By Dr. Aimee Warren
- 1.Lower your LBs: Tip the scale in your favor by cutting the meat and dairy products. Even if you aren’t willing to go totally vegan (no animal products i.e. eggs, milk, meat, honey, etc.) eating a more plant based diet can help rid the body of toxins, help you lose unwanted body fat, and give you more energy to get out there and live a more active, fun, and healthy life. But remember, soy ice cream, vegan cheesy pizza, and veganaise (my ultimate weakness) can rack up your daily calorie intake too. Deciding to go more veggie doesn’t automatically mean that your diet is flawless. You still have to make smart food choices and remember our four food mantras: plant-based, whole food, healthy fat, and nutrient dense. If a food item doesn’t meet one or more of these criteria, it’s better to leave it alone.
- Improve blood pressure: Plant based diets can lower your poundage which also has the added benefit of improving blood pressure. Research shows that losing even 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure by several points. I have seen patients who have made significant lifestyle changes (improved diet, more exercise) who have been able to stop their blood pressure medications completely. Also, plant based diets are generally less processed which means they contain less additives and salt which is good for keeping blood pressure under control.
- Improve cholesterol: Meat, dairy and eggs are notoriously high in saturated fats and cholesterol. By cutting out these food items, cholesterol levels can take a serious nose dive and keep you off prescription medications for life. Even cutting down on your meat/dairy/egg intake can make a difference in your cholesterol. To my patients who shriek at the thought of eliminating their eggs and bacon for breakfast, I reassure them that baby steps count too. Smaller changes made slowly over time are easier to swallow and many times lead to better lifelong habits. I’ve found that if patients try to incorporate too many changes at once, they quickly get exasperated and revert back to their old, less healthy ways. I suggest making one or two changes every month or so. This month, challenge yourself to put the kybosh on just one food or drink item that you know is not benefiting your health. If you do this once per month all year, just think how much better off you’ll be!
- Better skin: I can’t tell you how many patients and friends, who have adopted a more plant based diet and then commented on the improvement in their skin. Some who have struggled with acne their whole lives, who have tried every cream, face wash, and lotion on the market suddenly have clearer skin after cutting the dairy. I’ve found that dairy is a common culprit in acne prone skin and other maladies such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema, and allergies. Even if you don’t have problems with your skin, a more plant based diet is richer in fiber, anti-oxidants, and water content – all of which can help rid your body of toxins and reveal healthier, younger looking, and more radiant skin.
- Decreased free radicals: Free radicals are molecules that have been implicated in many disease states such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. There is also discussion in the research that point to free radical involvement in the aging process. For example, one research study done in the journal, Science, in 2010 found that by decreasing free radicals and oxidative damage to cells in a fruit fly, it actually extended the organism’s lifespan. Free radicals are produced from the breakdown of certain foods, and from environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke, pollution, and pesticides. By eating a plant based, organic diet, we can decrease the free radical load in our bodies and thereby decrease the risk of chronic disease, slow the aging process, and perhaps give us more healthy years to spend enjoying our one wild and precious life.