You may have heard a lot of terms circling around about what it is to eat clean, eat whole foods and eat naturally. No matter what you call it, we believe eating plant-based isn’t just a diet; it’s a lifestyle, which extends to wearing vegan and cruelty free clothing, too. Keep reading below to learn more about what a plant-based diet is, what it looks like choosing whole, natural foods day-to-day, and how clean eating helps our bodies as well as the environment.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is focused on whole, unrefined or minimally refined plants. It’s an eating habit based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes. A plant-based diet also excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar and oil.
- People who follow a plant-based diet can expect to eat:
- Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified Nut Milk
- Leafy Greens
- Whole Grains
If you’re not sure about making this your lifestyle, here are some health benefits that might change your mind.
Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
There are a multitude of reasons we believe in a plant-based diet; here are some of the most important health benefits from US News that often convince people to transition to this type of lifestyle.
- Heart Health
Harvard researchers tracked a group of 110,000 people for 14 years and found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables lowered their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Specifically, those who ate eight or more servings of fruits and veggies per day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared to those who had fewer than 1.5 servings.
- Improved Vision
It is well known that carrots aid in night vision because they contain vitamin A. Your eyes can also benefit from the vitamins found in spinach, kale, corn, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments in these fruits and vegetables are believed to help prevent cataract and macular degeneration.
- Skin Care
Cutting back on animal proteins also means reducing their saturated fats, which are known to clog pores. Consider eating tomatoes for the lycopene, which helps protect skin from sun damage; the vitamin C in sweet potatoes also smooths wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen.
- Lower Blood Pressure
Most people living a plant-based diet automatically have lower blood pressure due to a higher intake of potassium- and vitamin B6-rich foods. Potassium and vitamin B6 help reduce the blood pressure that leads to stress and anxiety. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and vitamin B6, whereas meat and most all animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Lower Cholesterol
Speaking of lower cholesterol, it’s one of the main benefits you’ll receive from embracing plant-based foods. Most people don’t know that plants contain NO cholesterol, even saturated sources like coconut and cacao. While you should balance your fat intake whether you’re vegan or not, a plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to lower cholesterol. Consider this: one egg has twice the amount of cholesterol as a fast food hamburger and fish contains almost or even more cholesterol than meat or poultry, depending on the type you eat. Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds can actually lower rates of cholesterol and heart disease.
- Better Blood Sugar
The number one way to fight high blood sugar is to eat more fiber. Its slows down the absorption of sugars in the blood stream and as a result can help improve how hungry you are all day long, plus it can balance your cortisol levels that cause stress. Animal foods have been found to raise blood sugar, despite the myth that they help fight it.
- Lower Rates of Cancer
A low fat, whole foods plant-based diet is the number one way to improve your chances of avoiding cancer risks (while also avoiding smoking and alcohol, of course). Animal foods have been linked to cancer, especially colon and breast cancer.
- Weight Loss
If you’re consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet (especially one that’s low in fat and processed sugars), you’re going to lose weight. A diet high in raw, clean whole foods may improve your chances at losing weight even more, even though cooked foods may help with nutrient absorption. Weight loss naturally occurs when you consume more fiber, vitamins and minerals than you do animal fats and proteins. Kathy Freston, vegan wellness expert, says that within two weeks of a plant-based diet, most people lose five pounds without going hungry or feeling deprived.
Environmental Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Along with being extremely healthy for the human body and mind, a plant-based diet is also important to keeping the planet healthy. We only have one planet and it is important that we do what we can to keep it running smoothly. You may think your diet doesn’t have a big impact on the environment, or any impact at all for that matter, but know that it does. Here are some starling statistics from One Green Planet that reinforce the need for a plant-based diet.
- Cutting Your Carbon Footprint
There’s no debating animal agriculture’s devastating contribution to global warming. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent. And those 300 million tons of manure we mentioned aren’t just disgusting; they’re responsible for 37 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Manure and its management in factory farm “lagoons” (cesspits filled with animal waste) produce large quantities of methane, a gas that warms the earth 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. Add in transportation and the fuel used to grow feed for livestock, and we’re talking a very large carbon footprint.
- Conserving Water
According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce just ONE gallon of milk. That staggering statistic alone should be enough to steer any earth-conscious individual away from animal products. According to the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, 87 percent of all fresh water usage in the U.S. is used in agriculture. When you take into consideration that it requires about 100 times more water to produce a pound of animal protein than a pound of grain protein, you can see how reducing the animal products you eat will reduce the enormous amount of valuable water we waste.
- Saving Animal and Plant Habitats
Did you know that worldwide, almost a third of arable land is used for animal agriculture — much of it to just to feed the pigs, cattle and chicken we’re so fond of consuming? That’s why animal agriculture is such a major contributor to deforestation and desertification (which happens when livestock grazing destroys native vegetation and speeds up soil erosion). Both phenomena contribute to the extinction of whole species of animals like orangutans, red pandas and sloths. Not to mention, animals right here in the U.S. are being greatly impacted by animal agriculture. It’s estimated that U.S. livestock grazing impacts 14 percent of threatened or endangered animals and 33 percent of threatened or endangered plants.
- Dead Zones
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of water pollution and ocean dead zones. Waste from factory farms is stored in giant lagoons and applied, untreated, to crops as fertilizer. The hundreds of toxins in such large quantities of manure can’t be absorbed by the soil, and instead find their way into groundwater and then into rivers and oceans, where they destroy marine ecosystems. One mind-blowing occurrence of such contamination can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mississippi River — polluted with farm animal waste from the Midwest — lets out. Oxygen depletion from animal manure and fertilizer created an 8,500-square foot dead zone, which has virtually killed off all marine life.
- Cleaner Air
Remember those 300+ million tons of manure? They’re also responsible for producing ammonia, the most potent form of nitrogen, which kills fish, causes algae blooms and contributes to smog. Additionally, the air surrounding factory farms often contains above average levels of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, endotoxins and our environmental enemies, carbon dioxide, and methane.
If you are new to a plant-based diet or are exploring this as a lifestyle option, it is hard to deny that this way of eating is not only healthy for your body but also the environment. Whether you are looking to lower blood pressure, lose weight or reduce your risk of cancers, a plant-based diet can help with all of that, as well as cleaning up our air and oceans. Come back next month to learn how individuals and families can make the transition to a plant-based diet from a typical “American diet.”
About PLNT BSD
PLNT BSD is a unique apparel line that lets customers express their plant based lifestyle, while looking great at the same time. The company’s vegan apparel is stylish, while avoiding the 'in-your-face' type of approach. PLNT BSD is PETA approved. They use only vegan materials when choosing apparel and use ink that is not tested on animals. PLNT BSD hopes to spread the word and start a conversation about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Not only is a plant-based diet and lifestyle good for you, it's also beneficial to the environment and animals alike. Visit www.PLNTBSDApparel.com for more information on vegan clothing and a plant-based diet and lifestyle.