Eat for Health with a Plant-Based Diet

PlantBasedDietJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

Is the adoption of a plant-based diet the solution to the alarming rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not only in the U.S., but worldwide? As more health professionals look for cost-effective, low-risk interventions to improve health outcomes, the recommendation to embrace healthier eating through a plant-based diet appears to be gaining acceptance. A general willingness by the public to adhere to dietary changes as a first line of defense for prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses is also increasing. This is good news, as a strong body of evidence favors plant-based diets to turn the rising tide of certain chronic diseases. A plant-based diet regime encourages consumption of whole, plant-based food, including green leafy, cruciferous, and sea vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and discourages or limits animal products, as well as all refined and processed foods.

While many live to eat, our dietary goal should be to improve health by eating for a healthier life. Plant-based diets offer an advantage in the prevention and management of diabetes, lower the risk of ischemic heart disease, and are highly effective for weight loss and obesity prevention. Data presented at the 2018 meeting of the American Society of Nutrition linked a balanced, high quality plant-based diet to a wealth of health benefits. Research shows that plant-based diets, rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients can reduce the risk factors for developing heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and some cancers.

While many think of plant-based diets as strictly vegan or vegetarian, there is actually a range of healthy, largely plant-based traditional diets that rely on widely available plant foods and include moderate amounts of quality animal foods. The healthy Mediterranean diet, for example, allows foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy in limited amounts, and favors salads, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. There are some concerns regarding nutrient deficiencies associated with those who follow a strict vegan diet, which excludes all animal products. Vegans need to pay attention to the quality of their diet to ensure they are getting sufficient protein, calcium, and essential fatty acids, as well as vitamins D and B12.

Keep in mind that a quality plant-based diet should be full of fresh, minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods. Simply reducing consumption of animal foods doesn’t necessarily lead to a healthier diet, or greater health protection, when a diet is based on less healthy plant-derived foods, such as refined grains, pasta, French fries and chips. To transition to a healthier, more plant-based diet, make small manageable changes like adding more vegetables and salads to your daily meals. Eat mostly plants as best you can and avoid processed and refined foods. The good news: you can eat whenever you’re hungry and until you are satiated. If you are looking to lose weight, pay attention to portion size and make healthy choices.

  • Research has shown that a diet centered around whole plant foods may help prevent, treat or reverse some of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Plant-based diet intervention groups have reported improved digestion, increased energy, and better sleep, as well as improvements in daily functioning and overall wellbeing.
  • Numerous published studies have shown that nutrient dense, plant-based diets may be better for weight management and are associated with a lower BMI and a lower prevalence of obesity in adults and children.
  • Plant-based diets are low in energy density and high in complex carbohydrates, fiber and water, which help to keep the body hydrated and promote healthy skin.
  • Diets high in fiber support digestive function and a harmonious microbiome.
  • Eating whole foods sustains energy naturally and provides nutrients for optimal bodily function.
  • Antioxidant-rich diets appear to provide protection against stroke by helping to decrease arterial stiffness, lower blood pressure and reduce systemic inflammation.

Professional Supplement Center carries these and other fine quality products to support a healthy diet and lifestyle:

Ultra Protein GreenUltra Protein Green by Douglas Laboratories®: This nutritional powdered formula provides plant-based protein from pea, chia, brown rice, flaxseed and chlorella. Along with naturally occurring essential and non-essential amino acids, antioxidants, essential minerals and B vitamins, Ultra Protein includes a proprietary phytonutrient blend, soluble fiber, probiotics and enzymes. Gluten, wheat, soy, dairy and artificial ingredient free, Non-GMO vegan formulation.

OmnizymeOmnizyme by Empirical Labs: This well balanced plant-based digestive enzyme formula includes enzymatic potentiators from papaya, guava, fennel and pineapple, as well as intestinal soothers sourced from zucchini, willow bark and milk thistle.

 

Ultra Anti-OxidantUltra Anti-Oxidant by Douglas Laboratories®: This potent formula provides a wide spectrum of nutritional antioxidants that effectively participate in the body’s free radical defense system. Formulated with antioxidant vitamins, minerals, glutathione and NAC.  Gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, yeast, sugar and artificial ingredient free.

 

Stellar CStellar C™ by Designs for Health®: This completely natural plant-based formula provides vitamin C from ascorbic acid and acerola fruit, along with plant and mixed-citrus bioflavonoids known for their immune-protective properties. Gluten, wheat, soy, egg, dairy and artificial ingredient free, vegetarian formulation.

 

AntiOxidant FormulaAntiOxidant Formula by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formula offers a broad spectrum of antioxidants to help defend against cellular free radical and oxidative damage. Formulated with essential vitamins and minerals, mixed carotenoids and milk thistle. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO formulation.

References:
Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
Health effects of vegan diets. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1627S/4596952
Nutrition 2018: New data confirm health benefits of plant-based diet. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322072.php
An R.D. Explains Why She Sticks To A Plant-Based Diet. https://www.self.com/story/an-rd-explains-health-benefits-plant-based-diet
The right plant-based diet for you. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

 

Dr. Dünner® – Featured Brand

DrDunnerSusan Brown Health and Wellness EditorFounded in Switzerland in 1948 by Dr. Helene Dünner, this dynamic, independent, family- owned company is guided by a passion for the beneficial, restorative and health-fortifying properties of plants and herbs. Organic herbs, grown for centuries in alpine meadows in the heart of Switzerland, are cultivated and hand harvested with great care by trusted and personally known local farmers. Created by scientists, Dr. Dünner’s unique and balanced blends utilize the latest research, as well as ancient and traditional European knowledge of herbal medicine. The sustainably sourced herbs and plants are blended in small batches to preserve the potency of the precious compounds contained within.

Inspired by nature and dedicated to the highest standards, Dr. Dünner creates high quality, safe and effective natural ingredient products. All essential stages of production take place in Switzerland, assuring a short distance from soil to syrup. At Dr. Dünner®, the traditional knowledge of picking, drying and storage goes hand in hand with state-of-the-art technology and laboratory techniques. While continuing on their quest to become a zero-emission company, their facility is powered by 100% renewable resources, and all packaging is FSC-certified, ensuring that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Their Non-GMO products are gluten and lactose free with low carbon footprint.

Natural products for Dr. Dunner include:

Linden BlossomLinden Blossom: This liquid immune-supportive formulation provides a proprietary blend of synergistic ingredients, including powdered acerola and freshly harvested linden flower, lemon mint, lemon thyme, and elderflower extracts. Flavored with pure Swiss Baselbiet cherries from their own orchards. Gluten, and lactose free, Non-GMO vegan formulation.

Sambu Wild Grown...Sambu®: This concentrated proprietary liquid formula provides the beneficial properties of wild grown elderflower and elderberry in support of the maintenance of a normal immune response. Gluten, lactose and preservative free, Non-GMO formulation.

Nasturtium CapsulesNasturtium Capsules: Rich in natural phytonutrients, bioflavonoids and vitamin C, this organic herbal blend helps to reinforce normal daily immune function. Ingredients include rosehip, European elderflower, garden nasturtium and vitamin C, powerful allies during summer cold and winter flu season. Gluten and lactose free, Non-GMO vegan formulation.

Sambu GuardSambu® Guard: This liquid supplement provides three key ingredients for natural immune support, especially helpful during cold and flu season. The proprietary blend includes wild grown elder fruit concentrate, wild grown elder flower extract, and echinacea whole plant concentrate, as well as vitamin C from acerola fruit powder. Gluten and lactose free, Non-GMO formulation.

Sambu Guard for KidsSambu®Guard for Kids: It’s not easy for parents to keep kids healthy, as they get exposed to germs daily while their immunity is still forming. This tested formula utilizes the natural immune promoting compounds of elderberry and echinacea to help prevent or reduce the effects of colds and flu. Flavored with natural raspberry fruit powder. Gluten and lactose free, Non-GMO formulation.

Food Energy Density and Weight

FoodEnergyDensitySusan Brown Health and Wellness EditorExperienced yo-yo dieters may be interested to learn that when one eats the right foods, one can actually eat more, weigh less and maintain a healthy body weight. While for decades calorie counting was recommended for weight loss, it appears that advice is passé, as diets that focus solely on calorie counts generally ignore the nutritional value of food. A diet low in nutrients can leave one feeling hungry and dissatisfied and is unsustainable long-term. An easier, more efficient, and healthier way to lose and maintain a proper weight is to place emphasize on the energy density of foods. Energy density is the amount of energy (or calories) per gram that each food contains. Low-energy dense foods provide fewer calories per gram, allowing one to have healthy, satisfying portions that keep hunger pangs at bay, while providing the nutrients necessary for good health and function.

The energy density of foods is determined by the proportion of macronutrients the food contains. This includes protein, carbohydrate, and fat, as well as water and fiber. Foods that contain larger amounts of fiber and water have low-energy density, while foods high in fat and sugar are energy dense. Low-energy dense foods include high fiber green and colorful vegetables and watery foods like whole fruits and broth-based soups. Nutrient-rich, low-energy dense foods provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Due to their high fiber content, these foods are filling and satiating, and support healthy weight management. Fried foods, ice cream and bakery goods are high in energy density and provide a large number of calories in relation to serving size.

Foods such as nuts, seeds, olives and avocado are energy dense and also nutrient-rich. There’s no need to exclude these healthy foods, but one should keep portion sizes in mind. The healthy fiber content in foods like whole grains and potatoes with skin can also help reduce energy density. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is challenging for many. Scientific data supports the use of diets rich in low-energy dense foods for managing weight. For an equal number of calories, an individual can consume a larger portion of food lower in energy density than a food higher in energy density. As maintaining a proper weight supports a longer healthier lifespan, and provides protection from chronic illness, it pays to put the focus on the nutritional value or satiability of food. A low-energy density, yet highly nutritious diet makes weight management less of a chore and more of a lifestyle habit.

Suggestions for creating a low-energy density diet:

Lower the energy density of foods regularly consumed. Main dishes can be reduced by adding extra vegetables, reducing the amount of fat, and increasing water-rich foods.

Consume an appetizer low in energy density. Studies show that enjoying a small salad or cup of broth-based soup at the start of a meal can lower the overall caloric intake of a meal, if attention is paid to satiety cues. Research has shown that those who consume a simple garden salad with their meal, generally reduce their overall consumption by approximately 100 calories.

Add extra vegetables, beans or pulses to main dishes to provide additional nutrients, fiber and protein.  At least half of one’s plate should be filled with vegetables. Reserve one quarter for protein and fill the remaining quarter with starchy foods or fruit.

Choose foods with a high water content. While increased water consumption may or may not control hunger, studies show that consuming foods with a high water content significantly increases satiety and reduces the caloric intake of the meal. This includes soups and stews where water is added during cooking, in addition to foods with a naturally high water content.

Avoid large portions of foods high in energy density. Studies show that even modest reductions in portion size can have a beneficial impact on energy intake. Preparing or consuming foods without added fats and sugars, such as substituting grilled chicken for fried and choosing fresh fruit over sweetened canned fruit, will considerably lower energy density.

Choose dessert carefully. If you’re craving something sweet, end the meal with a bowl of delicious fresh berries, rather than high density sugary foods. If you really want ice cream or other high calorie foods, stick to one small serving to keep the caloric intake in check.

References:
Eat More, Weigh Less? https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/energy_density.html
Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/r2p_energy_density.pdf
What is energy density? https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/what-is-energy-density.html?start=1
Why Energy Density Is So Important. https://ucdintegrativemedicine.com/2017/11/energy-density-important/#gs.3xn8Log
Energy Density and the Foods You Eat. https://www.verywellfit.com/energy-density-in-foods-2506872
Low Energy Density Foods List. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/low-energy-density-foods-list-11010.html
A low energy diet leaves people feeling full and eating fewer calories. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-05-energy-diet-people-full-calories.html