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You probably have heard about new diets making headlines all the time. Some of these diets have healthy aspects, but too often something is missing and the diet shouldn’t be or is not sustainable. Recent diets tell us we need more protein, but we don’t need as much as some of these diet recommend and not all proteins are created equal.

A whole food plant-based eating plan is a way of eating that focuses on vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds instead of animal products. This doesn’t mean meatless but eating more foods that come from the ground. Of course this includes vegans and vegetarians who are eating healthy, but not those who just avoid animal products and eat processed carbs.


What about the carbs?

All plants contain some carbohydrates. I often hear people with diabetes worry this type of diet will increase carbs and glucose, but it actually improves glycemic control. This means that the type of carbs we eat are just as important as the amount of carbs. Research shows that a whole foods plant-based eating plan can reduce body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, and improve glycemic control. Studies show a decrease in insulin resistance even without weight loss.


Plants add fiber

Eating more plants means more fiber. Fiber improves glycemic control, increases feelings of fullness, helps with weight loss, and reduces inflammation. When fiber ferments, short-chain fatty acids are made. These reduce harmful bacteria in the gut, and decrease cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. These help your body absorb nutrients including calcium, iron, and magnesium. Americans only eat about 15 grams fiber per day, which is half the recommended amount. Animal products don’t contain fiber.


Plants add phytonutrients

Phyto is the Greek word for plant, so phytonutrients are only found in plants. Phytos give food color, flavor, and texture. Phytos and antioxidants may help to stimulate insulin secretion, reduce glucose from the liver, and increase glucose uptake. Eating more animal products isn’t adding any phytos to your diet.


Plants create a happy gut

Eating plants increases the good gut bacteria. Bacteria in our gut helps with digestion, nutrient absorption, weight control, disease prevention, immune function, brain function, glycemic control, and more. So food isn’t just carbs, fat, protein, or vitamins. What you eat changes the bacteria in your gut.


Not everyone needs to be vegan or vegetarian. This is about how food really is medicine. The good news is that you don’t have to pick a specific diet. Fill up on vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruit. Make small changes from where you are and start eating more plants.


by Christine McKinney, RD LDN CDE



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