The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

More people than ever are eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. Studies show that it is better for our bodies and better for the planet—but it isn't always easy.

| July 2016

  • "A Plant-Based Life" by Micaela Cook Karlsen will teach you how to take advantage of shopping tips, pantry lists, menu plans, and more than 100 mouth watering recipes.
    Photo courtesy AMACOM Books
  • Learn to find and sustain your motivation as well as reshape your food environment (at home, at work, and on the go) to make healthy eating a no-brainer.
    Photo by Switchpipi/Fotolia

Whether you're taking your first steps on this path to wellness or recommitting yourself to success, let A Plant-Based Life (AMACOM Books, 2016) by author Micaela Cook Karlsen be your guide. Her program enables you to set your own pace and stay the course—without relying on willpower. Drawing on personal experience and the latest research, she reveals how to: find and sustain your motivation; gradually add more whole, plant foods into your diet, crowding out less nutritious fare; break old food addictions and establish new habits and translate favorite recipes to create delicious, nourishing meals. Especially valuable are directions for navigating roadblocks. Here you'll find strategies for getting family members on board and for allaying friends' concerns about your food choices with evidence-based nutrition information.

The scientific evidence that demonstrates and supports the benefits of a plant-based diet is growing all the time, and the most dramatic aspect is that the effects not only prevent people from getting sick but, for certain serious conditions, the food they eat can also make them well.

Making people well is not something that medication for chronic disease has ever accomplished, and perhaps it never will. This is not for lack of effort on the part of drug developers or doctors, but the medications for chronic disease manage symptoms rather than treat the cause of the illness. Many studies suggest that when you look at the rates of adherence for medication, they are pretty dismal — many patients struggle to take their prescriptions as directed, and quitting altogether is common! And who can blame them? Often, medications have side effects that make them feel worse, not better.

In contrast, many people who switch to a whole food, plant-based diet are highly motivated to continue because suddenly, perhaps for the first time in a long while, they feel good! For heart disease and type 2 diabetes, there are countless examples of individuals who, by changing their diet, have been able to reduce or discontinue their medications under their doctor’s supervision. These outcomes are consistent with what has been demonstrated in the peer-reviewed research data on people who eat plant-based diets over the long-term, as well as intervention studies in which participants are assigned to a plant-based eating plan and their results are compared with other diets. This information has begun to permeate the field of medicine, as increasingly more physicians now support plant-based diets as the foundation of medical treatment for a variety of chronic diseases.

The feelings of sustained energy and longer-lasting satiety (feeling full after a meal) are only the beginning of the many benefits of a plant-based diet. While you no doubt have your own reasons for reading this book, in the next few pages we’re going to cover some of the demonstrated health benefits for the prevention and/or reversal of four major chronic health problems that people in developed countries currently face: weight issues (which impact many conditions and diseases), type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart disease), and cancer. For each, we’ll take a look at the typical outcomes for plant-based eaters, delve into some background as to what is going wrong when these conditions develop, and explain how a plant-based diet can remove the source of the problem. This information will not only provide you with a deeper understanding of the positive effects of this diet, but may also serve to inform your conversations with your family, friends, and doctors. The results speak for themselves!

Weight Issues

How would you like to eat until you felt full every time you were hungry, maintain a healthy weight, and never have to worry about counting calories? That is what can be gained by eating a plant-based diet. Plant-based eaters, both vegetarians (who eat no meat), and vegans (who eat no animal foods at all), are more likely to be at their normal weight compared to omnivores.They’re also more likely to gain less weight over time — the nemesis of many aging adults.

8/3/2016 10:07:54 AM

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