Plant Power: The benefits of eating a plant-based diet
Did you know that tennis champion Venus Williams is a vegan? We often associate sporting performance with a diet rich in animal meat proteins but now there are a number of high profile sports stars who are proving that plant-based diets can absolutely provide all the right fuel.
In Venus’ case, she made the switch when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that nearly ended her tennis career. Unable to play and forced to withdraw from a number of matches, she eventually sought treatment and radically changed her eating habits. She attributes her plant eating ways with not only helping fight her condition but also giving her a newfound strength on the court.
Whether you’re a sporting star or just looking for better health overall, a diet high in plant foods can make a lot of sense. For a start, it more closely resembles what our Palaeolithic ancestors ate, who it’s been reported consumed up to ten times the amount of plants as we typically do today.
Certainly, the hype around gut health has helped shed light on the benefit of ‘feeding’ our microbiome with the right probiotic foods, namely vegetables, fruits and legumes.
And it’s a trend that seems set to continue with Australia now listed as the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world.
Can’t give up meat? Want to be a half-vegetarian?
Perhaps Venus Williams’ raw vegan diet is a step too far for you or you can’t imagine your future without bacon in it. Not to worry, if you find yourself swinging between a burger and a vurger (a vege burger for those not in the know), there’s a term for you too. It’s flexitarian and describes those who eat mostly plant-based with the occasional meat or fish component. Maybe you’re more of a “Meatless Monday” type person, where you reap some health benefits by going meat-free just one day a week.
Whatever pattern you follow or label you use, there are undoubtedly some compelling health reasons for considering a more plant-based diet. Below are five of them.
5 great reasons for upping your intake of plants
People adopt this way of eating for a variety of reasons, such as sustainability and animal welfare. Or like Venus Williams, it could be to address a specific health challenge, to just feel better overall or lose weight.
Whatever your motivation, the science is pretty clear. Diets high in the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts have been shown to:
- Improve cardiovascular health 1
- Have a positive impact on sleep quality 2
- Lower the risk for several chronic diseases (such as cancer and type 2 diabetes) 3
- Help prevent the development of obesity related metabolic diseases 4
- Be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, renal disease, dementia, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis! 5