The main components of a healthy, balanced meal are protein, carbohydrates and some fat. Protein is often the star of the dish, while the carbohydrates and fat are eaten as sides. Think about your average dinner plate: the main attraction is often chicken, beef, pork or turkey with veggies and pasta, rice or some other grain on the side. A healthy diet can certainly include lean cuts of chicken, turkey, beef or pork, but the Benefits In A Plant Based Diet also include healthy lean protein linked with weight reduction and a wide variety of other health benefits.
In fact, plant-based proteins provide an abundance of additional health benefits that meat does not, while also eliminating the properties of fatty meat that can be detrimental to our health. Plant-based diets are defined as eating patterns that emphasize foods derived from plants, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fermented foods like tofu, and legumes with the addition of limited or no animal products.
Studies, like a 2013 Permanente Journal research reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)have shown that plant-based diets are a cost-effective way of eating and can help prevent and fight chronic disease. Following a plant-based diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, including heart failure and coronary artery disease per a 2010 Nutrition Clinical Practice study reviewed by the NIH. The EcoAtkins trial found that a low-carb, high-plant protein diet helped lower cholesterol and blood pressure more than a high-carb, low-fat diet found an Arch Internal Medicine study (NIH).
Plant foods contain a ton of healthy-for-you nutrients, including mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and plant protein. Consuming plant-based foods in adequate amounts is associated with decreased LDL levels, and therefore, a decreased incidence of atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up in the arteries. Specific substances in plant-based foods, such as polyphenols, have even been found to disrupt the pathway by which LDL is formed, per a 2008 Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity (NIH)study. This means lower cholesterol levels. Furthermore, plant-based foods do not contain any TMAO, thereby eliminating this cause of cardiovascular disease altogether.
Beneficial In Control of Diabetes
Diabetes, characterized by abnormally high levels of blood sugar, is a common condition that accompanies cardiovascular disease. A plant-based diet has been shown to be an effective treatment for type two diabetes and can help prevent complications, including renal disease and neuropathy. Research, such as a 2017 Journal of Geriatric Cardiology reviewed by the NIH, has shown a significant reduction in hemoglobin A1c among individuals who adhere to plant-based diets. Hemoglobin A1c serves as a marker for diabetes management, as it is an average blood glucose level over 3 months time.
In fact, a plant-based diet has been shown to decrease hemoglobin A1c almost as much as some medications. People with type 2 diabetes found that replacing 2 servings of red meat with legumes 3 days per week improved cholesterol and blood sugar per a 2015 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study reviewed by the NIH. Some individuals who adhere to a plant-based diet are even able to forgo medication completely. If you have diabetes, make sure to check-in with you health-care provider before changing your diet.
A plant-based diet has also shown benefits in regards to cancer prevention as per the NIH review “Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention”. As stated above, processed meats contain carcinogens. By eating more plants and less fatty or processed meat, you eliminate the majority of these carcinogens. Additionally, the nutrients found in plant-based foods, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, are known to reduce cancer risk.
Similarly, individuals who eat less meat are often found to be of a healthier weight! Eating one serving of beans, chickpeas, lentils or peas per day can increase fullness and may lead to better weight management and weight loss according to a 2014 Obesity study reviewed by the NIH.
Replacing some animal-based proteins with plant foods can eliminate a lot of extra fat and calories. In fact, studies, such as a INFONA Portal Komunikachii Naukowej study, have shown that vegetarian diets can help promote weight loss! On average across many studies, dieters following a vegetarian plan lost about 5 pounds more than their meat-eating counterparts.
The “Veggie Protein” Craze
A couple of decades ago, you’d be hard pressed to find tofu, veggie burgers, or plant-based milk in mainstream supermarkets, restaurants, or foodservice establishments. Now these products are everywhere. Taco Bell has a “Vegetarian Certified” menu, joining the list of many fast food/chain restaurants that now have plant-based meals, such as Wendy’s, Denny’s, Subway, Chipotle, White Castle, and Chili’s. Target has a plant-based protein section in its stores.
It seems that every day you hear about a new plant-based product hitting the market. The Impossible Burger uses heme to make their plant burger “bleed,” sizzle, and smell just like real meat. On the other end of the spectrum, Hilary’s offers delicious, culinary-inspired veggie burgers with minimally processed ingredients, such as millet, quinoa, sweet potatoes, greens, beets, and dandelions. MALK makes organic cold-pressed nut milks made with sprouted, organic nuts.
Ripple is a higher-protein plant-based milk made from pea protein. Even Tyson, one of the largest meat processors in the world, recently announced that it’s embracing plant proteins. They’ve invested in Beyond Meat, a company that makes plant-based meat alternatives designed to taste like the real thing.
It’s important to remember that eating a plant-based diet is certainly not an all or nothing type of change. Just incorporating more fruits and vegetables and eating less meat can make all the difference in your health and help you to reap the benefits! Let’s look at the Benefits In A Plant Based Diet using a few specific food examples.
Plant-Based Protein Additions
Beans (lentils). Chocked-full of protein and fiber, beans are an amazing plant-protein. Just one cup of pinto beans contains 41 grams of protein and 30 grams of fiber. Kidney beans are even better, with one cup containing 43 grams of protein and 46 grams of fiber.
The best part about adding beans to your diet is the sheer variety. The most popular types of beans include lima, black, black-eyed peas, soybean, kidney, garbanzo, navy, pinto and red. Changing up the type of bean you eat can add a diversity of flavors and nutrients to your diet!
Beans are high in fiber, which some studies have found may help protect against colorectal cancer, like a 2017 Cochrane Database System review (NIH). One study 2006 Journal of Nutrition study (NIH) followed 1,905 people with a history of colorectal tumors, and found that those who consumed more cooked, dried beans tended to have a decreased risk of tumor recurrence.
An animal 2002 Nutrition Cancer study reviewed by the NIH also found that feeding rats black beans or navy beans and then inducing colon cancer blocked the development of cancer cells by up to 75 percent.A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, the amino acids our bodies need but cannot create and must obtain from food.
Out of all types of beans, only soybeans are a complete protein according to the Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry (NIH). However, we’re not out of luck. Combining any type of bean with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, creates a complete protein.
This relationship between beans and whole grains makes for the perfect basis for any meal. Just add some veggies and you’re set to go! As an extremely versatile ingredient, beans can be used to make classic recipes, such as Spanish black beans and rice and chili, or creative, modern meals, such as black bean burgers, spaghetti squash bean bowls and bean meatballs.
Fresh Raw Nuts. Nuts, including almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and pine nuts among many others, are a healthy addition to any meal or snack, either whole or ground into nut butter such as think peanut or almond butter. Nuts and nut butters are high in monounsaturated fats and protein, meaning they’ll keep us feeling full all day long. Just one ounce of mixed nuts contains 5 grams of protein! Nut butters contain about 8 grams of protein in just two tablespoons. Nuts and nut butters are also full of fiber and nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
Antioxidants, including the polyphenols in nuts, can combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals which are unstable molecules that may cause cell damage and increase disease risk found a 2007 Clinical Intervention Aging study (NIH). Another study found that 2–8 hours after consuming whole pecans, participants experienced a 26–33 percent drop in their levels of oxidized “bad” LDL cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease, according to a 2011 Journal of Nutrition study reviewed by the NIH.
In one 12-week 2010 Journal of American Collective Nutrition study (NIH) in obese people, those eating pistachios had triglyceride levels nearly 33 percent lower than in the control group. Another 2014 Metabolism study reviewed by the NIH in women with metabolic syndrome observed that eating a 1-ounce mix of walnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts per day for 6 weeks significantly lowered all types of cholesterol, except “good” HDL. Chronic, long-term inflammation can cause damage to organs and increase disease risk.
2016 Maturistos Research (NIH) suggests that eating nuts may reduce inflammation and promote healthy aging. Similarly, some nuts, including pistachios, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and almonds, have been found to fight inflammation in healthy people and those with serious conditions like diabetes and kidney disease according to a 2015 Metabolism reviewed by the NIH.
Several studies, like a 2013 Atheroscierosis study (NIH), suggest that nuts help lower heart disease and stroke risk due to their benefits for cholesterol levels, “bad” LDL particle size, artery function, and inflammation. Nuts are portable, convenient, and can be eaten as a tasty snack all on their own. Nut butter can be spread on a slice of whole grain bread or alongside apples for an easy snack.
And just like beans, peanut butter and whole grain bread make a complete protein source. Just make sure to look for unsalted varieties, avoid nut butters with added sugar, and watch your portion size. Since nuts are high in fat, they are also high in calories. A normal portion size is one ounce. However, being high in calorie doesn’t translate in weight gain.
An 2011 New England Journal of Medicine reviewed by the NIH observational study following 120,000 men and women over 20 years found that eating more nuts was linked to weight loss. One large 2013 Atheroscierosis (NIH)study assessing the effects of the Mediterranean diet found that people assigned to eat nuts lost an average of 2 inches from their waists which was significantly more than those given olive oil.
Tofu. Tofu is a popular food derived from soy. As a complete protein, tofu provides all 9 essential amino acids. 100 grams of tofu, a little less than half a cup, contains a whopping 8 grams of protein along with iron, calcium, manganese, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. Tofu contains 20.2–24.7 mg of isoflavones per 3.5-ounce serving according to the Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry study. A 2013 Journal Medical Food Research reviewed by the NIH has shown that a high intake of legumes, including soy, is linked to lower rates of heart disease.
Scientists have also discovered that soy isoflavones can reduce blood vessel inflammation and improve their elasticity according to a 2012 Nutrition Metabolism Cardiovascular Disease study (NIH). Taking 50 grams of soy protein per day is also associated with improved blood fats and an estimated 10 percent lower risk of heart disease per an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (NIH).
Finally, tofu contains saponins, compounds thought to have protective effects on heart health. Animal studies, like a 2006 Exposed Biological Medical study (NIH), show that saponins improve blood cholesterol and increase the disposal of bile acids, both of which can help lower heart disease risk.
Research like this 2010 Cancer Science study reviewed by the NIH shows that women who eat soy products at least once a week have a 48–56 percent lower risk of breast cancer. It seems that exposure to soy during childhood and adolescence may be most protective, but that’s not to say that intake later in life is not beneficial according to a 2009 Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention study (NIH).
In fact, research like this 2002 Carcinogenesis study reviewed by the NIH shows that women who ate soy products at least once a week throughout adolescence and adulthood had a 24 percent lower risk of breast cancer, compared to those who ate soy during adolescence alone. One frequent criticism of tofu and other soy products is that they may increase breast cancer risk.
However, a two-year 2010 Journal Nutrition (NIH) study in postmenopausal women who consumed two servings of soy per day failed to find an increased risk of breast cancer. One 2013 Journal of Nutrition reviewed by the NIH study observed that higher intakes of tofu were linked to a 61 percent lower risk of stomach cancer in men. Interestingly, a second 2013 Journal Epidermiology study reported a 59 percent lower risk in women. One 2009 Nutrition Cancer review study (NIH) found that men consuming higher amounts of soy, especially tofu, had a 32–51 percent lower risk of prostate cancer.
In one 200 Journal Womens Health study (NIH) of healthy postmenopausal women, 100 mg of soy isoflavones per day reduced blood sugar levels by 15 percent and insulin levels by 23 percent. For postmenopausal women with diabetes, supplementing with 30 grams of isolated soy protein lowered fasting insulin levels by 8.1 percent, insulin resistance by 6.5 percent, “bad” LDL cholesterol by 7.1 percent, and total cholesterol by 4.1 percent, found a 2002 Diabetes Care study reviewed by the NIH.
As a staple ingredient in Thai and Chinese cooking, tofu is incredibly versatile, as it can be cooked in different ways to change its texture from smooth and soft to crispy and crunchy. Tofu by itself has a very mild flavor.
Therefore, it tends to take on the flavor of the sauce it’s being served with. Tofu can be used in any dish in place of a plant-based protein, like chicken, beef or pork. Tofu can even be used as a substitute for eggs. Tofu can also be added to dishes to up their protein content and increase your feeling of fullness and long-lasting fuel you need for throughout the day.
Tofu can be purchased in bulk or individual packages in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Some tofu is also stored at room temperature and does not need to be refrigerated until opened. Extra-firm tofu is best for baking, grilling and stir-frys, while soft tofu, including silken tofu, is suitable for sauces, desserts, shakes and salad dressings. Before cooking with tofu, make sure to rinse it off. If you don’t use the entire package, tofu can be stored in water and then placed in the fridge for up to a week. It can also be kept frozen for up to five months.
Peruvian Mighty Maca Plus. Peruvian Maca has been labeled as a superfood, due to being nutritionally dense and the fact that it contains unique properties that go above and beyond its mere nutritional content. Overall, maca is an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals including a significant source of vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, and manganese per Self-Nutrition Data.
In fact, maca is a better source of iron, calcium, and amino acids than a white potato. Maca contains 11 percent protein and includes several amino acids such as arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, serine, tyrosine, threonine, serine, and valine. Maca also has several essential fatty acids including linoleic, palmitic, and oleic acid as well as sterols that help in supporting a variety of biological processes throughout the body. Many scientific studies are also showing promise for maca being an excellent adaptogen, which assists the body in its response to stress.
Here at SuperFoodPlant, we use a product called Mighty Maca® Plus almost daily for Managing For Stress. It was created by a physician (OB/GYN) and uses P Maca that is certified organic and sourced from Peru.
Whenever we feel like we need a little afternoon pick-me-up but don’t want to reach for caffeine, this maca formulation offers gentle stimulation that does not interfere with sleep. We also love the blend of some 30+ additional ingredients, each chosen for their own unique strengths as well as their synergistic health benefits when combined.
Spirulina and Chlorella for alkalinity; turmeric and mangosteen to quench inflammation; cinnamon and flax seeds to balance blood sugar, and much more. The creator of the product, Dr. Anna Cabeca, fully stands behind the quality and effectiveness of her product and offers a 100% money back guarantee. We love that.
For more information on the amazing Maca plant, and all of its many wide-ranging benefits, read “What Is In Maca Root?” Read more on the natural, organic, nutritious, whole-food Adaptogen Peruvian Maca and to purchase it in this article “Maca Powder Health Benefits”.(A)
One final point, chronic stress is the main culprit in triggering inflammation, creating hormonal imbalance, but we also want to emphasize, that American “Western-style” diet, which is low-in-nutrition-and-high-in-calories convenience foods, are a major contributor to chronic stress and all the negative symptoms associated with it.
The following convenience foods should be avoided to prevent unhealthy consequences of chronic stress: unhealthy processed or refined foods, or precooked foods, high-sugar, processed meats, or high-sodium foods, fried foods, or microwavable foods. or simple or refined carbohydrates to lower insulin levels.
A Variety of Protein
Most of us tend to eat more than enough protein. Therefore, there’s no need to get hung up on how much protein we’re eating. In fact, we could all use some more meatless meals. Meals comprised of veggies and whole grains will contain some protein, but more importantly, they are rich in fiber and nutrients to keep us healthy. A balanced diet can certainly contain both animal-based proteins and plant-based foods. Choose healthy meats including lean grass-fed finished beef, bison, wild game, free-range poultry proteins such as skinless chicken, turkey, and duck and the least fatty meats you can find per “List Of Healthy Foods To Eat”. (A)You should also read this article “List For High Protein Foods”.
For example, try 90 percent lean, 10 percent fat grass-fed ground beef over varieties higher in fat. Additionally, remove all visible fat before cooking. Avoid processed meats whenever possible. Bake, roast, steam or grill meat as opposed to frying. Additionally, avoid cooking meats in oils and butter that are high in saturated fat. Extra virgin olive and avocado oils are your best bet for cooking.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the health Benefits In A Plant Based diet. How will this new knowledge affect you in the future concerning altering your lifestyle in consuming more plant based proteins? Your comments and questions are welcomed.
(A) Use these links for more information, documented studies, and to purchase this incredible natural whole-food veggie protein.