If you have followed along on my health and nutrition journey over the past few years, you have seen me slowly adjust my diet for numerous health benefits. When I started this journey with Nate nearly 7 years ago, my goal was purely weight loss. At 5’3″ and 149lbs, I was clinically overweight and diagnosed with high blood pressure at only 34 years old. I was traveling nonstop for work, eating the road, and drinking far too often. The diagnosis of high blood pressure was a wakeup call for both of us – I had to do something to get healthy. Over the course of the next 2 years, I focused on a diet for weight loss. Utilizing online trackers, I quickly realized that I was consuming far too many calories for a woman my size, and choosing poorly when it came to my nutrition choices. My sodium intake was off the charts, mostly due to the frozen foods and processed foods I was consuming. My diet of convenience had caused me major health issues. I started cooking more often, and opted for a vegetarian diet, which really limited my sodium intake. I started running in 2010 and really hit the weights by 2012. Within 2 years, I dropped nearly 30lbs, and looked and felt the best ever! The health benefits of a plant based diet were clear – I felt great.
My Journey to a Plant Based Diet
Today, you will find me even healthier than I was back then. In 2011, I was a vegetarian and healthier than I had ever been, but I was still opting for processed foods and added sugar. I was still a consumer of convenience; stopping at Starbucks in the morning for syrupy-sweet (sugar-free) vanilla latte with nonfat milk, and an egg-white spinach and feta wrap. This calorie bomb – 130 calories for the latte and 280 calories for the wrap – was loaded in added sugars and sodium. Plus it accounted for nearly 1/3 of calories for the day! And while I was vegetarian, you might have found me grabbing the Veggie Guacamole Sub at Quiznos, which was chock full of veggies, but loaded with sodium and added sugars. That flavor maker clocks in at 790 calories and 1440mg of sodium and 15g of added sugar in the sub roll and dressing alone! Since February of this year, I have eliminated added sugars, processed foods and dairy from my diet, and it has been a game changer. I have shaved off the last 5-7lbs of weight in my postpartum journey and have seen an improvement in my energy and a significant decrease in bloat. My gut is more regular and I am truly feeling great. When I share this choice with friends, most say that they could never do it, and that it would be such a sacrifice, but I am still shocked at how easy it was. The health benefits of a plant based diet have been truly remarkable for me.
Health Benefits of a Plant Based Diet
- Weight Loss – Clearly this seems to be the #1 reason for many to even try the lifestyle, and by nature it is the biggest motivator. Right away, your caloric intake will be dramatically reduced, simply by cutting out animal products. While I still have salmon or some sort of fish at least once a week, I know that those days will be higher in caloric intake than the rest of the week. “Kathy Freston, vegan wellness expert, says that within two weeks of a plant-based diet, most people lose five pounds without going hungry or feeling deprived.”
- Lower Blood Pressure – When you consume more fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, you will be consuming more potassium. Potassium is a key mineral in reducing blood pressure and countering the effects of sodium in the diet. Animal products are high in sodium and low in potassium, thereby resulting in higher blood pressure. Since I opted for a vegetarian diet and exercising more, I have been able to eliminate the need for hypertensive medication despite having high-risk pregnancies later in life.
- Lower Cholesterol – This one is clear and has been established for decades. Most plants contain NO cholesterol, even those high in fat like coconut and avocado. “Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can actually lower rates of cholesterol and heart disease.”
- Fiber Intake and Lower Blood Sugar – For most Americans, fiber intake is a constant battle and it can wreak havoc on your gut health. If you consume the right amount of fiber with ample amounts of water, you can keep your GI system happy and regular. Constipation is not fun for anyone. In addition fiber can help you lower your blood sugar. Fiber “slows down absorption of sugars in the blood stream and as a result can help improve how hungry you are all day long, not to mention balance your cortisol levels that cause stress.” One cup of raspberries or cooked peas can offer you 8g of fiber towards your daily intake!
- Glowing Skin – All those saturated fats in animal products can also clog your pores! Yuck! Fruit and vegetables house tons of vitamins and minerals than help you get glowing skin. Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, helps protect skin from sun damage, while sweet potatoes contain vitamin C, which is known to smooth wrinkles through the production of collagen.
Spring marks a time for cleaning out the clutter and starting fresh. As far as our little blog here at Focused on Fit, you will find our April blog feature more about the health benefits of a plant based diet. We will dig into some of our favorite spring veggies, ways to prepare them, how to get your vitamins and minerals on a plant based diet, and how to get the entire family to join you on this plant based lifestyle. Stay tuned into Focused on Fit, and register with us for even more ways to get healthy this spring!