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Being slightly overweight is usually not a reason to worry. However, being severely overweight is hazardous to one’s health and can shorten one’s life. Today, as much as 40% of adults in the United States are obese. Many other physical and mental health problems are becoming more commonplace. While life expectancy is still almost at an all-time high, it is no longer increasing and has begun to decrease slowly. The single most significant cause of these problems is diet and not a decrease in physical activity. While physical activity is vital for health, physical activity levels have not decreased by as much as some people might assume. The most substantial change between a few decades ago and today is in the food people eat. Food has become heavily processed and full of sugar. Studies suggest a decline in the nutritional value of our crops over time and that is of great concern, also. These are some of the main reason why many are considering plant based diets. 

Those who eat a diet free of processed food and low in sugar can escape from these health problems. Non-processed plant-based foods, in particular, can prevent these chronic health problems. If a person actively seeks out a healthy way of life today, they can expect to live longer than people of earlier generations. At the current point in time, however, it seems that the younger generations today will be the longest-lived in history. Many medical advances have appeared, but a decrease in food quality is now outweighing these advances. Life expectancy might continue to increase only for those who care the most about their health.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet emphasizes avoiding processed foods and mostly or entirely avoiding animal foods. They also emphasize eating high-quality food with few ingredients. A heavily processed or deep-fried food that does not contain any animal products is not ok on a plant-based diet. Anything with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients is assumed to be unhealthy and avoided on a plant-based diet.

On a plant-based diet, one will usually eat what they cook from scratch from raw ingredients. People on plant-based diets typically avoid food that comes pre-made in a box or a can. Plant-based eaters avoid processed cooking oils, and refined flour as well. A plant-based diet is also a low sugar diet. Coconut oil and olive oil are the best cooking oils, with butter, margarine, and sometimes ordinary vegetable oils being considered inferior.

Raw and cooked vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are essential parts of a plant-based diet. On a plant-based diet, one ensures that they are getting enough protein even though they eat little meat. Lentils, chickpeas, and nuts are popular choices for this reason. More unusual foods can be even better sources of plant protein. Quinoa has plenty of protein in it, and hemp seeds are an exceptionally dense protein source. Only a tablespoon worth of hemp seeds provides five grams worth of protein. Hemp seeds have much more protein in them than meat products. A person can eat more protein than a typical American, even if they do not eat meat or eggs. It is not only possible but easy to eat a high protein plant based diet.

Is a plant-based diet the same as a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Generally not. People use the terms “vegetarian” and “plant-based” interchangeably. However, a limited amount of animal foods, including meat, are allowed in a plant-based diet. Processed meat is one of the first things that someone who eats a plant-based diet will avoid. However, non-processed meat may be somewhat different. One can eat a limited amount of non-processed meat and still call their diet plant-based. A vegan diet is the most strict, with a vegetarian diet in the middle, and a plant-based diet more lenient. People who eat plant-based foods vary in how much they avoid meat and dairy.

Can a plant-based diet help you lose weight?

Whole foods, plant-based diets have been proven to work for long term weight loss. If an overweight person eats less without changing what they eat, hunger is likely to defeat them. If they change what they eat, on the other hand than weight loss without long term hunger is possible. The ticket, when trying to lose weight, is to minimize hunger. Non-starchy vegetables are better than starchy vegetables if you are aiming for weight loss. Eating high protein foods is a good idea as protein reduces appetite. Eating plenty of Protein also minimizes hunger pangs and snacking. One should not try to go too low fat, as this can leave you feeling hungry too often.

High protein foods such as hemp seeds are a good idea. If one cannot buy hemp seeds locally, one can order them from amazon [A]. So are green vegetables, which contain a compound called thylakoid that reduces appetite. One should also eat nuts and other plant sources of fat such as avocados.

Don’t drink your calories

If you eat, you can often satisfy your hunger without consuming a lot of calories. Drinking is much less effective. Sugary drinks are the worst. Drinking calories, in general, is not a good idea if you find weight loss difficult. Eat instead of drink your vitamins and minerals. If the primary purpose is weight loss, you might go with drinking water only.

Can a whole foods plant-based diet prevent heart disease?

One of the most significant advantages of a whole foods plant-based diet is that it can prevent heart disease. A study of 200,000 individuals showed that a whole foods plant-based diet prevents heart attacks [1]. The food included in the diet must be healthy for the diet to work. A plant-based diet with a high sugar intake is ineffective.

A plant-based diet intended for heart health should include olive oil, brown rice, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Diets such as the dash diet and the mind diet reduce cardiovascular problems [2]. These diets can lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure, as well. Diabetes can also be controlled with some plant-based diets. Vegetable juice may be a better idea than fruit juice because even natural fruit sugar is problematic. While the amount of sugar found in fruit is reasonably small, this is not true for fruit juices. Eat the whole fruit rather than drink it. White rice is, to some extent, processed food and is not a good idea. Processed meat is particularly bad for heart health. Eating only 75 grams of processed food per day is enough to increase the risk of heart failure [3] significantly. Only a minimal intake of 25 grams of processed meat per day may be safe. Simply switching white bread for whole wheat bread and white rice for brown rice makes a difference.

Can a plant-based diet reduce the risk of cancer?

Plant-based diets reduce the odds of developing cancers, especially gastrointestinal cancers [4]. A different large study (of 77000) found the diets effective in preventing colorectal cancer [5]. Vegans had an advantage over the general population, and Lacto-Ovo vegetarians were even more resistant to cancer than vegans. Another study found that vegetarians do better than full meat-eaters [6] but not as well as those who eat fish. Limited consumption of animal foods seems to beat no eating of animal products. No use of animal foods, in turn, beats uncautious meat-eating. One wants to be in the middle and closer to the vegetarian side for cancer prevention.

Plant-based diets, Alzheimer’s, and dementia

Eating a plant-based diet can also reduce the odds of experiencing cognitive decline later in life. Antioxidants and other substances found in fruits and vegetables can protect the brain. Many people can even reverse cognitive decline with a plant-based diet [7]. A plant-based diet can prevent dementia in general and not merely Alzheimer’s disease [8].

As well as the antioxidants, the polyphenols in plants can prevent cognitive decline. They may also help to prevent diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease. Known for improving general health, Polyphenols are good for a younger person’s developing brain[9]. Polyphenols reduce inflammation, and inflammation reduces health in general. More polyphenols are found in food from higher quality sources. Thousands of types of polyphenols exist. We do not yet know which are the most effective. However, much evidence is firmly in favor of them.

Polyphenols also have digestive health benefits. Gut health was until recently not fully recognized as vital to health. Today, mainstream medicine fully realizes the importance of gut bacteria. Polyphenols encourage healthy gut bacteria to grow. Polyphenols may also kill unhealthy gut bacteria [10]. Straightforwardly healthy foods such as berries, grapes, grapefruit, broccoli, asparagus, and artichokes are excellent sources. Less straightforwardly healthy foods such as coffee and red wine are also rich in polyphenols.

Plant-Based diets and brain health

Evidence claiming that plant-based diets either improve or worsen brain health are easy to find. If one goes into plant-based eating without planning, they may end up worsening their health in some cases. They may not have a plant-based replacement for the protein or nutrients in meat. Vitamin B12, Protein, and Choline are the first things one must replace when avoiding or significantly reducing animal foods.

However, the evidence is firmly in favor of a plant-based Mediterranean diet being good for brain health. The Mediterranean is not low fat or low protein. Instead, it uses fat and protein found in plant foods. Meat can be part of a Mediterranean diet. However, one gets their fat and protein mostly from other sources. Olive oil (healthy fats) and red wine (polyphenols) are essential parts of the Mediterranean diet. The brain is made mainly of fat, so the quality of the fats one consumes may determine brain health.

If one is switching to a plant-based diet firstly for brain health, a version of the Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet may be the best idea. The MIND diet is a branch of the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes brain-healthy foods. The MIND diet is specifically for brain health, and not a general diet has brain health-boosting effects.

A plant-based diet should never be a “starvation diet.” Switching to an invalid type of plant-based diet may, in fact, “starve the brain,” in some cases. However, a healthy plant-based diet will protect rather than hurt the brain. Vitamin E and n-3 fatty acids, common in the MIND diet, are perfect for brain health [10B]. Saturated fat, on the other hand, can reduce brain health [10B]. So one can more easily protect than harm the brain with a plant-based diet.

Plant-based diets and diabetes

Plant-based diets may also cut the risk of diabetes in half. A major 2009 study reported a nearly 50% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes on a plant-based diet. Both vegan diets and Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diets are effective [11].

People usually do not associate red meat with diabetes. Diabetes is associated with insulin, which is associated with sugar. However, red meat seemingly causes diabetes, even though it does not affect insulin. Eating a lot of red meat raises the risk of diabetes by 48% [12]. How this works is nowhere near understood. One untested theory is that most Americans consume too much iron rather than too little. Excessive iron intake is associated with diabetes. Red meat contains a lot of iron, which is only good for you in moderate quantities. Since those on a plant-based diet avoid refined flour and red meat, they avoid excessive iron.

Environmental benefits

It takes far more calories to feed a cow to maturity than there are calories in the cow. Going plant-based reduces and eating locally grown food minimizes one’s environmental impact. Going plant-based also reduces the need for water used in meat agriculture. Freshwater for agriculture often comes from underground reservoirs, which are a finite resource. Underground tanks will not fill again for a very long time. If we were to minimize animal-based agriculture, our worst environmental issues would mostly disappear. Greenhouse gas emissions might reduce 70%, and water use could reduce by half [13].




[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28728684

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

[3] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565018/

[5] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/plant-based-diet-guide#benefits

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25751512

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25312617

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25312617

[9] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19914380

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671114/

[12] https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20130617/red-meat-linked-to-increased-diabetes-risk#1

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5094759/

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27116239


[A] https://www.amazon.com/Manitoba-Harvest-Shelled-Protein-Serving/dp/B00856TSCC?ref_=Oct_BSellerC_8975268011_0&pf_rd_p=8b719fcf-42bb-517f-94d9-f4f710d05c67&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-6&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=8975268011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=WKQY6ZBSTEVPS96AFVMV&pf_rd_r=WKQY6ZBSTEVPS96AFVMV&pf_rd_p=8b719fcf-42bb-517f-94d9-f4f710d05c67