Why you should get vegeta­bles, legumes and grains to play a big­ger role in your diet

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Matthew Kadey

Why you should get vegeta­bles, legumes and grains to play a big­ger role in your diet

You’ve prob­a­bly heard a lot about Pa­leo, keto and gluten-free di­ets, but one of the most buzz-wor­thy eat­ing styles at the mo­ment is plant-based. The term plant-based has been bandied about ( and heav­ily in­vested in) with much gusto lately. Even the govern­ment has given the thumbs-up to the plant-based trend. The lat­est Canada’s Food Guide places a strong em­pha­sis on eat­ing more items that sprout from the soil. Such a diet is not just for tree­hug­ger types. Here’s ev­ery­thing you need to know about the dis­ease-de­ter­ring, per­for­mance­boost­ing pow­ers of plants.

This diet can help you live longer

Eat­ing plants isn’t just hype. A num­ber of cur­rent re­search stud­ies show that a plant-based diet re­ally can help ex­tend your cy­cling life­span. For in­stance, a 2019 study in JAMA In­ter­nalmedicin­e that fol­lowed al­most 71,000 mid­dle-age adults for an aver­age of al­most 20 years found those who ate the most plant pro­tein were 13 per cent less likely to die early in gen­eral and 16 per cent less likely to die from car­dio­vas­cu­lar causes, com­pared with those who ate the least. Plant­based di­ets tend to sup­ply higher amounts of fi­bre, vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, healthy fats and phy­to­chem­i­cals, all of which play a role in dis­ease pre­ven­tion by im­prov­ing health mea­sures, such as choles­terol num­bers. Fu­elling on more plants can also im­prove your mi­cro­biome – the collection of bac­te­ria in your di­ges­tive tract that is in­creas­ingly linked to longevity.

It only works if you eat the right plant foods

As with any diet, it’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble to eat poorly fol­low­ing a plant-based life­style. Do so to the peril of your health and waist­line. A 2019 study in the Amer­i­can­jour­nal of­clin­i­cal­nu­tri­tion showed that peo­ple who fol­lowed a “health­ful” plant-based diet (em­pha­siz­ing legumes, whole grains and nuts) gained less weight through­out four-year in­ter­vals than those who ate what was con­sid­ered an “un­health­ful” plant-based diet: richer in re­fined grains, sugary drinks and potato chips. A sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the jour­nal Cir­cu­la­tion showed that in­di­vid­u­als who im­proved their plant-based diet qual­ity through­out a 12-year pe­riod ben­e­fited from a lower risk of early death from dis­ease, whereas in­creased con­sump­tion of an un­health­ful plant-based diet was as­so­ci­ated with a higher risk of mor­tal­ity. Make it a goal to fill your plate mostly with min­i­mally pro­cessed plant foods, which doesn’t in­clude the in­flux of heav­ily pro­cessed, pack­aged plant-based prod­ucts, such as meat­less burg­ers.

You don’t have to go full-blown ve­gan “Plant-based” has just be­come the term de rigueur for eat­ing more vegeta­bles, legumes, whole grains and any­thing else that sprouts from the earth. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you can’t eat any­thing that comes from species with feet, hooves or fins. The goal is to sim­ply scale down the amount of meat you eat and, in turn, wedge in more serv­ings of plant-based foods. You can ac­com­plish this change by serv­ing up a cou­ple of meat-free days each week or by making it a goal to con­sume only plant-based foods be­fore din­ner­time.

You can build mus­cle on plants

The lat­est di­eta ry sci­ence is de­bunk­ing the myth that you can’t build mus­cle prop­erly and main­tain it when nosh­ing mostly on plant pro­tein. Re­cent re­search con­ducted by Cana­dian and Brazil­ian sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered that there was no dif­fer­ence with re­spect to lean body mass and mus­cle strength gains among 19 ve­gan and 19 om­niv­o­rous young men en­rolled in a 12-week, twice-aweek re­sis­tance train­ing pro­gram when they were all pro­vided 1.6 g of pro­tein per kilo­gram of body weight per day, re­gard­less if that pro­tein came solely from plant sources or mostly from an­i­mal sources. It’s the to­tal amount of pro­tein you eat in a day, not the spe­cific type you eat, that mat­ters most. Good sources of plant pro­tein in­clude beans, lentils, tofu, tem­peh, hemp seeds and plant­based pro­tein pow­ders.

You’ll save cash

Trad­ing in beef for beans more of­ten can put less strain on your sav­ings. A study out of the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Seat­tle, in­volv­ing nearly 1,700 in­di­vid­u­als de­ter­mined that de­spite an over­all in­crease in diet qual­ity, eat­ing fewer serv­ings of an­i­mal-based pro­tein, in­clud­ing red meat, poul­try and dairy, in favour of plant pro­tein can have a no­tice­able ef­fect on re­duc­ing the cost of a diet. Drop­ping more tofu and less steak in your shop­ping cart can leave more wig­gle room for that sleek new kit you’ve been eye­ing.

You can help save the planet

A warm­ing world might be good for ex­tend­ing our out­door rid­ing sea­son, but it’s bad news for the health of the planet. Mod­ern re­search sug­gests that al­ter­ing food con­sump­tion pat­terns could be a key area for re­duc­ing planet-warm­ing green­house gas emis­sions. A study in the jour­nal Food­pol­icy de­ter­mined that house­holds that spend more of their weekly food bud­get on beef, chicken, pork and other meats are gen­er­at­ing more green­house gas emis­sions than house­holds in which more of the food bud­get is used to pur­chase plant­based foods. Other sci­ence shows that the wa­ter re­quired to pro­duce our food could be re­duced by up to 55 per cent if more peo­ple switched to less meat-heavy pesc­etar­ian and veg­e­tar­ian di­ets.

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