A review of nearly 50 studies shows that, for the most part, plant-based diets reduce inflammation, provide greater cellular energy, and naturally lower cholesterol levels. Therefore, plant-based diets prevent coronary heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, stroke, and vascular diseases. On average, a vegetarian has 29.2 milligrams less cholesterol per deciliter circulating in their body. This is primarily because a vegetarian eats very little saturated fat from meat sources. Nuts, fruits, and leafy greens provide healthier cholesterol in the form of plant sterols. However, if vegetarians are not careful, they may overlook the importance of eating healthy fats, which help build the cell membranes throughout the body and help attract nutrients into the cell’s Krebs’s cycle for the production of cellular energy.
Polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for generating energy at the cellular level. Flax seed oil is one of the best plant-based fats for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Flax seed oil or flax seed is heart healthy, affordable, and a great addition to smoothies, shakes, and oatmeal.
There are several “vegetarian” foods on the market that are highly processed and lacking nutrition. They may be fortified with nutrient isolates that only pass through the body unused. In an attempt to avoid meat, vegetarians may settle for processed vegetarian foods that contain very little bio-available nutrients. Vegetarians may eat canned “meat substitutes” that provide more preservatives than anything.
One of the most important things to watch out for is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These trans fats, found in processed foods, fried foods, and shortening, raise bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lower good cholesterol levels (HDL). Low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) collects in the lining of arteries and forms larger particles, blocking blood flow. High density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) carries cholesterol away from the peripheral tissues, removing it from the body. Trans fats should be avoided by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
This brings up an important point: good health is not about following a strict diet. It’s about making healthy lifestyle choices and adapting in the moment. A multivitamin may promise a surplus of nutrition, but much of this acclaimed nutrition could be derived from isolates that only pass through the body, unabsorbed. A vegetarian diet full of processed foods could be loaded with preservative chemicals or “natural flavors” that are actually synthetic compounds that interfere with healthy organ processes.
Maintaining good health is not about self righteousness, achieving perceived “perfection” or following a health cult. Instead one must adjust their lifestyle to their current situation in life and address pending deficiencies in the body with functional food solutions. One must be aware of what their body requires and must be able to read the body’s signs and respond with the right combination of foods.
Plants possess unique properties that assist vital organs. For example, ginger root contains substances that aid digestion and reduce colon cancer risk. Mullein leaf possesses demulcent properties that soothe mucous membranes and are helpful for treating bronchitis and whooping cough. Black walnut hull has anti-fungal properties that help the body heal from Candida infections. Raw cacao nourishes neurotransmitters, benefiting mental health. It’s not about restriction. It’s about developing healthy habits. This includes learning about plants and their healing virtues, but more importantly, incorporating these natural substances in meal plans, snacks, or supplements. (Related: for more on functional plant-based foods, visit Herbs.News.)
Raw plant parts should be the center focus of every lifestyle. Focused solely on avoiding meat, vegetarians may miss the bigger picture and resort to processed foods that can result in nutrient deficiencies. Knowledge and application of herbs, seeds, barks, healthy fats, roots, seaweed, flowers, berries, and other super foods is lacking across Western societies. Knowing how to use plant substances to adapt to unique health situations is crucial for preventing disease, correcting imbalances, and curing ailments.