Oncologists, cardiologists, and nutritionist all agree the benefits of a plant-based diet extend well beyond the positive impact on the environment.
First, let me say this, you don’t have to become a full-time vegetarian, you can become a part-time vegetarian and still reap tremendous benefits!
(I used to be a vegan, then a vegetarian, and now I simply eat more plants and less meat)
Plant-based diets have consistently proven time and time again to eradicate chronic illnesses. In particular, plant-based diets are increasingly showing to have a preventative effect on the incidence of cancer, whose pathways are still mysterious to us.
The evidence has been mounting to the point where even the American Institute for Cancer Research advocates limiting red meat intake and eliminating processed meats altogether from our diets. Plant-based diets are recommended by the AICR and other health professionals all over.
Research performed at Cornell University and published in the Journal of Nutrition, suggests that it is not enough to gain anti-oxidants from supplements. Rather, from consuming whole fruits and vegetables, there is a synergistic effect from combining the naturally occurring anti-oxidants with the phyto-chemicals inherent in natural foods. In fact, it is estimated that one-third of all cancer deaths in the US could be prevented through including more fruits and vegetables in our diets.
The evidence suggests that antioxidants or bioactive compounds are best acquired through whole-food consumption, not from expensive dietary supplements.
While that study advocates for simply including more plants in our diet, a paper published this year from research conducted at Loma Linda University, took it a step further advocating for the protective effect of vegetarian diets compared to non-vegetarian plans. Comparing dietary data from nearly 70,000 participants, researchers found significantly lower incidence of cancer in vegetarian participants vs. non-vegetarian participants.
Why Going Plant-Based Is Optimal for Weight Loss
Thousands of people start new diets every year, but a pitiful few are seeing any real results. In fact, 85% of dieters end up gaining their lost weight back within twelve months. Part of the problem comes from a faulty understanding of how weight loss works. The three diet beliefs below are widely accepted, but in truth they are likely you to lead you to long term failure in reaching your weight loss goals.
Cutting Out Fat: Though it seems like eating fat would lead to more around your midsection, the truth is that cutting fat from your diet is likely to be harmful to your weight loss attempts, and will leave you hungry and crabby besides.
Exercising Off Excess: No matter how many hours you spend walking on the treadmill, you can’t exercise enough to make up for an unhealthy diet. In fact, research has shown that exercise produces little benefit for weight loss if you don’t pair it with healthy meals, and that the kind of food you eat is actually three times more important for weight loss than physical activity.
Calories In, Calories Out: It’s tempting to think that all calories are created equal, but in truth, your body is more affected by the source of calories than the number. Rather than counting every calorie you consume, your time is better spent making meals with healthy, whole ingredients instead.
Clearly, the results from conventional weight loss strategies leave much to be desired. Thankfully, there’s a different method you can follow that produces far better results: going ve getarian.
The idea isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Studies have estimated that over 22.8 million people (10 percent of US adults) are vegetarian, and their weight loss statistics deserve a second look. In a country where over 65% of people are overweight or obese, vegetarians tend to weigh 3-20% less than regular eaters.
Part of the reason for this difference is because a healthy vegetarian diet tends to lead to a healthier weight, even without other lifestyle changes.
The health benefits of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle go beyond weight loss. Vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, fewer casesof diabetes, dementia and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.
A big reason for the benefits of a vegetarian diet is that you naturally swap out high calorie, fatty meats and instead fill up on fiber-filled fruits and vegetables that keep you full without weighing you down.
Plant-based foods are full of nutrients and used as efficient fuel by your body. Because they rarely make it into long term fat storage like starchy grains and sugars, plant-based foods will keep you full without piling on the pounds.
The Proven Success of Going Vegetarian
Ample evidence abounds about the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet for weight loss. Forza, a sports nutrition company, recently published a study on weight loss that revealed that vegetarians lost weight close to twice as fast as their meat-eating subjects, losing four pounds a month instead of two.
In fact, 90% of the study’s participants found it easier to start losing weight once they gave up meat. Other studies back up these findings, including from the University of South Carolina.
The key to weight loss success with going meatless is that it quickly becomes a less like a diet, and more of a lifestyle. To make a real change for your health, you need to get rid of the idea of short term “dieting” in favor of long-term lifestyle changes that will last long after you’re happy with the numbers on the scale.
What Needs to Happen to Make Vegetarianism Effective
Naturally, losing weight while vegetarian isn’t as simple as taking meat off your menu. Plenty of vegetarians is obese today because they snack on the empty calories in sodas and potato chips rather than filling their diet with healthy foods.
Filling up on processed carbs will keep your belly fat right in place, so in order to experience long lasting change, you will need to eat adequate amounts of beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, soy protein and even eggs and milk. It’s also important to ensure you stay well nourished by monitoring the levels of nutrients your foods provide for you.
It’s all too easy to cause your body to suffer without following a smart vegetarian plan, so make sure to eat your fill of these three nutrients to prevent problems from developing.
Protein: While meat is the most celebrated form of protein, plenty of plants are filled with it too. Most experts recommend eating about 10% of your calories as protein, so fill up on beans, lentils, tofu and veggie burgers to ensure you get your fill.
Calcium: There’s no reason to despair if you’ve given up dairy. Plant-based sources of calcium include kale, collards, beans, broccoli, orange juice and soy milk.
Vitamin B12: Because this crucial vitamin is only found in animal products, consider taking a daily supplement if you aren’t willing to down an occasional glass of milk.
2-Day Meal Plan
Meal Plan Day 1
- Vegan protein shake, banana, 2 tablespoons of natural almond butter
- Bowl of lentil soup, cucumber salad with cherry tomatoes and avocado, 1 baked sweet potato
- Veggie burger, kale salad with handful of pumpkin seeds, apple
- Edamame & quinoa wrap with sweet ginger dressing, banana, vegan protein shake
° Veggie chilli
- Before bed
- Vegan protein shake, 1 tablespoon of natural almond butter
Meal Plan Day 2
- Bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, vegan protein shake
- Apple, handful of grapes, handful of strawberries, 1 cucumber
- Large salad with mixed greens
- Mixed beans with artichokes and sprouts
- Vegan protein shake
- Celery sticks with natural almond butter
- Veggie burrito with quinoa, beans, and avocado
- Small side salad with mixed greens
- Before bed
- Vegan protein shake, mixed nuts