The benefits of a plant-based diet

 

A plant-based diet is any diet that focuses around foods derived from plant sources. This diet focuses on fresh, whole ingredients, whilst of course minimising processed foods. Changing your food intake and being more mindful of your nutrition has been shown to help individuals increase their life expectancy, help the environment, and reduce your chances of getting poorly – sounds great right?  If you’re thinking of adopting a plant-based diet, or you’re currently already living this way, our experts are here to let you know the benefits along with their top tips, and suggestions…

Photo by Nadine Primeau

Gut related pros

If you’re following a plant-based diet you may have already noticed that you’re visiting the toilet more often. However, if you’re new to this plant life be careful with your transition. Nutritionist Amanda Hamilton, working in association with sense* (www.senseproducts.co.uk) explains, “A plant based diet, whether vegan or otherwise, can be great for the gut , especially if it includes a lot of fibre rich wholefoods. However, a dramatic change in a diet can actually irritate or upset someone's digestion, even if the switch is a healthy one. So, if you are moving towards a plant based diet you may wish to start by including more cooked vegetables and soups or smoothies, and gradually increase the proportion of raw foods.” To avoid giving your gut a fright during this transition, the sense* for gut health superfood supplement powder could be your go to option (£6.99, 35g, www.boots.com). This powder can help avoid irritation during this period as it supports normal mucous membranes in the gut using vitamins A and B2. Simply add 1-heaped teaspoon to your favourite smoothie and voila!  

“In one clinical trial it was the Mediterranean diet that was shown to have the greatest benefit to gut health - high in legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and extra virgin olive oil, with a small intake of animal produce. But here's the rub. You can't just dip in and out of a healthy diet and expect your gut to maintain benefits throughout. Your gut health reacts quickly - some say daily - to your dietary choices. So, the best diet for gut health is one that you enjoy enough to maintain, and one that contains a diverse range of foods.”

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Immune fighting pros

How many times have you been sick in the last year? If your answer is more than three times perhaps a plant-based diet is for you. “Vitamin C is found in abundance in fruits and green vegetables. Benefits of vitamin C include protection against immune system deficiencies, prenatal health problems, eye disease and even skin wrinkling. Other plant compounds that are not considered ‘essential’ also seem to be helpful for our immunity - such as Flavonoids and carotenoids found in brightly coloured vegetables and fruit, and Glucosinolates found in the cabbage-family vegetables,” explains Nutritionist Cassandra Barns.

Combine plant based proteins

Amino acids are essential for growth and development of the muscles. London’s leading Nutrtiionist, Lily Soutter (www.lilysoutternutrition.com) expalins how important it is to combine plant based proteins when following this diet. “Protein from plant-based sources either do not contain all essential amino acids, or provide them in varying amounts. If two foods which contain plant-based protein are eaten in combination, for example lentil curry with rice, you are more likely to get a sufficient range of amino acids to create a complete protein. It’s therefore essential to combine plant based protein sources to ensure they receive a greater range of amino acids. A mix of protein sources should be included at each meal and snack; Tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, quinoa, nuts, seeds and vegan protein powder.”

Top Tip: The much-loved Natures Plus Organic Paleo Protein Powder (£33.95, www.naturesplus.co.uk) only includes wholesome, organic, natural proteins - which all pack a powerful protein punch. The combination of organic sunflower, organic pumpkin seed, organic almond and organic flax delivers 20g of vegan protein, along with beneficial fatty acids and dietary fibre.  It’s the ultimate all-round organic, vegan protein powder!

Wrinkle fighting pros

I mean c’mon, all of us enjoy the feeling of sunshine hitting our face but none of us want the wrinkles and premature aging that’s associated with it. As well as of course applying a much-needed sun cream, eating vegetables gives your skin the extra loving it deserves. Lily Soutter explains, “The bright orange hue of sweet potato comes from an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Sun damage is one of the biggest causes of premature skin ageing and research suggests that beta-carotene may play a role with protecting the skin against harmful free radicals found in UV sun radiation. Whilst it certainly can’t compare to sunscreen, there is evidence that beta carotene may play a role with protecting against sunburn, which ultimately would otherwise lead to wrinkle formation.”

“Interestingly beta-carotene isn’t just found in sweet potato, it’s also found in other orange and green vegetable such as carrots, butternut squash and spinach. Since beta carotene is a fat soluble antioxidant, for optimal absorption it’s best consumed alongside healthy fats such as olive oil”

Obesity fighting pros

This healthy diet pattern has been associated with lower obesity and cardiometabolic risk in adults, according to research. “Unhealthy food choices – eating little fruit and vegetables and consuming excess, sugary, fatty, convenience foods can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes. This is mostly because; a high glycaemic diet increases the risk of weight gain, which is linked with type 2 diabetes. In fact, obesity accounts for 80% to 85% of the overall risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” explains Dr. Sarah Brewer working in association with CuraLin, the type 2 Diabetes Supplement (www.curalife.co).

Top tip: A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be boring. Did you know that 40% of the dishes are vegan at itsu? Instead of opting for a Twix with a whopping 286 of sugar packed calories, grab itsu’s veggie club rolls (£3.49, Available Nationwide). The carrots in these rolls contain 45% of your daily intake of vitamin A and the seaweed contains 15% of your daily iodine intake. So for 208 kcals, this dish makes the perfect morning or afternoon snack.

 

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