Updated: Mar 1, 2020
At this time of year, you see all the health and fitness adverts that encourage you to get in shape. And now we have adverts about the new food trend Veganuary.
Personally, I think we should be eating plant-based foods all year round, instead of just doing it for the month of January. However, if this type of diet is new to you, it important to understand what a plant-based diet is and the benefits to women's health.
Then you can decide if you want to follow the Veganuary trend or try something else.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a diet that involves consuming mostly or only foods that come from plants. Even though this way of eating is good for us, this diet is perceived to be high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Therefore, some people avoid it because they don’t believe it will meet their weight loss and or overall health goals.
Eating the right carbs
Plant-based diets are high in complex carbohydrates, fibre and water content consumed from fruits and vegetables. Unlike simple carbohydrates that come mainly from processed foods, complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to break them down.
They leave us feeling fuller for longer and help with stabilising our sugar levels after a meal.
Complex carbohydrates contain anti-inflammatory properties and usually consist of whole foods such as Lentils, Kidney beans, Chickpeas, Split peas, Buckwheat, Brown rice, Oats, Quinoa, Carrots, Yams, Strawberries, Peas, Cucumbers and Asparagus.
Getting enough Protein
You can obtain plant-based protein from including foods such as Lentils, Chickpeas, Quinoa, Beans, Tofu, Mushrooms, Nuts and Seeds into your diet.
Unlike animal proteins, most plant-based proteins do not include all 9 amino acids. This means you would need to combine 2 of the foods above e.g. legumes with grains to make them a complete protein which will give you all of the amino acids needed by the body.
More Omega-3 fatty acids
A person following a plant-based diet may wish to consider taking an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential as they help reduce inflammation, memory loss, and other chronic conditions, such as heart disease.
The two primary omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). While several plant-based foods, such as walnuts, hempseed, and flaxseed, contain omega-3 ALA (alpha lipoic acid), research shows that the body is slow and inefficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA. This is why supplements may be needed.
Women who eat wholesome foods such as nuts/seeds, vegetables, and fruits obtain a high number of vitamins and nutrients. This type of diet helps with a woman's hormone and period health and supports the nervous system (preventing spikes in cortisol).
Plant-based foods contain important soluble fibre, which feeds our gut bacteria and promotes healthy metabolism and the detoxification of estrogen. Research also suggests that eating plenty of vegetables can be protective against endometriosis. And may help lower the chance of women developing fibroid's which are benign tumors that develop in a woman's uterus.