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      Plant-based diet and nutrition: benefits, drawbacks and tips
      08/21/2020 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
      Plant-based diet and nutrition: benefits, drawbacks and tips

      “Easier said than done” is a phrase that rings true at every opportunity for change that comes in life. While it’s easy to promise to do something,?committing to a resolution isn’t a feat everyone manages to do.

      When it comes to cleaning up your diet and losing weight, you’ve probably noticed how following through with your best-laid plans seems?extra?hard to do.?Avoiding the foods we’re used to eating is like pulling hen’s teeth, and it takes a lot of resolve to get through the day without cheating.

      As it turns out, there’s something in those juicy, deep-fried and mouth-wateringly hedonistic foods that messes with our brains and makes it difficult for us to do without them.

      Dr. John Allman, a?general practitioner at Sutton Cross Surgery in Dublin, Ireland and an expert in plant-based nutrition, explained what happens when we’re used to a Western diet in a recent conference about nutritional medicine and the benefits of switching to plant-based foods.

      “We have a biological mechanism whereby we release the dopamine neurotransmitter, which is the pleasure hormone, and it creates a behavioral condition that makes us keep coming back for more,” Allman said of high-fat, high-sodium and high-sugar food products. Not surprisingly, these are the exact same foods we find addictive and that often fuel our cravings.

      But while Allman acknowledges that reconditioning our taste in food so we can shift to a healthier diet is challenging, he says there are things we can do to help ourselves, like keeping a food diary. Based on his personal experience, keeping track of our fat, sugar and salt intake is a good way of maintaining awareness of our food choices, which often become habitual without our noticing.

      It’s also important to remind ourselves that there are no shortcuts or easy ways of doing things. It takes time and effort to wean ourselves?off foods we’ve developed a neurological, gastronomical and emotional attachment to. But once we successfully cut back on these foods, Allman says we’ll learn to appreciate them less. This weaning process, however, may take up to three months.

      If you’re planning on?spring-cleaning your diet, here are some other things Allman shared during his talk about what deters people from switching to a plant-based diet and how to overcome them.

      Adopting a whole food plant-based diet

      We all know that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains contain vast amounts of essential nutrients and?natural compounds that promote health in various ways.?Animal-based foods also provide certain nutrients we can’t find in plant-based foods, but research shows that a diet full of greens is more likely to?prevent diseases than a diet full of meat.

      When compared to processed foods, plant-based foods have an even greater advantage. Due to heavy processing, canned or packaged foods lose most of their nutrient content, so they end up providing nothing but calories. This is what nutritionists refer to as empty nutrition. It also doesn’t help that manufacturers pump these foods with loads of additives. While these chemicals improve flavor and?prolong the shelf life of foods, they often contribute to diseases, according to studies.

      For these reasons, plant-based foods are at the forefront of recommendations when it comes to good nutrition. Allman says that people need to?first understand the importance of nutrition for them to change their perspective on foods. Knowing what good nutrition is, what it brings and what it entails, is crucial for mediating necessary dietary changes.

      So who should you turn to for information? While the Internet is there?for research, Allman says your primary?source should still be healthcare practitioners. Those who can share personal knowledge about plant-based nutrition are more likely to persuade their patients to make healthy diet changes, and they’re also better equipped at educating others on how best to do it.

      Allman also believes that sharing positive experiences about plant-based nutrition is a great way of encouraging patients to eat clean, especially those with serious conditions who will benefit more from dietary interventions than relatively healthy individuals.

      Plant-based food preparation

      The draw of processed foods, junk foods and fast foods is that they offer a?precious commodity: convenience. Food preparation is an essential part of healthy eating, and you need to have adequate skills and ample time for it.?You also have to learn which foods can provide which nutrients, such as?what beans, pulses and legumes are, and how best to cook them.

      “With new recipes, there’s an issue with convenience. We are living in a society that’s really speedy; and often when you go speedy and you are plant-based, you go unhealthy vegan,” says Allman.

      “To go whole food, I would argue you need to learn how to cook and that is a barrier for a lot of people.”

      So how do you work around this? Here are some tips that?can help you save time?and ensure you still get to eat fresh and healthy, home-cooked meals. These tips?can make sticking to a plant-based diet much easier.

      • Prep your whole grains ahead of time and keep them in the fridge?– Many of us are pressed for time, especially during weekdays. So cooking your whole grains (e.g., brown rice, barley or quinoa) on Sunday evening and storing them in the fridge will help a lot on a busy workday since you’ll only have to reheat what you need.
      • Stock up on frozen veggies – Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and frozen to preserve their freshness — but not before they’re washed, peeled and diced. So reduce your prep time by opting for these time-savers and cook them while you’re reheating your?pre-cooked grains.
      • Invest in a slow cooker – If you’re tired of reheating food, then having a slow cooker will come in handy.?Just throw your ingredients into the pot, turn the appliance on and go about your day?– you’ll have freshly cooked dinner ready and waiting by the time you get back home from work!
      • Whip up some smoothies – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it should be nutritious as well as delicious. Fruit and vegetable smoothies not only fit the bill, but they’re also very easy to make. Just blend your favorite plant-based foods with?a milk alternative for a quick, hassle-free but healthy on-the-go breakfast.

      A whole food plant-based diet offers a lot of health benefits. Studies show that this diet lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and cognitive disorders like dementia. As a sustainable eating pattern, a whole food plant-based diet also benefits the environment by helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and the amount of land used for factory farming. To improve your health, manage your weight and ensure proper nutrition, swap unhealthy processed foods for organic produce and make sure to complement your diet with regular exercise.





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