I’ve long tried to become a vegetarian but until about six months ago I hadn’t succeeded. In the past, my children were still living at home and the boys are meat eaters, so any suggestion for us to all turn ‘green’ was met with cries of horror. I did persist for a period of time but found that cooking two meals, full-time work and study, became onerous and given I’d been a meat eater all my life, the smell of a lamb chop cooking on the grill was just too difficult to resist!
I guess at the time I didn’t really have a sufficient driving catalyst to maintain my resolve, nor the knowledge to help me reinforce that it was the right decision for me. While the idea of being a vegetarian met my romantic notions of helping to reduce my impact on the planet and nourish my body, at the time I wasn’t really aware of the health benefits that came with a plant-based diet. Oh, I knew it would be healthier…but not how much healthier. There are significant health benefits.
My family has a history of heart disease, so I was particularly interested to learn that plant-based diets reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce your mortality rate. But research shows that it is also linked to lower rates of type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
I have suffered from back and neck pain for many years thanks to a few horse riding and car accidents. Couple that with my recent diagnosis of osteoarthritis, I knew it was time to change. In the past I have tackled my pain in a variety of ways including:
- osteo therapy
- massage therapy
- chiropractic treatment
- cortizone injections (when I ended up in hospital, something I really didn’t enjoy!)
- resistance exercise
While the above treatments helped to relieve the pain to a certain extent, they didn’t tackle the source of the problem. My body was inflamed and despite it telling me it needed more than just the above treatments, I continued to focus on ‘band aiding’ the problem rather than trying to listen to my body and dig deeper to find out what was causing the pain. This became my catalyst to change. The Harvard Medical School advocate a plant-based diet to help fight inflammation in the body. Harvard Health Publishing provide the below easy checklist to help identify the right foods to support reduced inflammation and better health.
I’ve been plant-based for about six months now and I have experienced some significant changes in my body including:
- Reduced inflammation and pain – Inflammation is the body’s natural way of targeting injury. Cells are directed to the injury to heal it, but without additional support like a plant-based diet – eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation i.e sugar, alcohol, fried foods etc. the inflammation will increase causing prolonged pain. At its worse, long-term inflammation will trigger a cellular reaction which damages healthy tissue and joints. This is what was happening to me. My spine and joints remained inflamed and the cellular response contributed to my slow recovery. Since being on a plant-based diet, coupled with additional supplements like curcumin, my body healed and is now recovering faster after my workouts.
- Bloating is gone! My flat tummy is back and I’m loving it! Anti-inflammatory food also helps to fight gut bacteria. Berries and leafy greens should be your go to as they are high in antioxidants and polyphenols – mother nature’s way of healing you through protective plant compounds that tackle inflammation.
- Weight loss – not something I was targeting but I feel I’m leaner, or maybe it’s just that my bloating has disappeared. Though, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a healthful plant-based diet can have beneficial changes on our andiposity biomarker concentration. Body andiposity index (BAI) is another way of measuring body fat similar to the body mass index (BMI).
- My skin is clearer and glowing more.
- I have more energy and am less moody – loving this! Particularly given the hours I’ve been pulling lately. Plant-based diets are known to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Reduced brain fog – still some work to do here but it’s getting better. Inflammation impacts the blood flow to the brain damaging tissue and triggering cognitive decline. Studies have found this is one of the contributing factors to Alzheimer’s. I’m going to have a play with some nootropics soon so watch out for a blog on that.
An additional benefit of being on a plant-based diet, in particular plant-based protein is longevity. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine of 70,000 Japanese men and women aged between 45 to 74 found that those who ate plant-based protein had a lower death rate than those who ate meat-based protein.
It’s not a one size fits all. Our biochemistry is unique to each of us, like our fingerprints. This should always be considered when making any changes to a diet. Understanding where you may be nutritionally or mineral deficient will contribute to developing the type of diet that’s right for you. A new term that’s being embraced is flexitarian. Tapping in and listening to what your body needs on any given day and nourishing yourself well.
There are some days where I feel my body only wants plant-based food, and I honour this. On other days, my body feels like it needs some fish or some organic chicken. There are also some great meat alternatives on the market which can help reduce your meat cravings while you transition to a plant-based diet. Women are highly intuitive and usually understand our bodies’ well – when we stop to listen. I believe that by listening to what our bodies’ need we can intuitively stay well. Couple this with additional supplement support and the long-term health benefits of eating well start to pay off.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of a plant-based diet, grab a carrot stick and check out some of the links I’ve provided below.