When it comes to your health, a hill of beans is worth more than you might think. It might add up to seven Super Bowls and other accolades.
Just look to quarterback Tom Brady, performer Jennifer Lopez, and actor Brad Pitt. They all adhere to diets that are mostly or entirely plant-based, and their overall looks, health, and performances are likely due to the benefits to their digestion.
It’s not just a fad. Researcher shows that boosting the amount of plant-based foods in your diet can improve digestion and help ward off some cancers. An estimated 11% of Americans are either vegetarian or vegan (the latter not eating any animal products), and an additional 10% only occasionally eat meat or fish.
This isn’t to suggest you should stop eating all animal proteins, which include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. Rather, it is to advise everyone to increase the number of servings of plant-based foods they eat each day. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, soy (tofu), and seeds.
Chances are you, or at least someone you know, would benefit from increasing the number of servings of plant-based foods for a well-balanced diet. Research shows just 10% of adults eat enough fruits and vegetables a day, or five servings.
Here’s why this matters to your digestive health.
Plants are the Seeds to a Happy Gut Microbiome
The intestine, or gut, is home to one of the body’s most important collections of microorganisms, called the gut microbiome. It is made up of trillions of beneficial bacteria, viruses, and fungi that together control food digestion and improve immunity.
These organisms rely on certain types of foods to maintain balance, and plant-based nutrients are a favorite. When the body does not get enough of these, unhealthy microbes could flourish and throw this balance off. This can cause or contribute to weight gain, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Here are 5 Ways to Get More Plants On Your Plate
Give plants the star treatment. Crowd the plate with vegetables, grains, and other plant-based foods and give animal proteins a smaller share; maybe a quarter of the plate.
Prep ahead for longtime ease. Cut up vegetables and some fruits in advance and store them in clear containers. Their bright colors will catch your eye when the refrigerator is opened and are grab-and-go easy. If kids are in the house, set some of the containers at their level.
Make plants part of the shopping trip. Look at online recipe sites, food magazines, and cookbooks to inspire dishes before hitting the supermarket. It makes in-store decision-making more fruitful (get it?).
Schedule “meat-free” dates. The Meatless Monday movement, launched in 2003, has inspired a series of similar campaigns including Sir Paul McCartney’s “Meat-Free Mondays.” These efforts promote a healthier body by giving the gut a rest from digesting the fats and proteins in meats, which are harder to break down than plants.
Opt for solids, even if they’re frozen. Juices are not healthier than the whole fruits and vegetables that make them. In fact, the beneficial fibers in fruits and vegetables can be lost in the juicing process. If fresh fruits and vegetables are not available or convenient, opt for canned or frozen – the nutrient content is comparable and in some cases may be higher.
Note: Be Sure to Get Your Vitamins
Plants provide disease-fighting antioxidants and fiber, as well as healthy levels of protein and calcium. There are, however, two essential nutrients they do not provide enough of on their own: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D (also provided by the sun). People who eat little or no meat should supplement with Vitamin B12.
We’re happy to provide guidance. Anyone considering a significant diet change should consult their physician. You can request an appointment here or, if you have other inquiries, submit an online contact form here. You can learn more about healthy digestion and the gut microbiome here.