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5 Reasons Why I’m In Love With My Plant-Based Diet

I discovered the miracle of a whole foods, plant-based diet by accident. In 2013, at the age of 34, I began suffering from debilitating migraines and recurring ovarian cysts. Turns out, my health struggle was the best thing that could have happened to me. In an effort to heal my own body where doctors seemed to lack the interest or capacity, I hired a health coach and started educating myself on health and nutrition. The more I learned, the more I became appalled by the foods I had been eating, particularly animal products and processed foods. I became suspicious that my eating habits (which I had thought were pretty healthy up to that point) were the cause of my health problems. I didn’t go plant-based overnight. For me, it was a progression. I was intrigued by the results I began to experience, and the way my body began to respond. My cysts resolved, my migraines stopped, and my eczema, acne and allergies disappeared. My cholesterol dropped 100 points. I had more energy, slept better, my skin glowed and I even looked younger! I dropped the extra 15 pounds I had been carrying around for years. The best part? I was full, even satiated, after every meal. It was easy. It was fun. It was life-changing.

As a nutritional coach, I am constantly asked why I teach plant-based nutrition. After all, there are so many fad diets out there from paleo to ketogenic and even the blood-type diet. My answer is simple: I follow the science.

When you look past all the hype and focus in on what the science shows, there is no comparison. Simply put, a whole foods, plant-based diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and eliminates animal products, is the only nutritional protocol that not only supports lifelong weight maintenance, but has also been scientifically shown to prevent and even reverse some of the most prevalent western diseases of our time.

While the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet are many, here are some of my favorites:

1. Plant-based diets have been proven to prevent and even reverse chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Unlike the United States where heart disease, diabetes and cancer are top causes of death, in countries where people primarily live on a plant-based diet, the rates of these and other chronic diseases are extremely low. In fact, as stated above, not only does a whole foods, plant-based diet prevent some of the most prevalent western diseases of our time, but it has been scientifically shown to even reverse diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The magnitude of this cannot be understated – a plant-based diet saves lives. For the science behind how a whole foods, plant-based diet works to prevent and reverse chronic disease, watch the movie Forks Over Knives or pick up a copy of T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study – the largest epidemiological study ever done. Another great read specific to heart disease is Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.

2. A whole foods, plant-based diet is ideal for weight loss and sustainable weight maintenance.

There are many reasons why a plant-based diet is so conducive to weight loss and maintenance, but one of those reasons is calorie density. Calorie density is a measure of the amount of calories in the weight of food. Foods low in calorie density have much fewer calories for the same weight of food. A plant-based diet is naturally conducive to weight loss and weight maintenance because it is natural low in calorie density. In other words, by eating foods that are lower in calorie density like potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables and fruits, we can eat a larger volume of these foods, feel fully satiated, and yet lose weight effortlessly because our calorie consumption is much lower than if we had consumed animal products or processed foods high in oil and sugar.

3. A whole foods, plant-based diet supports gut health.

The importance gut health is something we hear a lot about these days. Not only is our gut heath critical for our both our digestion and overall physical wellbeing (70-80% of our immune system resides in our gut), but it is also key to good mental health. But beyond taking probiotics, eating fermented foods and avoiding antibiotics, most of us don’t know what else we can do to support our gut health. The good news is that we can do a lot to ensure healthy gut microbiome by making good food choices. By eating a plant-based diet high in fiber and starches, we can increase the healthy bacteria in our guts and resolve all kinds of health symptoms.

4. Eating plants gives you healthy, glowing skin.

Not only are fruits and vegetables loaded with vitamins such as A, C, E, and K which are great for our skin, but they also contain tons of antioxidants and phytonutrients like resveratrol, anthocyanin, and lycopene, which are beneficial for skin health and collagen production. Plant-based foods also keep our bodies hydrated due to their high water content (fruits and vegetables), high fiber content (whole grains and legumes) and healthy fats (nuts and seeds). And, all plant-based foods are high in nutrient density, which keeps our bodies nourished. A nourished body on the inside will look healthy on the outside.

5. A whole foods, plant-based diet lowers cancer risks.

Every day we are unknowingly exposed to carcinogens from the products we use on our skin and hair, to the furniture we sit on, to the air we breathe. Adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet that is low in fat may be the most effective thing we can do to lower our risk of developing cancer (in addition to quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol). Meat and dairy contain growth stimulants like IGF-1, which has been shown to cause cancer progression. Conversely, plant-based foods contain cancer-fighting folates and anti-cancer plant sterols. And of course, improving the strength of our immune system (see number 3 regarding gut health above) and maintaining a healthy weight are equally important in preventing and fighting cancer.