How You will Benefit from Increasing Plant-Based Foods in Your Diet

How You will Benefit from Increasing Plant-Based Foods in Your Diet
Julie Doherty Naturopathic Physician Hackham, SA

An Accredited Member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, Julie Graduated with distinctions from S.A. College of Botanic Medicine and Natural Therapies Pty Ltd. Professional Qualifications include: Naturopathic Doctor, Herbal & Homoeopathic Practitioner: Diet and Nutritional Medicine: Remedial & Therapeutic... more

I have often been asked by clients as to whether it is necessary for improvement with their health to become a vegetarian.

Any positive changes that you implement to improving your diet such as eliminating processed, takeaway, and other fast food choices will bring about positive changes to your health.

If, after making these changes, you feel that eliminating animal food is of benefit and you would like to do this, then my answer would be if it is for health benefits, then it will benefit you.

When making any changes to your life or lifestyle, it is important to do it gradually.

What I am saying here is if you go from today eating a diet of mainly animal foods to one of eating just plant-based foods the next day, you may well find that this will be too much of a shock to your body and your mind.

It is also about learning about the whole foods you are going to need to obtain the best nutritional value from your plant-based diet.

So if you are prepared to go on this learning journey and adventure to either eliminate animal protein altogether or to minimize it, then you have come to the right place. 

Here I am talking to you about:

...Increasing your intake of plant foods while decreasing your intake of animal based foods. This will benefit you by improving your health and decreasing your risk of disease. It is no secret these days, with all the research done, that a diet of 75% plant-based foods and only 25% animal-based foods has been found to support healthy aging, reduction in disease, and supposed age-related illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer's. There has been noted significant decrease in mental health problems, fertility problems, and cancer due to an increase of vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds being included into daily eating habits.

You will find that you will have more energy, feel more vital and suffer less from common ailments such as allergies, colds, and flu. Even from aches and pains. Your body will recover so much quicker from any health hiccups along the way.

The first steps are:

  • Eliminate animal foods that you don't eat on a regular basis. For me this was red meat. In my early adult life red meat just didn't seem to agree with me. So it was easy not to choose it.
  • Add more plant foods to your meal, such as sweet potato, parsnips, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, beans, peas, broccoli, and kale. Foods such as quinoa, brown rice, and black rice are great sources of nutrients, fiber and protein. See below for further suggestions and health benefits.
  • Nuts are a great source of nutrition, protein, and fiber. They also aid healthy digestion. These include either roasted or raw unsalted cashews, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, etc.
  • Gradually move away from chicken or fish. If you do choose to go totally vegetarian, then you could go alternate days to begin with, including either fish or chicken in your meal while decreasing the portion size. Then you may work toward just having one or two of these meals per week, to fortnightly, then monthly until you feel quite happy to eliminate them altogether.
  • Eating out can be somewhat of a challenge, even though many restaurants are beginning to cater for vegetarians and vegans. The menu selection for these meals still leaves a lot to be desired. Don't be afraid to ask if you see a meal that you like but don't want the meat part of it, then ask for the meal without the chicken or beef. This will depend a great deal as to how strict you want to become, because quite often a red meat meal will be cooked with the vegetables or rice. But you can check on this and ask.
  • Be prepared. Stock your fridge with plenty of vegetables and plant-based foods. Fill your pantry with nuts, seeds, wholegrain rice, quinoa, rice noodles and spelt pasta. This helps you to stay on track.
  • You will find many of your non-dairy and vegetarian health food choices in your local health food shop and even at your local fruit and vegetable outlet.
  • Find some simple, yet yummy recipes that you like and use flavors such as basil, bay leaves, thyme, mint, garlic, fennel, onion, caraway seeds, dill, and many more.

The Top Plant Foods to Start With

All these foods are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and bioflavonoids that are essential for healthy heart, digestion, and metabolism.

  • Red bell peppers or sweet peppers – Red peppers contain three times more vitamin C than orange juice, according to some medical sources.
  • Berries - Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries: You name it, berries are great for you.
  • Citrus fruits – Oranges, lemons and limes, as well as peaches, nectarines, and other fruits all contain vitamin C and bioflavonoid super oxidants.
  • Broccoli – This green vegetable has a lot of vitamin C, as well as some other essential vitamins for a healthy diet. As with other foods, use broccoli raw for the best results.
    Brussels sprouts/cabbage – For a hearty meal, include these cabbage type sprouts. Rich in antioxidants, they are also packed with their own unique taste for a delicious way to get bioflavonoids and vitamins.
  • Tropical fruits – Exotic fruits, like mangoes and papayas, have a lot of bioflavonoids and other nutritional elements packed under their skins. These are becoming more accessible at supermarkets everywhere. Don’t miss out on what they have to offer.
  • Garlic – By most accounts, garlic is a superfood. Our food culture has long been aware of its anti-inflammatory properties, but now scientists are counting it as among the natural foods rich in bioflavonoids, and therefore able to deliver the antioxidant values we associate with “healing foods.”
  • Sweet potato - It has been found to support healthy blood pressure, and maintain healthy insulin levels and healthy bowels. They are packed with Vitamin A, fiber, and Beta-carotene.
  • Spinach – Popeye wasn’t kidding: This stuff has all of the qualities you would associate with a green vegetable rich in antioxidants. Spinach and kale are packed with nutrition-improving detoxification and brain power.

Now I am not here to tell you what you have to do. Far be it that I should lead you; you are your own leader and food plays a very important part in life. From it either being your "Best Friend or Worst Enemy" to enjoying family get-togethers and other social activities. Like all areas of life, I believe it is important to find balance and this depends on each individual.

So if going totally vegetarian is right for you, then begin with these simple, yet effective incremental changes. I must point out here an important fact: Don't replace animal protein with pastry, cakes, biscuits, and bread. Otherwise you will be defeating the purpose of improving your health.

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Empowering you to optimal health - Julie Doherty N.D