hidden salt and unhealthy fats in any canned or frozen plant-based foods you buy, you’ll likely reap even greater health rewards.
Tips For Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet That Works for You
Do you have to go all in on veganism or vegetarianism to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet? The answer is no: According to a preliminary study of more than 400,000 adults cited in a Consumer Reports article on the benefits of a plant-based diet, “even those who kept to a diet of 70 percent plants had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke than those whose diets centered on meat and dairy.” In addition, a 30-year-long Harvard study showed that substituting nuts for just a single serving of beef every day may reduce the risk of dying by up to 19 percent.
With numbers like those, it’s clear that even small steps toward eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant proteins are steps in the right direction. If you’re ready to make a change but aren’t sure where to start, here are some suggestions:
Switch to dairy alternatives: There are more choices than ever before in this category, from milks made from almonds, hemp, and rice, to cheeses made from those and other plant-based milks. Try replacing your coffee creamer in the morning as an easy first step.
Give meat alternatives a try: If meat has always been the star on your dinner plate, vegan and vegetarian substitutes can make the transition smoother. Our favorite meat alternatives include plant-based products that stand in well for burgers, poultry, bacon, and even pork and sausage.
Make Mondays meat-free: Meatless Monday is something of a movement around the world that encourages people to forego meat at least one day a week. Take a few minutes on weekends to start building your meatless recipe collection and make Meatless Monday a new tradition.
Keep in mind that everyone has different nutritional needs, so a plant-based diet should be tailored to your individual health concerns and goals. If you have a chronic condition or illness, a registered dietician can help you create a customized plan that ensures your plant-based diet has the nutrients you need.
Save on Plant-Based Essentials During March
Throughout March, we’re offering 20 percent off the organic, plant-based products of Garden of Life. Check the shelves at your local Native Sun location for these items and more:
In addition, every Tuesday in March, we are offering an additional 10 percent off all organic produce through our Native Savings program.
Make this spring your season to enjoy all of the benefits of plant-based living, starting with the clean, whole products and the 100-percent organic produce you’ll always find at Native Sun. Ask any of our friendly associates for more details!