A Plant-Based Whole Foods (PBWF) diet is the only diet for overall health. Yes, that is a bold statement, but the following explains why eating a diet primarily of whole foods and plants is ideal for optimal health. If you want to learn more about what a plant-based diet looks like, you can also view this infographic.
- More Plants = Better Health.
Our education system for nutrition has many flaws. The biggest flaw being that the primary focus for overall health is weight loss. We are made to believe that by losing weight we are automatically healthier, however, this is not necessarily true. If I lost weight by cutting down to five small meals a day, but I am only consuming fast food would that be healthy? No, absolutely not. I would still be consuming large amounts of saturated fat, preservatives, sugars, and sodium, among many other unnatural things, which do nothing good for the body.
What provides overall health is ultimately the quality of foods that you are eating (in addition to exercise and a happy mind). When we eat good ingredients, we give our body what it needs to function properly, fight disease, keep us healthy, and has even been proven effective to reverse disease in certain scenarios. What are quality ingredients? Ingredients that are the most nutrient dense; vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Meat, Fish, Dairy, and Eggs are Harmful to Your Health.
Animal proteins (even organic varieties) are high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and harmful toxins; causing your body to overwork and shut down your immune system. Lean meats are no exception, and consuming the same type of animal protein consistently can be even more harmful.
Reason #1: Protein Synthesis. Why do we eat meat, fish, dairy, and eggs? Protein, protein, protein! The more we eat, the more muscle we have and the stronger we will be, right? Wrong! Protein synthesis is what occurs when we eat protein; our bodies take that protein to help feed cells and build muscle (in simple terms). However, at about 20g - 25g protein per meal, protein synthesis hits its max and any additional protein essentially goes to waste and overworks the body. A 6oz steak has about 43g protein. That's considered small, yet contains double the amount of protein we actually need!
Reason #2: High Toxins. There's a reason why women are told not to eat fish during pregnancy -- fish contain harmful toxins. If they can affect the growth of a baby, what do you think they are doing to us? Fish easily absorb into their skin toxins that are within their environment. So, the problem isn't just with mercury. Among many toxins found in fish, one of the worst are PCB's, a now banned synthetic chemical that was used in hydraulic fluids and oils. Even though banned, however, the oceans are still highly contaminated and large amounts are found in the fish we eat. These chemicals are dangerous because they act like hormones in our bodies and throw off our nervous system which can contribute to a variety of illnesses; cancer, infertility, and other sexual problems. Think eating farmed fish is better? It's actually worse. Farmed fish are getting fed skins from fish in the ocean and are being raised fatter, all contributing to higher doses of toxins that you then eat and absorb. According to PETA diets that consist largely of fish have been found with PCB levels of 15.7 ppm in their fat, far higher concentrations than the maximum amount considered to be safe in fish by the EPA (.094 ppm).
Reason#3: Overproduction. While high amounts of toxins are found in fish, harmful toxins are also found in meat, dairy, and eggs. To meet demands of the industry farmers are foregoing natural production methods in order to mass produce and make more money. This includes practices like pumping animals with steroids, growth hormones, and antibiotics. They also typically feed off of corn and grain, which is not their natural diet and depletes them of necessary nutrients. Not only is it not humane, its also extremely bad for us. Whatever, animals are given, you are ingesting and absorbing into your body. The antibiotics animals eat, you eat. The steroids animals get, you get. You get the idea. When we eat these toxins they wreck havoc on our bodies and completely spin it out of sync. When our bodies can't function properly, we then create an environment for disease and illness.
Reason#4: High Saturated Fat Content. Okay, okay, so you eat 100% grass-fed locally farmed beef? No hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics. That's better, yes, but your still ingesting one disease causing ingredient...saturated fat. No, all fat is not the enemy. Fats found in whole foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds, contain great nutrient value and can even help prevent weight gain when eaten in moderation. However, saturated fats, like those found in processed foods and meat (even lean meats) are terrible for the body, especially in high doses. When we eat fat, digestion and absorption of food is slowed down. That's why fried foods are recommended before drinking -- it slows down the absorption of alcohol. However, if we are constantly consuming meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, we are also slowing down and preventing the absorption of nutrients. Not to mention, saturated fat is also a big artery clogger that can also lead to heart disease and erectile dysfunction. So, the more we eat, the worse off we are. Even lean meats contain saturated fat, and are no exception.
- Plants are the Best Source of Protein.
Plant-based proteins are far superior to animal proteins. They contain fewer toxins, no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and provide more bioavailability, or more nutrient absorption.
Wait, plants have protein? Yes! All plant sources have protein. Some more than others, of course, but overall eating a primarily plant-based diet does not equal a lack of protein. We are made to believe that animal sources are the only source of protein, and that is not true. Great plant protein sources include quinoa, soy, beans, oats, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast, tofu, and tempeh among many others. Not only do these plant sources have a high protein content, they are also full of nutrients that improve your immune system and overall health.
In conclusion, when trying to increase your overall health, a plant-based whole foods diet is going to be the most effective. The more plants you eat, the healthier you will be on a cellular level. Remember, weight loss does not equal better health, just as skinny does not equal healthy. However, while following a plant-based lifestyle you can attain both ideal body weight and optimal health! Win-win!