Healthy Beginnings

This year, commit to a green, plant-based diet

In 2019, try a plant-based diet to improve your overall health. Photo: Shutterstock

The New Year is upon us. As we enter this stage of restarting our year right, we are also fronted with the challenge of bettering our lives as we move toward health and wellness.

Thus, resolutions were made, our way of salvaging ourselves from a dismal performance of a year that was. They can be in many different forms — including exercising more, donating to charitable institutions and one of the more common ones … changing our diet.

In this aspect, there are various selections ranging from Paleo, Atkins, Keto or even South Beach each having their own claim to fame. As a clinician, I always stick to the scientific data and evidence-based medicine in leaning toward my recommendations.

Topping my list would be focused on a plant-based diet which are usually knows as “vegetarian” or even “vegan” (the complete avoidance of any animal products). Vegetarians can be sub classified into ovo-vegetarians (who consume eggs but not milk), lacto-vegetarians (who consume milk but not eggs) and ovo-lacto vegetarians (who consume both milk and eggs).

Either diet has been proven to lower the risk of having heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Here are medical evidences to support this claim:

  1. A study was done in Loma Linda, California, where weight was used as a parameter to measure the effectivity of different diets. The study used BMI as the basis of weight classification. It was noted that meat eaters, flexitarians (those who eat meat occasionally) and even vegetarians were overweight. The only ones who stood out who had normal BMIs were the vegans (source: bit.ly/2QCg0uw).
  2. Protein intake has been a big question when people become plant-based eaters. In order to put the question to rest, a study was made on subjects who were non-vegetarians, semi vegetarians, pescovegetarians (a vegetarian who also consumes fish and seafood), lacto-ovo vegetarians and strict vegetarians (vegans). All samples made the cut for protein daily requirements, which was 42 grams per day. Surprisingly, the vegetarians and vegans showed an increase of more than 70% from this protein requirement. As the study went further, it was revealed that the major problem was not on the protein intake but that the other types of diets were lacking in fiber intake. Vegans who had 3 times more of the daily fiber intake requirement reigned supreme in this aspect (source: bit.ly/2L4UBVn).
  3. Nutritional deficiencies occur in both plant-based and omnivore (consumes both plant and animal food sources) diets. A vegan diet has shown that calcium, iodine and Vitamin B12 intake were low. On the other hand, an omnivore diet has revealed a diet low in fiber, calcium, iodine, magnesium, vitamin C and E. This points to the fact that a plant-based diet has less deficiencies (compared to omnivores) that still requires daily supplementation (source: bit.ly/2RIG4BB).
  4. Cancer incidence (in general) is lower in vegetarians compared to meat eaters. The study compared 2 groups, one group were meat eaters that were consuming vegetables at the same time versus pure vegetable eaters. This led to the conclusion that the addition of meat intake even in a healthy diet still increases the risk for cancer (source: bit.ly/2QlfNwu).
  5. Both increasing plant consumption and lowering animal-source consumption boosts the survival of subjects with cardiovascular risks.

Fun fact: The population that has the longest life expectancy in the world was found to be the adventist California vegetarians.

Every New Year’s Resolution always offers a second chance. We always aim to do better. Whatever diet we choose to follow, we should always remember that discipline, determination and patience are required in reaching our goals.

Knowledge and understanding of the proper food choices not only would lead to the improvement of our physical selves but also toward the enhancement of our mental and emotional channels. Considering all these wholistic changes, we will then create a well-balanced self as we enter the New Year.

Melvin Ibarra Nario, M.D., H.M.D., is among the physicians who work at Bio Integrative Health Center International in Reno. Visit bihcireno.com or call 775-827-6696 to learn more.