The popularity of plant-based products is growing exponentially. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are physical advantages to a plant-based diet, but what about scientific proof of mental health benefits?
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
As you can probably guess by the name, a plant-based diet consists of foods derived only from plants. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, beans, seeds, and oils. It excludes meat, dairy, and eggs. With plant-based nutrition, the body receives calcium, protein, and many other essential nutrients to assist with proper body function. Also, these types of foods are naturally full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, are cholesterol-free, low in saturated fats and calories. Meet your B12 needs with a cereal high in this vitamin, plant-based milk, or a supplement.
Physical Advantages to a Plant-Based Diet
The physical benefits of eating a plant-based diet are appealing all by themselves. Health education specialist Andrea Murray, at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center states that plants have what it takes to strengthen the immune system. A robust immune system is essential for fighting off microorganisms, germs, and inflammation. It’s a scientific fact that cancer, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases form due to damage to the body's cells and tissues. Other health conditions reduced by eating a plant-based diet are:
- Diabetes - Controlled weight, a diet rich in fiber, and low in carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fats help to avoid triggers for diabetes. Plant-based diets also boost insulin function and balance blood sugar.
- Heart disease - A plant-based diet helps maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and acceptable cholesterol levels. The damage done to the heart can often be repaired and prevented by plant-based eating.
- Brain function - Meat, fried foods, and dairy products are high in saturated and trans fats. These are known to cause cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. Plant-based foods are low in saturated fats
- Obesity- Obesity brings a host of other medical conditions. With a plant-based diet, weight loss is accessible, even without exercise.
Mental Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Depression and other mood disorders are responsible for the loss of 200 million workdays annually. Medical costs to treat these conditions are approximately $83 billion per year. TheBritish Journal of Psychiatry published a study comparing the eating habits of 3,486 people over five years. Those who consumed only plant-based foods experienced fewer instances of depression.
Plants contain certain nutrients that help with mood disorders and reduce stress. These include antioxidants, phytochemicals, and tryptophan. Ways that plants help with mental health include:
- Antioxidants and other compounds protect the brain from stress and inflammation.
- Depression sufferers often have higher levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO destroys our body's natural mood regulators - dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The phytochemical quercetin found only in plants is an excellent MAO inhibitor.
- In the last several years, there has been a lot of discussion about the gut-brain connection. Stress and emotions send signals to the brain and a gut reaction to certain foods interferes with brain function. Foods that create inflammation are more likely to aggravate the gut and, in turn, result in depression, anxiety, or anger.
All of the above positive effects from a plant-based diet equate to better mental health. We can assume that eating these types of foods reduces the risk of addiction. When the body feels less stress, is producing the right amount of mood regulators, and inflammation is minimal, it is much easier to resist addictive behavior. Substance abuse often comes into play when the body's systems are out of balance.
Benefits of Plant-Based Cosmetics
Many of the cosmetics available on the market today are loaded with harmful chemicals. Deodorant especially contains preservatives, pesticides, and even an ingredient that is found in antifreeze. Choosing a vegan deodorant is the best way to protect your body. Purelygreat products are EWG verified, all-natural, contain no aluminum, are cruelty-free, and are better for the environment.
health.harvard.edu - What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?
mdanderson.org - 5 benefits of a plant-based diet
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs
pcrm.org - Plant-Based Diets
pcrm.org - Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues
health.harvard.edu - The Gut-brain Connection
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - Alcohol Rehab in Austin, Texas
ewg.org - Why the Mark Matters