We don't believe there's a one-size-fits-all when it comes to our diets; everyone has to find their own personal sense of balance and establish what works in their own life. That being said, starting to include more plant-based food in your life and moving towards a plant-rich diet can have huge benefits from improving gut health, to supporting our immune systems, protecting against some of the major diseases and improving planetary health.
Here are five reasons to give a plant-rich diet a try:
1. It's great for gut health
The best kind of plant-based cooking focuses on fresh ingredients. These unrefined, unprocessed foods - fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, grains etc - are commonly referred to as wholefoods. Choosing a diverse foundation of colourful and vibrant wholefood ingredients is brilliant for our health for so many reasons, including improving gut health.
For optimum gut health we should be eating 30 different plant-based foods each week and getting 30g of fibre each day – the current UK average is only 17g. Unsurprisingly, as fibre is only found in plant-based foods, studies show those on a plant-based diet eat much more fibre than a standard western diet.
Fibre is essential for both our bodies and our minds. One of fibre’s most important jobs is to keep our microbiome - the trillions of essential bacteria that live in our body - healthy and balanced. Fibre does this by providing a fuel source for our bacteria to ferment and then feed off. A healthy microbiome helps us break food down properly, manufacture key vitamins, reduce inflammation, improve our immunity and energy, help weight management, regulate our appetite and support hormone health, as well as contributing to our mental wellbeing and a better mood.
Our bacteria produce 90% of our serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone), and keep the nervous system found in our gut wall working optimally, which communicates directly with the brain. The good news is that eating more fibre each day can begin to have positive impacts on our gut bacteria really quickly – one study showed significant improvements in just two weeks, with higher levels of beneficial strains such as Bifidobacterium.
2. It's great for our long-term health
Eating a plant-based diet has been shown to help reduce our risks of developing several the most prominent modern diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It is also linked to lower blood pressure, glucose levels, improved cholesterol, and a lower incidence of obesity. The reasons for this are largely thought to be related to the higher intake of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals found in plant-based wholefoods. Phytochemicals – carotenoids, polyphenols, indole-3-carbinol and lycopene – which impact metabolic pathways, providing multiple health benefits. A balanced plant-based diet also contains fewer artificial ingredients, emulsifiers, preservatives, and preservatives and trans fats that can increase inflammation, and have a negative impact on our energy, cardiovascular function, gut and brain health.
3. It's full of goodness
Plants are full of micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These are involved in millions of physiological reactions in the body, supporting the immune system, skin health, energy production and sleep. Every plant-based food offers a different nutritional profile, so eating a variety across different groups such as grains, lentils/beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, spices, and herbs really helps. The more diversity we get, the more essential nutrients, fibre and phytonutrients are provided to keep the body healthy and vibrant.
4. It's better for the planet
A collective move towards a plant-based, or predominantly plant-based, diet has essential in mitigating the growing climate crisis. A total global move to a vegan diet could reduce the impact of foods greenhouse gases by 49% – whilst this may be unrealistic, it shows the potential power. We must, however, all drastically cut back. A recent research paper showed that consumption of beef, lamb and pork must decline by 89%, poultry by 66% and dairy by 60% for the UK to meet current goals of limiting global heating from going up by more than 2°C.
5. It's kinder
Recent numbers show around 72 billion land animals and over 1.2 trillion aquatic animals are killed for food every year, that’s 200 million land animals every single day. I don’t believe that everyone has to go fully plant-based, but we do need to move away from the cruelty of industrial, factory farming and that’s impossible without reducing the amount of meat and fish we eat.
Simply put a plant-based, or predominantly plant-based diet, is great for us, great for the planet, great for the animals.