Benefits Of A Plant Based Diet

Yummy Asparagaus and Sesame SeedsHere on the site we’ve talked about juicing and smoothies, and what foods diabetics should avoid (actually, most of that is what EVERYONE should avoid anyway), etc. And before I move into the discussion about the clear benefits of a plant-based diet, I want to share with you an observation I’ve made over the last few years.

If you go into a typical fast food restaurant, and take a good look (don’t be too obvious!) at the patrons, you will probably notice that most of them (certainly not all of them, but most of them) just don’t look so good. A lot of them are fat.

Some are unhealthy looking in general. Their kids often are hyped up and that’s probably why these places need “play spaces” nowadays…

Next, go grab a lunch at one of those “Chinese Buffets” that seem to be in nearly every town with a population over 5,000. Take a look at THOSE patrons. Tell me if you don’t notice that more than 1/2 of them are overweight and unhealthy looking.

Now, go into a typical “health food” store or vegetarian restaurant. Take a good look at THESE patrons. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the health food store in my area, the people in there are smiling and generally happier looking, and the workers themselves are usually clear-skinned and radiant, and more fit in general. Take a look at a person who has been vegan for a while. Look at their skin, their eyes, their teeth…

It’s a pretty remarkable difference, at least to my eyes.

For quite some time I’ve been looking at the pros and cons of the various foods I’ve consumed over the years, and even when I thought I was eating WELL, my food choices were still not optimal. Part of the problem is that I – along with millions of other Americans – have believed (at least in part) what has been shoved down my throat (pun intended) all these years about what was “healthy” and what was not.

Myths and Other Stuff I Believed

For example, if you listen to the Corn Refiners Association (those guys who bring us “High Fructose Corn Syrup”), you’ll see that they consider High Fructose Corn Syrup to be “nutritive” and “offering many benefits.” (source: http://www.corn.org/products/sweeteners/)

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but I think I’ll err on the side of caution and stick with something that isn’t extracted “through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would not allow the investigative journalist, Michael Pollan to observe it for his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” (source: Dr. Mark Hyman, 5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You,  http://drhyman.com/blog/conditions/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/)

By the way, if you want some VERY enlightening reading on this subject, hop on over to Dr. Hyman’s blog. No reason for me to repeat him here.

In another example, for years I believed you needed to eat meat to get protein. And, since I tend to operate better (at least in my mind) when I’ve had an adequate amount of protein when I eat, I’ve eaten a lot of meat.

Plant Based Proteins Rock!

However, in recent years – actually, more like in recent months – I have become more and more aware of the fact that there is plenty of protein to be had in plant-based foods.

For example, as I write this article, I’m sitting here sipping a little afternoon treat: an organic chocolate hemp shake!  I threw 3 tablespoons of Nutiva’s Organic Hemp Shake powder into some water, and blended it up. Yummy! There are 11 grams of protein in this little treat of mine! According to the label, that’s about 22% of a typical daily value, based on approximately 2,000 calorie per day diet. Not bad! 🙂Superfoods by David Wolfe is an excellent primer about the properties and benefits of some of nature's most powerful foods.

Also, I was watching an awesome movie last night called “Food Matters” and one of the guys on the film, David Wolfe, is a well-known expert on nutrition, and has a special interest in raw and natural foods. In his book “Superfoods,” he asserts that Spirulina (an algae) is “65-71 percent protein (the highest concentration of protein found in any food)…It is a complete protein source. It contains all eight essential amino acids, and eighteen amino acids in total.” (source: Superfoods, David Wolfe, 2009)

Now, yes, a 6 ounce steak may have 42 grams of protein in it, but it takes a lot of energy for your body to digest a steak, and VERY little energy to digest and absorb the benefits of the spirulina.

Bet getting back to the topic of the many benefits of a plant based diet, you do not need to hear from a scientist that eating more vegetables, whole fruits (not those cruddy juices or canned fruits in your grocery store), nuts, and whole grains is going to be better for you than a meat-based diet.

About Sprouted Grains

On the subject of whole grains, you may not have heard of “sprouted grains.” Well, if not, you are in for a treat! With sprouted grains, your body can more easily absorb the nutrients of the grain – something it will not be able to do with breads made in with refined flours. Also, sprouted grains and seeds appear to not cause as much of a “sugar spike” as refined flours do. (see www.foodforlife.com for some excellent information on sprouted grains.)

In the book “Reverse Diabetes Now!” author Matt Traverso further explains the benefits of sprouted grains, saying that “The process of sprouting (germination) INCREASES EXPONENTIALLY the nutritional value of seeds and grains so they become a rich source of chlorophyll and proteins – which help regenerate your cells and boost your immune system.”

Fortunately, sprouted grains like you get with breads such as the Ezekiel 4:9 breads are becoming more and more mainstream (yay!). Ezekiel 4:9 bread, by the way is high in fiber, low glycemic, and, according to their website – foodforlife.com is “diabetic friendly” – it carries the seal from the Glycemic Research Institute which conducts clinical research and  Glycemic Index Testing – you can read about that here: http://www.glycemic.com/

The Case for, and Benefits of a Plant Based Diet

While it will not come as a surprise to you to hear that experts such as Dr. Robert O. Young, David Wolfe, Dr. T. Colin Campbell (of the now famous “The China Study”), Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Matt Traverso, Dr. Julian Whitaker, Dr. Mark Hyman, and dozens of other experts in the field of natural health and nutrition believe that a plant-based diet is critical for our long-term wellness, even the ever-wary and conservative site “WebMD” cautiously agrees that even though they feel more research is needed on the subject, “…early studies suggest it may have a number of benefits. If your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and meat substitutes such as soy, you may be less likely to have certain risks for heart disease, such as high blood levels of total cholesterol, high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity,…diabetes…”

The site continues to agree that our standard American diet which tends to be meat-based “may increase the risk of heart disease, compared with diets high in fruits and vegetables. One study shows that a Western diet increases a woman’s risk of getting heart disease by 46%.” (source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/plant-based-diet-for-heart-health)

Hopping over to the esteemed Mayo Clinic website, their staff writes that “a plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients.”

Furthermore, the writer continues, explaining that vegetarians typically consume “fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.”

Wow! That’s pretty compelling! And if that’s not enough, this staff writer continues on the topic, saying that even if you just cut out meat, or eat less of it, that this will result in a “protective effect.” Quoting a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, which evidently looked at 500,000 people, the study “found that those who ate 4 ounces (113 grams) of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of death.” But wait! There’s even more!

But what about my PROTEIN if I eat more vegetarian meals??

The Mayo Clinic article goes on to say that those of us in America usually get plenty of protein – according to them, 10-35% of an adult’s daily caloric intake should come from protein, but if we use the standard “2,000 calories per day” measure that we see on most food labels for our comparisons, you would be looking at needing about 50-175 grams of protein on a daily basis.

They agree: “Of course, you can get protein from sources other than meat. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of protein foods, including eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.” (All Mayo Clinic quotes source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meatless-meals/my00752)

Some of the Best Sources of Plant Based Protein

Remember my blurb above about enjoying a hemp shake? There were 11 grams of protein right in that little snack alone! An ounce of almonds will give you another 6 to 7 grams (or, go with 1/4 cup for about 8 grams). Throwing a tablespoon of Chia seeds into your smoothie will add 2 grams. And remember that with Chia, we’re talking about a complete protein – you don’t need to combine it with anything else to make it into a complete protein.

And just under an ounce (21 grams, or approx .75 ounces) of the popular Sun Warrior Vegan (plant based) protein powder packs a whopping 17 grams of protein. One quarter cup (1/4 cup) or raw pumpkin seeds (aka “pepitas”) or flax seed offers you 8 grams.

How about Sunflower seeds? Try a quarter cup (1/4 cup) for 6 grams. Add about 1/2 cup of cooked beans or lentils to your meal, and you’ll have between 7 and 10 grams of protein. Split peas? About 8 grams in 1/2 cup of cooked split peas.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of sources of non-meat protein available. Surely one of the alternatives we just mentioned will appeal to you.

The benefits of a plant-based diet cannot be ignored by mainstream or conventional medicine forever. As Matt Traverso states in “Reverse Diabetes Now!” “The closer the food is eaten as yielded by the field, the more it strengthens the immune system and supports cellular health.”

Matt continues by attributing the following quote to Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

Please, if you are trying to improve your health and the overall quality of your life, please consider a move to a more plant based diet. Every step will help!

 

 

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