Seven Reasons a Whole Foods Plant-Heavy Diet is Better for You and the Earth
Have you heard that eating a diet rich in whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and a small amount of fresh meat is beneficial to your health and the environment, but still not ready to make the switch? Here are seven reasons you should give a whole foods diet a try.
1) Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Reducing your meat consumption can help fight global warming. Commercial livestock raised for meat contribute to greenhouse gas production in a number of ways and are responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cows’ digestive gases and gases coming from manure management account for 35% of global human-related methane output and 65% of nitrous oxide. Indirectly, greenhouse gases are also affected by the land cleared to develop feed lots for the animals, and all the processing and shipping of the meat. Decreasing human consumption of meat will directly cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
2) Conserves Water
Cutting back on meat consumption, especially beef, can dramatically contribute to water conservation efforts. Water used to irrigate feed crops like hay and alfalfa along with raising livestock accounts for 56% of the freshwater used in the United States, whereas the water used in your home for drinking, washing clothes, showering, accounts for only 5% of freshwater usage. It takes 19,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and about 1,000 gallons to produce 1 pound of chicken.
3) Reduces Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Eating a diet bountiful in fruits, vegetables, and legumes can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is your body resisting or not producing enough insulin. The causes of onset are unknown but have been linked to diets high in processed foods and to being overweight. Increasing the proportion of plants and whole foods in your diet will help you eat less processed foods along with their associated added salts, fats, and sugars and can help you lose weight.
4) Improves Your Digestive Health
A plant-heavy diet supports your digestive health by increasing your fiber intake and keeping your gut bacteria happy and healthy. Soluble and insoluble fiber are found in unprocessed plant-based foods and play a number of roles in gut and overall health including lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar levels, and keeping your bowels healthy and regular. Your gut bacteria are largely responsible for how your body processes food, and consuming processed foods has been linked to a decrease in good gut bacteria.
5) Enhances Your Physical Performance
A whole foods diet including lots of plants and some fresh meat will improve your athletic and mental performance. Plant-based foods provide all the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain your body’s connective tissues, and meats combined with high protein grains and legumes will provide the protein you need to build muscle. For those interested in a vegetarian or vegan diet but worried about maintaining their protein intake without meat, take a look at this article from the department of integrative medicine at UC Davis.
6) Reduces Pollution of All Types
Eating low on the food chain reduces greenhouse gas emissions as mentioned above, but it also helps to cut pollution in a myriad of other ways. Processed foods require a lot of energy to prepare including transportation costs, food preparation costs, and food storage costs. Waste from packaging is also reduced in whole foods products, as is overall food waste. Whole foods companies work to minimize food waste and environmental pollution in the production of their products.
7) It Will Make You Beautiful
Eating whole foods will provide you with plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and lots of water. Improvements in your diet will immediately show in your skin, nails, and hair as these are the least essential parts of your body and will start to show nutritional deficiencies first. Eating a diet low in salt and unhealthy fats will help you maintain a healthy weight and will minimize water retention and bloat. Being properly hydrated will make every system in your body work better, and will make your skin glow.
Eating a plant-rich whole foods diet can improve your health, your appearance, and your athletic performance. At the same time, it can improve the health of the planet. So why wait? Try making one small change per week to move towards a healthier, happier you.