Making the change to plant based eating may initially appear intimidating or overly restrictive, but in reality, it’s a journey filled with exciting possibilities and culinary adventures waiting to be discovered. In this informative article by Dr. Frank Sabatino, we discuss the detrimental health effects of the typical American diet, and how changing to a plant based lifestyle can be healthy and fun!
When you examine the typical American diet, instead of fixating on deficiencies, it becomes evident that certain nutritional excesses and the amplification of toxic by-products in an animal-based diet pose the most significant health risks. However, don’t get me wrong- if you consume too many refined and processed foods, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Clinical research evidence strongly suggests that excessive consumption of animal protein, fats, and oils (especially when cooked and processed) and refined sugar is the root cause of many prevalent diseases afflicting our society. These excesses foster acidic wear and tear, leading to chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and an elevated risk of major causes of disability and death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. An alkaline-forming whole-food, plant-based diet can mitigate the inflammatory effects, eliminate these excesses, and significantly reduce the risk of chronic degenerative diseases currently plaguing our population.
However, all too often, when someone decides to transition to a plant-based diet and eliminate processed foods, it may feel like a frustrating and restricted journey marked by deprivation. It can seem like there’s always someone telling you what you can’t eat or do.
Let me ask you this: Do you enjoy feeling deprived? In all my years of counseling people, I have yet to meet anyone who truly relishes deprivation. Often, when someone constantly tells you not to do something, a part of your brain can’t wait to do it, often in defiance.
An intriguing and sometimes extreme fascination with things or behaviors can develop when you feel forced or pressured to deprive yourself of those things. Unfortunately, this deprivation mentality may perpetuate behaviors that put you at risk and hinder you from making choices in your best interest.
Therefore, it’s crucial to replace any sense of deprivation with choices, options, and creative substitutions that eliminate feelings of restriction and help you experience and maintain enjoyment and fun during your transition to a healthier way of eating.
Whether you’re accustomed to consuming meat, dairy products, refined breads, cookies, cakes, or other items, you’ll discover that a diverse plant-based eating plan offers remarkable alternatives to these habitual choices. It provides a wonderful opportunity for exciting tastes, meals, snacks, creative substitutions, and even desserts that will eliminate any sense of deprivation and help you break free from dangerous addictive eating habits while supporting your health and weight loss.
Put a Rainbow on Your Plate
Give yourself the opportunity to savor the bounty of nature – foods bursting with the highest nutritional value and a wide array of colors, tastes, and aromas. For some time, we’ve known that specific chemicals give fruits and vegetables their color and texture. Ever wondered what makes watermelon red or oranges orange?
What we’ve recently discovered is that the same chemicals responsible for the color and texture of produce offer the best protection against disease and aging. These chemicals encompass not only well-known vitamins and minerals but also a plethora of co-factors such as phytonutrients and antioxidants, which confer their unique health benefits and enhance the effects of traditional vitamins and minerals.
For instance, flavonoids that impart color to citrus fruits, beans, and berries may reduce the risk of heart disease. Flavonoids have been shown to significantly decrease several established risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and serum triglyceride levels.
Many of you are likely familiar with resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes, which has led professionals to recommend a daily glass of red wine or resveratrol supplementation. However, it’s not just excess cholesterol or LDL-cholesterol that pose the greatest risk for heart disease. When LDL-cholesterol oxidizes, it transforms into a harmful free radical scavenger that can damage blood vessels, promote vascular blockage, and increase the risk of heart and brain disease. Resveratrol acts as an antioxidant, reducing the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and decreasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Since resveratrol is naturally present in the skin of red grapes, there’s no need to consume it with the toxic chemical found in alcohol. You’re better off enjoying red grapes or a glass of red grape juice. Other sources of resveratrol include peanut butter, blueberries, and raw dark chocolate (without refined sugar or dairy). I do not recommend resveratrol supplementation, as whole food sources offer a more manageable dose combined with other synergistic factors that supplements lack.
This is crucial to consider because high supplement dosages can have adverse effects. In a study involving men in their 60s, resveratrol supplements diminished the beneficial effects of exercise on cardiovascular health, reducing the decrease in LDL-cholesterol and serum triglycerides and the increase in oxygen uptake typically observed after exercise training. Remember, when it comes to nutrients, less is often more, and excessive amounts can be potentially harmful or even toxic.
Fruits and vegetables contain the greatest assortment and quantity of antioxidants, which combat disease-promoting free radicals. Berries and beans are particularly effective in neutralizing free radicals, and greens and various other fruits and vegetables are also high in this regard.
These superfoods are not only fundamental to a healthy vegan diet but are also incredibly valuable for long-term weight loss due to their micronutrient content and anti-inflammatory properties. Keep in mind that the relationship between color and nutritional value is straightforward – you don’t need to be a biochemist. Simply fill your plate with a diverse array of multicolored fruits and vegetables.
Most fast food joints and hospitals in America primarily serve white, brown, and gray cuisine. This is far from ideal. Overcooking fruits and vegetables leads to the loss of color, value, and quality. Therefore, aim to consume your fruits and vegetables as close to their raw state as possible. If you choose to cook them, lightly steam or sauté them rather than incinerating or embalming them.
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