Americans are struggling with more health issues than ever before. Obesity, high cholesterol, food sensitivities, and diabetes are often considered the ‘norm’. Unfortunately, many of these health problems are related to the foods we eat. Busy adults turn to processed food and take-out options for convenience. However, when coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, the foods we eat every day are making us unhealthy. Simply by changing to a plant-based diet, we have the power to greatly improve overall health and well-being.
A whole-food, plant-based diet centers around an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and minimally refined plants, such as whole grains and legumes and beans and lentils. Excluding meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and highly refined items, such as bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil, a plant-based diet brings with it a plethora of health benefits. Introducing a host of vitamins, minerals, and fiber into the body, a plant-based diet dramatically reduces an individual’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions.
A Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets
According to the dietary guidelines released from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, Americans are routinely filling up on junk food. In fact, most people eat triple the recommended amount of solid fats and added sugars. While at the same time, they take in only 59% of the vegetables and 15% of the recommended amount of whole grains needed to form a healthy diet.
Whole foods and plants, including fresh vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and tubers offer natural health benefits that processed foods cannot. Filled with vitamins and nutrients, as well as a valuable source of protein and iron and calcium and fiber, plant-based foods give the body what it needs to work at its optimal level. From heart disease to anxiety, fatigue to digestion, interventional studies show a plant-based diet can dramatically improve the body’s daily functions.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet holds many benefits, from the prevention of chronic disease to weight management. Those not ready to give up meat and dairy all together can still see significant perks from eating meals that center more around on plants. Taking small steps to add an increasing amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in a daily meal plan is more important that trying, unsuccessfully, to restrict meat. Over time, as you feel and look better, the change in diet will become easier and easier to maintain.
- A plant-based diet will help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, macular degeneration, and cancer.
More than 380 million people are living with diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes is completely preventable with lifestyle changes such as switching to a plant-based diet. One in three Americans suffer from high blood pressure, putting their lives at serious risk for a heart attack or stroke. Harvard researchers report that people who eat eight or more serving s of fruits and vegetables a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Foods such as spinach, kale, corn, kiwis, and grapes are good for your vision, preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.
- A plant-based diet makes weight more manageable.
One benefit of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is that many people are left feeling fuller with fewer calories. A lower caloric intake can be pivotal in lowering and maintaining a healthy body weight. Fresh produce, healthy plant-based fats like olive oil, and plant-proteins such as legumes and soy, can make losing weight and keeping it off easier than strict calorie counting. However, it is important to remember that a vegetarian lifestyle does not, in itself, mean weight loss, as an excess of fried or sauce laden veggies can still pack the calorie-punch.
- A plant-based diet encourages good gut health.
The high fiber content in fresh fruits and veggies plays an integral part in gut health, aiding digestion and keeping you ‘regular’. More than just preventing constipation, fiber can help to lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels.
- Plant-based diets are excellent for skin health.
Don’t forget about your skin. Cutting back on the intake of animal products can improve texture and tone of your skin. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, protects skin from sun damage and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes stimulates the body’s production of collagen, helping to ease fine lines and wrinkles. Fruits and vegetables provide other vitamins such as A, E, and K, as well as antioxidants, all shown to aid skin repair and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Switching to a Plant-Based Diet with the Help of Synergistiq Health
Dr. Deepa Verma is an integrative health and medicine practitioner, believing in the vital relationship between practitioner and patient. By treating each patient as a whole person, not a single system or illness, Dr. Verma helps her clients achieve optimal health. She provides each patient with a customized treatment plan, designed around a healthy lifestyle, allowing them to reaching a maximum level of wellness both now and in the years to come.
If you are considering the switch to a plant-based diet, or are looking for fresh ideas on how to continue with a vegetarian path, contact Tampa’s Synergistiq Health at 727.754.2936 or fill out our online Contact Us form. Dr. Verma is available for a confidential in-person or virtual consultation.
Plant-Based Diet FAQ
What is a plant-based diet?
The term ‘plant-based diet’ refers to a generalized meal plan that revolves around plants instead of meat and dairy. This shift in diet offers a variety of health benefits and can reduce the risk for chronic illness.
Why is a plant-based diet important?
Vegetables and plant-based foods provide our bodies with optimal protein, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that are lacking in a meat-based meal plan. The phytochemical compounds found in plants help to regulate your immune system, protect your vision, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, and neutralize the free radicals that cause illness and cell damage.
Do I have to give up meat completely to follow a plant-based diet?
No, you do not have to avoid all meat to follow a plant-based diet. What is important is that plants make up the majority of your food, while fish, chicken, beef, dairy, and eggs play a smaller, supporting role in your diet.
What does a healthy, plant-based diet consist of?
A plant-based diet can be custom-tailored to accommodate your likes/dislikes, the items available, and your level of prep time. A normal meal plan will include a range of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and fruits. Animal products, including dairy, as well as processed foods should be left out as much as possible. Baked goods, tofu, hummus, quinoa, salads, and wraps can all be part of a delicious, plant-based diet.
How can I learn more about changing to a plant-based diet?
Switching to a plant-based diet is easy with a solid foundation of information and the support of an integrative medicine specialist, such as Synergistiq Health’s Dr. Deepa Verma. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Verma by contacting Tampa’s Synergistiq Health at 727.754.2936.