An old French proverb says: Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are. If you could choose, which would you like to be? Processed and artificial? Or whole and natural?
The ideal plant-based diet is one that’s made up of whole foods, which means foods that have not been processed and are free of artificial additives and substances. For optimal health, we want to choose healthy plant-based foods and stay away from refined, processed or packaged convenience foods.
It’s no secret that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods brings numerous health benefits. Many people who have made the switch to a 100 percent plant-based diet notice rapid improvements in their well-being and overall health. Better digestion, increased energy, clearer skin, and a positive change in body weight are some of the health perks of going vegan.
Scientifically-based studies abound that reveal how a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure, build bone strength, boost heart health, optimize gut mircobiome, manage diabetes, reduce arthritis pain, and decrease cancer risk. A good place to read more about the effects of plant foods on health is the website of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a US-based non-profit organization made up of doctors, dietitians, and scientists promoting plant-based diets for health and disease prevention.
But healthy plant foods do not only boost well-being and fight disease, they are also powerful agents when it comes to immune health, body wisdom, and mental clarity.
Here we take a closer look at the power of plants for these other less tangible wellness perks.
The power of plants for immune health
What you eat has a direct effect on your immune system, which is largely in your gut. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for immune health. A strong immune system protects you from the pathogens and microorganisms that cause illness and disease.
A plant-based diet high in fiber foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables, is key for a healthy gut microbiome because it improves the diversity of gut microbes. Gut bacteria feed on high fiber foods and create short-chain fatty acids which then protect against disease-producing pathogens.
You can give your immune system a boost by adding more whole plant foods to your diet, especially greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These contain vitamins and minerals but are also packed full of phytonutrients which are powerful antioxidants – these zap nasty free radicals that cause cellular damage. They also remove toxins from the body, and reduce inflammation.
A plant-based diet made up of healthy whole foods builds immune health which acts as a defense system against viruses and cell damage.
The power of plants for mental clarity
Mental clarity is one of the benefits many people experience when they switch to a plant-based way of eating and refrain from consuming any processed or refined foods. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants which help to alleviate inflammation and repair damage to brain cells, while also increasing the production of neurons and supercharging neurotransmitters – the body’s chemical messengers. Plant foods are also full of vitamins and nutrients that increase brain function and provide a mental boost.
Coming back to the gut, there’s also a link between gut health and mental cognition. We saw above how our gut bacteria feeds on the fiber of plant foods to create short-chain fatty acids and fight pathogens to strengthen immune health. This same process also produces mood-enhancing hormones which improves mood and mental clarity.
The power of plants for body wisdom
Many of us are living up in our heads and in a way that makes us detached from our bodies. When we’re not in tune with the wisdom of our body, we don’t notice which foods are not working for us and are making us feel depleted, bloated, or giving us digestive issues. We tend to not use our body wisdom to link our symptoms to the foods we’re eating, and instead look for medications to address those symptoms.
Going plant-based is a conscious decision that creates a mindful awareness that also taps into our body wisdom. By making mindful food choices or eating in a conscious way, we can also develop our body consciousness and tune into our body’s sometimes subtle communication system. This can help us to become more perceptive when it comes to the way our bodies react to certain foods. Once we can tune into and listen to the body’s signals, we can make food choices that work best for us.