Nutritionist Amanda Finch explains the benefits of a plant-based diet
Whether it’s ‘Eat your veggies’, or ‘Get your 5-a-day’ – we’ve heard them all, especially at this time of year. But, a plant-based diet is a great way of celebrating fruits and vegetables, increasing our health for the long term as well as reducing risks in certain diseases. Here are five benefits of a plant-based diet.
To increase dietary fibre
Government guidelines say our dietary fibre intake should be 30g a day as part of a healthy balanced diet. As most adults are only eating an average of about 18g day, we need to find ways of increasing our consumption. There’s strong evidence that eating plenty of fibre (roughage) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Fibre-rich foods can also aid digestion and prevent constipation.
Better gut health
Fibre is key to gut health. Growing research shows that keeping our gut bacteria, AKA our microbiome, in balance plays a key role in our overall health. Recent studies suggest those trillions
of tiny microorganisms living in our intestines may help weight maintenance, boost immunity, protect joints and even help prevent conditions like heart disease and bowel cancer.
More vitamins and minerals
When increasing your dietary range of colourful fruit and vegetables – don’t forget your greens! Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress are good sources of iron, folic acid and nitrates. We need these minerals as well as other nutrients such as vitamin C, A, K, folate, calcium and potassium to maintain a healthy immune system, body tissues, blood formation and blood pressure.
Healthier hearts and lower diabetes risk
Fibre’s role in preventing heart disease stems from its ability to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol. It also fills you up, which helps you maintain a healthy weight. Recent BHF-funded research found that nitrates present in greens can help widen blood vessels and thin the blood, just one way eating more fruit and veg helps reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping physically active is the best way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes as well as many other conditions.
Helping the environment
Eating more plants is great for the planet, as well as your health. Plant-based diets tend to have smaller environmental footprints, with reports showing reductions in greenhouse gasses, land use and water use.
This article first appeared in Issue 12 of Be Kind magazine, published February 2020