Digging into plant-based eating and the Mediterranean diet

Hey Sam, I am loving all of the
plant-based news that I’m hearing in the media. Can you actually tell me a little
bit about what a plant-based diet is? Plant-based or plant-forward eating
may be 75 or so percent of your diet from plants, so that would of course be things
like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, you know, nuts and seeds, those kinds of
things. It’s not necessarily a vegan diet. I think a lot of people use those kind
of interchangeably. They say “I’m eating plant-based,” or “I’m eating plant forward”
when they really mean, you know, I’m a vegetarian. So plant-based kind of
covers all of that. You know you could be something like a vegetarian or vegan, but
what it’s not specifically though would be anything like a fad diet as we call
them. So things like the keto diet or different things folks are trying to do
for nutrition. So I was kind of alluding to some of the other types of
plant-based diets because it does have a lot of them, do you have any you’ve heard of specifically? One of them that I really want to talk about today is going to be
the Mediterranean diet, and that is one that has been consistently voted as
one of the top diets throughout the entire world for years and years. Where
does this diet even come from? Well, it’s the people who live around the
Mediterranean sea and in the Europe area. They are primarily
eating the fruits and the vegetables that you talked about, the plant-based
foods, and then you got your seeds, your nuts, legumes, beans, lentils, peas. You got
all sorts of healthy things including whole grains, which not everybody thinks that
grains are a good thing, but this is a part of the Mediterranean diet, but what
are some things that they eat in moderation? It’s poultry, you know,
chicken, turkey, eggs, and cheese and yogurt is also a part of it as well that
they eat in moderation. Something that they rarely eat is red meat, so that
would be your pork, that would be your beef, and it doesn’t mean that they
eliminate it completely. What it actually means is that they may only be eating
it a few times a month. How would my plate look if I were to eat the Mediterranean
diet? Well, if you just kind of divide the plate into sections. If you cut it in
half, and you’re looking at the top half, if you fill it up with fruits and
vegetables, you’re gonna be doing a great job already if half your plate is
fruits and vegetables. Now, if you divide the other half
in half, so you have quarters leftover. If you have grains, or you know, healthy carbohydrates in that area, that is going to be 75 to 80 percent of your
plate with the plant-based foods, and then if you have the other quarter of
your plate being just protein and limiting those red meats, that is going
to be the Mediterranean diet. So there’s a couple things that they really don’t
eat at all, and so it’s a lot of things that have quite a bit of added sugar-so
your sugar sweetened beverages, you know, a lot of snack cakes, and things like
that, but there’s so much bad news about sugar, can you talk to me about
sugar? I think it’s such a disservice just to to society in general when
we talk about just demonizing specific ingredients. Speaking to my experience
with cancer patients, really, what we hear a lot is patients saying “You
know, I understand I have cancer now. I can’t eat sugar at all.” “My
brother told me that,” or “my friend told me that,” or “I read it on this you know
cancer nutrition website,” or you know it’s “I heard it on Facebook,”
things like that, and you know first off, if you’re telling people that they can’t
eat sugar while they have cancer, A.) You’re wrong, you know. B.) You’re mean
and C.) You could probably use a little more ice cream in your life.
The science behind all of this is that we can’t really choose where we
send sugar in our body, so speaking specifically with cancer, they’re worried
about sugar feeding their cancer and making it worse. Think about this vice versa.
If you don’t eat enough sugar, you’re going to start to starve your body, you know.
We talked about how you need to get a good variety of fruits, veggies,
grains, and things like that. Those all provide natural sugars, and in fact, you
know from the I believe it’s the American Institute of Cancer Research,
they came out with this awesome diet and exercise recommendations for cancer
prevention just this past year, and it says, you know, we should try to limit
those sugar sweetened beverages because the added sugars are not great for us,
but like you mentioned before decreasing red meats, you know, maybe avoiding
alcohol, increasing fruits, veggies, whole grains, things like that, so really
keeping that moderation, keeping that well-balanced diet to still include
things like carbohydrates. I think it was from The Lancet
Journal back in 2018 as well, they did a study that was talking about
life expectancy with folks who eat a lot of sugar, or vice versa, those who eat
more of like a ketogenic diet where it’s primarily fat and protein, and it
showed that, you know, folks who eat a diet consisting of about 50 to 55
percent of their calories from carbohydrates, they tended to have a
better life expectancy. So if someone was following
something like a ketogenic diet, or vice versa if they were eating way too many
carbohydrates as we would with things like those sugar-sweetened beverages, you
know, that risk of mortality-you’re just not living quite as long is, you know,
pretty high. So speaking of kind of the cancer benefits of following something
like a plant-based diet, can you delve into some of the other benefits?
What you had just said, you know it reduces your risk of mortality-which
means that you just live longer if you’re able to follow a diet that is
primarily based off of plants. It reduces your risk of having a cardiovascular
incident or a stroke. It’s also secondary prevention, which is just kind of a
fancy word for if it’s already happened, if you start to change the way that you
eat you can really reduce the risk of it ever happening again.
So what that goes to show is that it’s actually never too late to start eating
healthy which is a really positive thing. So a couple other things that it does is that
it improves your cholesterol levels, which is something that a lot of people
are concerned about, and something that I deal with a lot with the patients that I
work with–blood sugar control, you know, people who are living with diabetes. One
of the most popular things right now, I think the whole reason diets are popular
is because it helps people lose weight. So you had
already mentioned it reduces your risk of developing cancer, which I think needs
to be said again because it’s a huge thing. It can also do some different things like
preventing cognitive decline, and preserving your memory, and it can also
help with your bone density, which is pretty cool. Just eating well it gives your
body the right nutrients. It also helps to fight depression in
some ways. Eating well can actually start to change the chemistry of your body and
makes it work better. It’s really important to notice that with all of
this I don’t know if you want to call it junk or mumbo-jumbo
that’s out just in media right now talking about nutrition, so much of it is
just so anecdotal or so not evidence-based, where we know
plant-based eating on the other hand is. There is good research for it,
and a lot of folks that advocate for this type of a diet include
organizations like, of course, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, like you
mentioned the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, the
American Institute of Cancer Research, and the World Health Organization. I mean,
the list goes on and on and on, but because this is so evidence-based, you
know, unlike all of those that we called fad diets that are out there,
this is something that is very sustainable.
You know, it’s realistic. It’s something that’s actually achievable for people to
do in their own time, and because of that, you know, you tend to see real results,
real lasting results, and I love that because you’re kind of advocating
for a more healthful lifestyle rather than just a diet plan. You know,
everybody is on these very restrictive, very limiting, kind of as we mentioned
before demonizing or almost fear-mongering diets that cause so many
problems for so many folks. This, on the other hand, if you’re following it as
best as you can, that’s great. That’s going to make a huge improvement for your
life in general.

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