By Annette Pinder
Lately, everyone is talking about whole food, plant-based diets. When I first heard the term, I wondered, “Why would I only want to eat plants?” And how would people convince all of their family members to join them in making such a seemingly drastic change in lifestyle? After all, enjoyment of food is one of the best parts of being alive.
Fortunately, it turns out that whole food plant-based eating patterns do not involve giving up all of the foods we enjoy. However, it does involve eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It also doesn’t require being vegetarian or vegan, and even includes meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. Like everything else, learning plays an important role in understanding how to make changes in diet, and why nutrition experts, researchers, and health professionals are talking about food as medicine.
So, what is food as medicine? A recent article in Healthline talks about how the foods we eat have a profound effect on our health. It also references research on dietary habits confirming that certain foods can trigger chronic illnesses, while others have strong medicinal qualities that protect us from disease. While such a diet cannot replace necessary prescribed medical treatments, it can provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fats that allow our bodies to function properly.
Like everything else, we all have a lot to learn about getting healthier. I have also come to realize, from the results of a reader survey I conducted last year, that diet is the number one issue for which people want more help and advice. They also want to be healthy. Instead of advice on how to recognize symptoms of diseases like cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes, people want to know what steps they can take to prevent these diseases.
Another thing people hope for is a long healthy life. It turns out that researchers, in writing for the journal PLOS Medicine, say the foods we eat can help us live longer. They also say that it is actually possible to determine how much longer a person might expect to live, simply by making lasting changes in their diet. Accordingly, they estimate that women who are 20 years old who make sustainable changes in diet can expect to live an average of 11 years longer, while men can expect to live 13 years longer. The researchers also say that making such changes, even at age 60, can potentially add 8 more years to a woman’s life and 9 more years to a man’s life. Learn more about their research at https://tinyurl.com/42p3th36.
Realizing that people may not be receptive to making immediate drastic changes to their diets, the researchers suggest starting small, perhaps by substituting a granola bar for an apple, or a veggie burger for a cheeseburger. However, a willingness to start by making small changes can be the first step toward living a longer and healthier life.
Learn more about the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet and find some wonderful recipes at www.nutritionstudies.org.