Brittyn Howard is a super inspiring friend + dietitian in OKC. This girl seriously does it all. She is behind the beautiful Instagram account @localrootsdietitian (she takes her own photos including the one above!) and blog where she inspires us all to eat more plants and real food with accessible ingredients and delicious recipes. She also has a private practice for nutrition counseling with a variety of specialties including Autism Spectrum Disorders. Simply put – she is a rockstar! We could not be more excited for her to share her expert opinion on plant-based foods.
-The Women of the Well
Many people decide to go vegan for health, ethical, environmental reasons, or a mix of the three. While a vegan diet can be very healthful if done correctly, it could also be very unhealthy if done carelessly. T. Colin Campbell, the driver for The China Study (the basis of the documentary Forks Over Knives) coined the term “Whole-Food, Plant-Based (WFPB) diet” to describe a lifestyle centered on whole and unrefined plant-based foods. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, etc). Foods that are of animal origin like meats (chicken & fish included), dairy products, eggs, and foods that are highly processed and refined (sugar, oil, and bleached flour) are completely excluded. While a vegan diet could be a whole-food, plant-based diet, it could also be a diet filled with highly processed and refined foods high in fat and grease (but still all of plant origin). For example, while deep-fried okra is vegan, it is filled with processed breading, saturated fats, and refined oils. So is this type of “veganism” any better than the Standard American Diet? (aptly acronymed “SAD”)
The China Study, as mentioned before, is one of the most comprehensive studies of nutrition ever conducted. Over the years of 1983-1984, dietary habits of random individuals were collected from each of the 65 rural counties of China. Dietary habits were compared to deaths from 48 different forms of cancers and other diseases in the same county. The results were shocking and extremely significant. It concluded that the counties with a high consumption of animal-based foods had higher death rates from “Western” diseases (aka Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc). It also concluded that the opposite was true for counties that are more plant-based foods. Physicians and researchers have applied these findings and have found that a WFPB diet can not only prevent disease, but it can also treat and completely reverse it.
This research shows us that there’s so much more to a healthful diet than we realize! And from that, I give you the top 5 (out of an unlimited list) that you, too, should adopt a WFPB diet and lifestyle.
- High in fiber
It is recommended that adults get at least 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams of fiber for men daily. The typical american on the western diet typically consumes less than 15. On a WFPB diet, individuals can easily get double the recommended daily amount. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains (or just about any plant-based food). It helps keep you fuller longer, but also keeps your intestines and colon healthy and nourished (drastically prevents colon cancer), helps decrease serum cholesterol, decrease blood sugar, and keep you regular.
Plant-based foods have anti-inflammatory characteristics, as compared to animal-based foods, which are pro-inflammatory. Inflammation in the body means arteries, organs, and other parts of your body are inflamed, forcing the body to continually try to heal itself, repair damaged cells, and remove harmful stimuli. If you are continually eating foods that are pro-inflammatory, your body is constantly in defense mode against the foods you are consuming which decreases your immune system and your body’s ability to function smoothly and properly. By eating anti-inflammatory foods, your body is able to come out of defense mode and repair itself with ease. This also means being able to halt cancer cell growth and kill diseases and sickness before they affect you.
- Prevents, treats, & reverses disease
As demonstrated in The China Study, nutrition can truly prevent disease. In addition, it can treat and reverse diseases such as obesity/overweight, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. If you’re wondering how, refer to the 2 reasons above. Imagine a body that is allowed to heal itself and isn’t exposed to inflammation. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn did some amazing work (also outlined in Forks Over Knives) that showed plant-based nutrition completely reversed congestive heart failure in critically ill patients who were compliant with the WFPB lifestyle.
- Good for the environment (& saves you money!)
While these could easily be two separate points, they also go hand-in-hand. We typically think (and are told) that transportation exhaust is the worst cause for greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation). Yearly, 414 billion dollars is spent on said animal agriculture. By transitioning to a plant-based diet, you are dramatically decreasing your carbon footprint and saving the nation (and yourself) quite a bit of money. Plus, fruits and vegetables easily cost less than processed food- saving you tons on your grocery bill each month. If you’re interested and want to know more about the environmental impact of agriculture, check out Cowspiracy on Netflix!
- It’s delicious!
Exploring a plant-based diet opens the mind to how much diversity there is in plant-based produce! I bet you didn’t know that there are over a thousand different types of beans, 7500 types of apples , and 1600 types of bananas alone. Plus, whenever you stop eating the highly addictive sugar, fat, and artificial ingredients snuck into your food, you start to realize and enjoy the delicious natural flavors from produce!
If you worry about eating a healthful WFPB diet, it’s great to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian to help you maintaining a healthful, balanced diet from plants! If you’d like to know more about the WFPB lifestyle, check out ‘Forks Over Knives’ on Netflix, among other great nutrition documentaries such as ‘What the Health’, and ‘Food Matters’. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.