Updated: Sep 23
When I recently asked many of you if you wanted to eat more plants, you emphatically answered, YES! In fact, 93% of you said yes to plants. While I was super duper excited, I wasn't super surprised given the acceleration of plant-based foods available in grocery stores, restaurants, and ballparks, plus an increase in brands marketing plant-based ingredients on their food labels. Clearly, plant-based foods are in demand and you are all a part of that demand!
However, I was surprised at the responses to the next question. When I asked what's stopping you from eating more plants, a majority of you said that you weren't sure if it was the best way of eating for optimal health. My initial reaction was, "Wait, what? Let me tell you all the ways plants are ideal for optimal health for just about everyone!"
However, it's understandable, with all of the conflicting advice and massive amount of information online and in the media, knowing what to eat for optimal health can be tricky. With messages like, keto is best for weight loss, Mediterranean eating is best for overall health, or carbs will make you gain weight, how the heck does one decipher which is best? (By the way, the right types of carbs won't make you gain weight. Check out this article and this article, debunking the "carbs are bad" myth.)
In this blog, I'd like to clear up any confusion around plant-based eating and welcome any comments or questions from you below if you are left with any unanswered questions. First, we'll talk about why plant-based foods are so good for you if you want to feel and function at your very best. Second, we'll debunk some of those plant-based myths (for example, you can't get enough protein, it's too expensive, or soy is bad for you). Keep reading to get more clarity on why I recommend that everyone adds more plant-based foods to their plates.
Benefits of eating more plant-based foods
Apologies if I sound like a broken record since I mention this daily on social media and weekly in my blogs, but I cannot stress it enough. It's also the premise of my book, The Fiber Effect.
Less than five percent of Americans get the recommended amount of fiber each day. The Standard American diet is deficient in this essential nutrient that not only keeps our digestion (and bathroom visits) regular, but also helps to manage blood sugar, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, balance hormones, improve mood, alleviate anxiety, lose weight, improve cognition, and improve sleep—just to name a few! If you're experiencing digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sugar cravings, weight gain or an array of other health-related complications, it could be due to inadequate fiber intake.
The recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men (based on 14 grams per 1000 calories). These are the minimum recommendations. Most people get less than 15 grams a day. I suggest about 40 grams of fiber a day, but if you're starting with only 15 grams a day or less then boost your fiber intake slowly (around 5 grams every few days) and drink plenty of water as you increase fiber intake.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables (which is 1.5–2 cups of fruits and 2–3 cups of vegetables daily). Phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) are naturally occurring compounds found in plants—there are over 25,000 of them! Phytonutrients are produced in the plant as a means to thwart bugs, fungi, radiation, ultraviolet rays, or other threats. When consumed by humans, they have been shown to offer many health benefits like reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, fostering a healthy gut, and more. Phytonutrients also give many plants their signature colors. Just as there is a low intake of fruits and vegetables in general, it is not surprising that there is a low intake of phytonutrients. The low intake of phytonutrients is called the “phytonutrient gap.” According to the Nutrilite Health Institute, Americans (between 69% and 88%) are not eating enough of any of the phytonutrient color categories. To fill the gap and reap the maximum benefits of phytonutrients, it is recommended that you consume 1-2 servings of each color fruit or vegetable daily (eat the rainbow has validity!). Visit 6 Plant-Based Colors You Should Add to Your Diet for a phytonutrient guide and how to incorporate them daily.
Why Plant-Based Eating is Good for Health
Just about anyone can benefit from adding more plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds to their diet. These foods can help you feel energized, healthy, and your very best with their balance of carbohy