5 Amazing Health Benefits of Embracing a Plant-Based Diet

Since I went 100% plant-based almost 2 years ago, I’ve noticed a much higher sense of well-being overall, along with other health benefits. I also haven’t suffered from a protein shortage or calcium deficiency either, in case you’re one of the many who worry about this issue. With athletes, celebs, and even political figures going vegan, why not the rest of us? When we consider that animal production has led to more problems in our world than solutions, it just makes sense.

Animal foods are also more processed than even some of the more processed plant-based choices people avoid at the store. Considering that animals are living creatures just like you and me, it makes no sense for us to spend our money on an industry that causes them suffering, destroys the environment, and causes us health problems. As rates of cancer and diabetes increase, one has to wonder if this has to do with the animal production being higher than ever and fast food restaurants serving up more animal foods that are cheaper per meal than whole, plant-based meal offerings. Though you and I can’t change this overnight, we can change our health by eating a plant-based diet. I’m under the belief that if more people chose the vegan route, they’d not only feel better, but animal production demand would significantly decrease.

A plant-based diet is more economical, especially if you eat in-season and eat local produce. Check out some of these health benefits of going getting plant-powered, and start eating more plants this week. By filling your plate up with the good stuff, there’s less room for the acidic animal foods that leave you sluggish and tired.

1. Lower Blood Pressure

Most people living a plant-based diet automatically have lower blood pressure due to a higher intake of potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps lower blood pressure that leads to stress and anxiety. Most all whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B6 (which also helps lower blood pressure). Meat and most all animal foods contain little to no potassium and actually raise blood pressure and cholesterol.

2. 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 no matter if 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. For more on taking care of your cholesterol, check out these great tips to take care of your cholesterol on a vegan diet. 

3. Better Blood Sugar

The number one way to fight high blood sugar is to eat more fiber. Its slows down absorption of sugars in the blood stream and as a result can help improve how hungry you are all day long, not to mention balance your cortisol levels that cause stress. Animal foods have been found to raise blood sugar, despite the myth that they help fight it.

4. Lower Rates of Cancer

A low fat, whole foods plant-based diet is the number one way to improve your chances at avoiding cancer risks (while also avoiding smoking and alcohol, of course). Animal foods have been linked to cancer, especially colon and breast cancer.

5. 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 food 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.

You’ll also likely also experience less constipation and better sleep on a plant-based diet, along with less inflammation and lower risks of diabetes, according to Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Be sure if you eat a plant-based diet you choose one from clean, whole foods to optimize all of these benefits. If you’ve tried it, what’s been the biggest health benefit you’ve received?

#TeamSuperYou Welcomes Paul Quinn College athlete Makayla Ruiz to the roster!

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SuperYOU Fitness is proud to announce our first collegiate athlete for Summer 2018, Paul Quinn College's own Makayla Ruiz! Ruiz will be a part of the Fall 2018 Volleyball team. Her goal is to tone more and gain strength and endurance in the offseason. Josh "Smoove" Stewart will assist Ruiz this Summer and push her to the limit of no return! Be sure to follow Makayla on Instagram @Envy.kayy._ to keep up with her progress. 

Eight Tips for Healthier Eating

Eight Tips for Healthier Eating

These eight practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating, and can help you make healthier choices.

Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates 
Eat lots of fruit and veg
Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish
Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
Get active and be a healthy weight
Don't get thirsty
Don't skip breakfast

The key to a healthy diet is to:

  • Eat the right amount of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. If you eat or drink too much, you'll put on weight. If you eat and drink too little, you'll lose weight.  
  • Eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you're getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs. 

It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules). Most adults are eating more calories than they need, and should eat fewer calories. 

Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates 

Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over one third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. 

Choose wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can help you feel full for longer.

Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to include at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat. 

Keep an eye on the fats you add when you're cooking or serving these types of foods because that's what increases the calorie content, for example oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta.

Eat lots of fruit and veg 

It's recommended that we eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. It's easier than it sounds. 

Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit? 

Unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies can only ever count as a maximum of one portion of your 5 A DAY. For example, if you have two glasses of fruit juice and a smoothie in one day, that still only counts as one portion. 

Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish

Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease. 

Oily fish include: 

  • salmon 
  • mackerel 
  • trout 
  • herring 
  • fresh tuna 
  • sardines 
  • pilchards. 

Non-oily fish include: 

  • haddock 
  • plaice 
  • coley 
  • cod 
  • canned tuna 
  • skate 
  • hake 

If you regularly eat a lot of fish, try to choose as wide a variety as possible. 

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned: but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

Saturated fat in our diet

We all need some fat in our diet, but it's important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we're eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day. The average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day, and children should have less than adults.

Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as:

  • hard cheese 
  • cakes 
  • biscuits 
  • sausages 
  • cream 
  • butter 
  • lard 
  • pies. 

Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake, and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados.

For a healthier choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When you're having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat. 

Sugar in our diet

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. 

Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories), and if eaten too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars. Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. 

Cut down on: 

  • sugary fizzy drinks 
  • alcoholic drinks 
  • sugary breakfast cereals 
  • cakes 
  • biscuits 
  • pastries 

These foods contain added sugars: this is the kind of sugar we should be cutting down on, rather than sugars that are found in things such as fruit and milk. 

Food labels can help: use them to check how much sugar foods contain. More than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g means that the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means that the food is low in sugar.

Get tips on cutting down sugar in your diet.

Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. 

Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces. 

Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults and children over 11 should eat no more than 6g of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day. Younger children should have even less. 

Get tips on cutting down on salt in your diet

Get active and be a healthy weight

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. 

Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health. 

Check whether you're a healthy weight by using our Healthy weight calculator.

Most adults need to lose weight, and need to eat fewer calories to do this. If you're trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help: aim to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Don't forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down can help you to control your weight. 

Physical activity can help you to maintain weight loss or be a healthy weight. Being active doesn't have to mean hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop early on the way home from work, and walking. 

Being physically active may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For more ideas, see Get active your way.

After getting active, remember not to reward yourself with a treat that is high in energy. If you feel hungry after activity, choose foods or drinks that are lower in calories, but still filling. 

If you're underweight, see our page on underweight adults. If you're worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

Don't get thirsty

We need to drink plenty of fluids to stop us getting dehydrated – the government recommends 6-8 glasses every day. 

This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices. 

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth. 

Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar. Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day – which is a small glass.

For example, if you have 150ml of orange juice and 150ml smoothie in one day, you'll have exceeded the recommendation by 150ml.

When the weather is warm, or when we get active, we may need more fluids. 

Don't skip breakfast

Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight. 

Breakfast has also been shown to have positive effects on children’s mental performance and increase their concentration throughout the morning. 

A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet, and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. 

A wholegrain, lower-sugar cereal with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and nutritious breakfast. 

 

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