Guest Blog by our friend, fellow-kettlebeller, & Registered Dietitian Melissa Mathes
Eat More Plant Foods for your Health
Your parents were right… “Eat Your Vegetables!”. It’s no surprise that eating more plant-derived foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried beans and grains are healthy for you. Consuming a predominately plant based diet, or being a vegetarian (consumes plant derived foods, dairy and eggs and avoids animal flesh. Vegan is strict avoidance of any animal derived products), can improve your health substantially.
- Springmann et al, found that eating fewer animal products could result in 5 million preventable deaths per year globally, while a vegetarian or vegan diet could prevent 7.3 -8.1 million deaths/year.
- The long-term Seventh-day Adventists study shows that they remain healthier into an older age, in fact they tend to live 10 years longer than most Americans. This religious group practices age enhancing behaviors like, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and consuming a vegetarian diet and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
- Research has shown that the therapeutic use of a vegetarian diet is effective for treating overweight and obesity in both the short term (< 1 year) and the long term (> 1 year), and may be a better alternative then an omnivore diet (not conclusive though, since eating fish has high health benefits). The range of weight loss ranged from 3.2%-9.3% at 12 months across several studies
- Type 2 diabetes: A vegetarian diet has shown to decrease hemoglobin A1c as well or better than omnivore diets. A predominately plant based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Seventh-day Adventist vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was ½ the amount of non-vegetarians.
- Cancer: Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians do. But the differences aren’t large. A vegetarian diet can make it easier to get the recommended minimum of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but a purely vegetarian diet is not necessarily better than a plant-based diet that also includes fish or poultry. For example, in a pooled analysis of data from the Oxford Vegetarian Study and EPIC-Oxford study, a plant based diet with fish (pescetarian) had a lower risk of certain cancers than vegetarians.
- Vegetarian and vegan diets are a valid therapeutic way to decrease total cholesterol and improve LDL (bad) cholesterol. In fact there is a 7.2% – 26.6% range decrease in total cholesterol and 8.7%-35% range improvement in LDL cholesterol. There is strong evidence of this.
Consume a diet that is predominately plant based for your overall health. You don’t have to become a vegetarian of vegan to reap some of the health benefits above. However, I haven’t listed all the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diets have economic and environmental benefits as well. Nutritional deficiencies CAN be common in vegetarian diets, seek help from a registered dietitian to help you become educated about those nutrients and their food sources to alleviate those potential issues.
Fill your pantry and refrigerator with these convenient healthy plant derived staples:
1) Always choose ORGANIC when you can!
- Nuts and seeds unsalted, raw organic put in jars so you can see them. Add to salads, oatmeal, or a snack. Use ¼ cup measuring cup to keep calories low
- Canned beans, variety of types. Rinse them out of the can before you use them to get most of the sodium off. Quick and easy to add to salads, or as a side dish, or a main dish in burritos, etc.
- Dried fruit in glass jars. Use in moderation because they are high in calories but packed full of iron, fiber, and other nutrients dependent on the type
- Whole wheat or brown rice pastas
- Fresh organic fruit, keep in a bowl on the counter to remind you to eat. Frozen fruit can be used in a healthy smoothie.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, you can get these frozen for quick convenient use for meals. Instant plan oatmeal (you can get the rolled or steel cut, just using a convenient source), corn tortillas, rice chips, whole wheat crackers
- Vegetables: Cut up pre bagged and washed fresh vegetables to have on hand. Frozen vegetables without sauces, steam quickly in a microwave or pan.
- Pre bagged lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, etc. place in bowl with some cherry tomatoes and already shredded carrots and you have an instant salad!
- Buy low sodium V8 or some of the Green juices like Suja or Naked juice. Watch the calories!
- Starchy vegetables: Sweet potatoes , quick cooking options below
- Quick way to cook, is cut them vertically in ½ inch slices, place on a Panini grill, cooked in 15 mins.
- Shred up, add and a beaten egg to bind and shape into hash brown pancakes, with a touch of olive oil in a fry pan, cook until golden brown and cooked through
- Regular potatoes, boil and eat.
- Corn, peas buy frozen organic and steam quickly
- Squashes, like butternut, buy cut up in chunks for easy prep and cooking
Daily Goal for Plant derived foods:
- At least 5 vegetable servings/day, you can always have more!
- Get 2-3 at dinner, make ½ your plate veggies and a salad
- Snack on veggies throughout the day to keep you full and get your servings in
- Serving sizes: ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw and 2 cups of greens all equal 1 serving
- Fruit 3 servings/day (varies/individual if you are an athlete, more may be needed)
- 1 serving= 1 tennis ball size, 4 oz. juice, ¼ cup dried fruit, 1 cup of chopped fruit, ½ cup of canned fruit (in it’s own juice!), 1 cup of berries, ¾ cup of blueberries, 1 ½ cup of strawberries
- Whole grains and starchy vegetables
- Keep it at about ¼ of your plate at all meals. Again this varies with individual, athletes who train almost daily will need almost a ½ plate!
- Nuts, nut butters and seeds: servings /day 2-3
- 1-2 tbsp. of nut butters
- 1-2 tbsp. of seeds
- ¼ cup of nuts unsalted
- Legumes, dried beans 1-2/day
- ½ cup of beans or legumes = 1 serving
Eat your greens in 2017! The rest of the rainbow as well! The high fiber content will keep you full and displace opportunities that you may take to eat junky food, thus you may see weight loss. Most people experience some without trying.
Melissa A. Mathes, MPH, RDN, CSSD
Am J Clin Nutr. Mortality in vegetarians and comparable non vegetarians in the United Kingdom, 2016 Jan;103(1):218-30. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119461. Epub 2015 Dec 9
Harvard Womens Health Watch Newsletter Becoming a vegetarian updated March 18, 2016
National Institute of Health Newsletter Linked to lower mortality? June 2013
Obesity Review 2016 Nov;17(11):1067-1079. doi: 10.1111/obr.12439. Epub 2016 Jul 13.
Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials.