The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

by Dr. Jennifer Gray, DPT, CHC, RYT-200

What do you think of when you hear the word “vegan?” If you are anything like me, I immediately pictured a tree-hugging, granola-chomping yogi or a crazed PETA advocate screaming “Meat is Murder.” Although I am a yoga instructor, neither of these pictures really seemed to fit me or my lifestyle. However, I found myself signing up for “Veganuary” earlier this year after watching a slew of very disturbing documentaries on Netflix (cue me sobbing on the couch to my husband watching Food, Inc). I pledged to be vegan for the 30 days of January. Now, I don’t love labels (hence the earlier connotation of the word vegan), so I now refer to myself as a whole-foods, plant-based eater. Yes, that’s right... it stuck. Not only did I lose the last 10 stubborn pregnancy pounds that I had been holding onto, but I have never felt better in my life. I have more energy during my long days at the hospital or playing with my 2 young children, and I recover so much faster in between my workouts and training. I even shaved 20 minutes off my half marathon time and completed my first triathalon!

 Image via  @runningyogimama

Plant based diets have been known to decrease obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, and some types of cancer. The reason for this decrease is in large part due to phytochemicals, which are power substances found in plants. Plants are also rich in antioxidants and provide a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients. Minerals are actually derived from the earth and make their way into food from plants themselves. The only way animals (including humans) get these minerals into their body is from eating plants. Plants are also our only source of fiber in the human diet. Fiber is essential for healthy digestion, acting as a bulking agent and keeping the smooth muscle of the digestion tract strong, as well as for detoxification, as it binds to waste and excess hormones to be released by the liver. Fiber can also slow the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.

I whole heartedly believe that I am the healthiest I have ever been eating this way, and I’m on a mission to help others feel like this too. Spoiler alert...you don’t have to give up meat altogether or start eating tofu! There are easy ways to just start implementing more whole foods and plants into your diets regularly, without giving up the foods you know and love.