Why should you try a plant-based diet?

Author: Steph Innes.


Famous author, journalist, lecturer and professor Michael Pollan once said:


‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’


And I think that is the best dietary advice out there.



Hi there! My name is Steph, or more commonly known on the interwebs as @stephs_sun and I am a 20 year-old Personal trainer and group fitness instructor studying my Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health in beautiful Perth, Australia. I am also an Ambassador and Blogger for Hear Us Raw!


You could say health is my thing. And food. Always food.


But that has definitely not always been the case. The radiant, sunny, healthy girl you see today is a combination of years of research, recovery, diet experimentation, and self-acceptance and love. Without getting into too much of the nitty-gritty (which will inevitably come up in future posts anyway!), today I want to talk about how a primarily plant-based diet changed my life. And could potentially change yours too.


As a life-long ‘academically driven and current university studying’ human, I hold evidence-based research and primary sources, backed up by hard proven facts and large cohort studies, to a high degree. I love seeing the research and the ever-expanding knowledge we gain as new studies and findings erupt before us.



I’m also heavily health driven, with the mentality of thankfulness for this incredible opportunity to inhabit such an awe-inspiring planet and wanting to have the best time whilst I’m here mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.


I read. I researched. I talked, discussed, watched documentaries, experimented with my own lifestyle choices and eventually came to a conclusion.


Our society (Western society) and the influence of our society on previously healthy populations, has taken a bit of a turn... downwards. Overweight and obesity statistics are at an all-time high, correlating with several chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, mental health conditions- the list goes on.


So what do the stats say about our current lifestyle choices? The 2017 overview of Australian health by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found over 9 in 10 Australian adults having inadequate vegetable consumption, with only half of us (54%) reaching our daily fruit targets. Instead our hectic schedules, eating on the run, time-poor and stressed lifestyles have us reaching for convenience foods, often processed, often low nutrition, 35% of our average energy intake made up of these discretionary foods.


What’s worse is that the percentage of energy intake from these processed snack foods is a whopping 41% for Australian teens between 14-18 years.



Now, I could talk statistics and numbers for days, because when you have a cold hard number in front of you, it’s hard to pretend there’s nothing wrong with our eating habits.

But instead, I’d like to flip those scary stats on their head and instead show you that the proof of a plant-based eating style is in the… home-made fruity pudding!


Multiple studies, including a 2018 Randomised control trial in the Journal of Nutrition and Diabetes, reveal the indisputable correlation between following a primarily plant-based diet (specifically a low-fat vegan diet) consisting of vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits with no animal products or added oils, resulting in significant decrease in body weight, fat mass and improved insulin markers (Kahleova et al, 2018).


If we look at the longest living populations (referred to as the blue zones) with a 10 year increase in life expectancy verses Western populations, these diseases and chronic conditions are not a normal part of ageing. For example Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, Loma Linda in California; thriving up to and over 100 years of life. What do they have in common? The have life purpose, strong relationships with friends and family, perform low-intensity exercise/ movement over long periods, manage stress well and also, in their diet. Eating a largely plant-based diet, with the majority of energy from legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts and smaller amounts from fish, cheese and meat. 95% of their meals come without meat in fact; or 1 in 20 with little if any processed foods (check out Plantproof.com for more info!). Coincidence? Disease is more common in Western populations than good health. A statement I believe we can flip on its head with simple lifestyle changes.


I spent years of my life experiencing chronic fatigue, insomnia, sugar cravings, energy crashes, bouts of anxiety, trouble concentrating in school, dull listless hair, uncomfortable gas and bloating after meals and no idea what was wrong with me. I was eating what everyone else was!?


And that was the issue. The significant transformation of my entire life holistically, including my physical health, mental health and emotional health, with my diet overhaul was either by incredible coincidence in timing or more likely; the result of less processed, refined, high saturated fat, salt and sugary foods to primarily whole plant-food based. My life changed when my diet changed. Fact.


So that’s just a few of the benefits I’m going to touch on today (don’t even get me started on the benefits of plant-based foods, fibre and gut health- THAT’S a whole other topic for another day!). The benefits of increasing plant foods in the diet is not a ‘maybe’ or ‘might help’ it’s a truth scientifically and objectively proven with more and more evidence coming out every second about the benefits of higher plant-consumptions and optimal health for you, your family and even the planet.


So, in short, eat food, not too much, mostly plants.


Happy days.




References:


Kahleova, H., Fleeman, R., Hlozkova, A., Holubkov, R., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). A plant-based diet in overweight individuals in a 16-week randomized clinical trial: metabolic benefits of plant protein. Nutrition & Diabetes, 8, 58. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038%2Fs41387-018-0067-4


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019).Overweight & Obesity. Retrieved fromhttps://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/overview

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