It’s no secret that the United States ranks 37th in health outcomes. The high sugar low nutrient Standard American Diet (ironically abbreviated as SAD) is a major contributing factor to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Eating should be enjoyable. The foods we consume should appeal to our senses, and make us feel energized and ready to face the day. Our diets should nurture our immune system, and overall well being. Eating well is a form of self-respect.
Many remain under the impression that eating well means sitting down to a plate of boiled carrots, plain rice, and an unseasoned block of tofu; they believe they’ll have to force down sandwiches on bread that tastes like cardboard, cut out entire groups of macronutrients, and be deprived of flavor at every turn. This is untrue. There are many options that are nutritious without sacrificing flavor, or asking you to avoid fat, carbs, or proteins.
Today I’m featuring overviews of healthier ways of eating. Changes can be made without sacrificing flavor or richness. Better ways of eating can be worked into your diet recipe by recipe, day by day.
Semi-vegetarian, sometimes referred to as flexitarian, is a way of eating that involves lessening ones intake of animals to the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables. Meatless Mondays took off a while back. Through this movement many have adopted the semi-vegetarian diet, lessening their consumption of animal products and increasing the number of heart healthy meals they serve.
Is it healthy?
It’s common knowledge eating more fruits and vegetables while decreasing animal intake is a healthier choice. A large scale study has shown a semi- vegetarian diet to decrease the chance of death by stroke or heart disease.*
The title “Vegetarian” denotes a person who doesn’t consume chickens, cows, fish or any other animal. Vegetarians may however, consume dairy products and cheese. Such vegetarians are known as ovo-lacto vegetarians.
Is it healthy?
Vegetarians tend to consume more fruits and vegetables therefore increasing their intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That said, one can be vegetarian but eat ice cream for breakfast on a daily basis which obviously wouldn’t be a heart healthy choice. According to the American Heart Association, many studies have shown the vegetarian diet to be helpful in the avoidance of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.
Vegans are another breed entirely. In addition to not eating animals, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, and all animal by-products including honey. Vegans don’t wear leather or fur. Their commitment to animal rights extends to their personal care items. Vegans only use products that are free of animal by products, and never tested on animals (look for the leaping bunny).
Is it healthy?
The nutritional aspect of veganism is entirely dependent on the individual. Oreos are vegan, but still chemical laden and filled with hydrogenated fats. There are vegans who eat well, and those who’s compassion and care for animals doesn’t carry over to their concern for their own well-being. A few concerns about veganism are lack of protein and vitamin B12. Both are easily corrected. We need around .35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Vegans may accomplish this with tofu, seeds, beans, legumes, nuts, nut butters, and whole grain items. Vitamin B12 may be supplemented or made available to vegans through fortified cereals or plant milks.
Plant-based eating means eating only plants or minimally processed plant foods. Those who are plant-based keep processed foods to a minimum or omit them completely. The diet of a plant-based person is filled with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and plant milks.
Is it healthy?
A plant- based diet is essentially vegetarianism in its optimal form, a natural whole foods diet. The fact that plant-based means eating mostly whole foods and keeping processed foods to a minimum makes this way of eating inherently higher in fiber, nutrients, and lower in preservatives, chemicals, and inflammatory ingredients like sugar and soybean oil. Many plant based folks avoid oils. The fats in their desserts and dressings exist in the form of nuts,seeds, or avocados either whole or blended into a cream consistency. The sweetness in their baked goods and pies comes from pureed dates. The plant-based diet contains less empty calories because each ingredient has nutritional value beyond caloric intake.
Plant foods can be prepared and seasoned in a variety of ways. If you’re looking for better health in the form of weight loss, lower cholesterol or blood pressure, and increased vitality, fruits and vegetables seem to hold the key.
Which of the aforementioned appeals to you? Will you make changes to your diet? For which reasons?