10 surprising benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, including better sleep, reduced arthritis and joint pain, and longer life

10 surprising benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, including better sleep, reduced arthritis and joint pain, and longer life

Unlike a standard vegan diet, a whole-food, plant-based diet avoids processed, convenience, and high-fat foods such as meat substitutes and vegan cheese.

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A whole-food, plant-based diet avoids processed meat alternatives. Photo: Shutterstock
Eating more plant-based foods may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and Cardiovascular diseases and can help digestive health and weight management. But did you know it can also help with other health-related issues?

Here are 10 health benefits that might surprise you:

1. For men, the risk of erectile dysfunction is lower

Atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries) can reduce blood flow to the blood vessels around the penis, causing erection difficulties.

“More than 75% of patients with cardiovascular disease experience erectile dysfunction“, said Cyrus Luk, nutritionist and executive committee member of the Hong Kong Nutritionists Association.

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“A distinguishing feature of a plant-based diet is that it is high in fiber, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants and low in saturated and trans fats. These elements may improve cardiovascular health and potentially alleviate impotence.”

A large 2013 study found that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables by just one serving a day could reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction by 10 percent.

Research shows that people who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to have lower levels of inflammation, as shown by lower levels of C-reactive protein in blood samples. Saturated fat intake is associated with increased levels of this protein.

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Women who eat a whole-food, plant-based diet experience less menstrual cramps. Photo: Shutterstock

2. For women, less menstrual pain

Herbie says a plant-based diet can help reduce Menstrual pain By increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
“Vegan and vegetarian diets are often associated with lower levels of inflammationwhich is a major factor in causing menstrual cramps,” she explains.

High levels of estrogen are also closely linked to menstrual cramps, and a high-fiber, low-fat, plant-based diet can help lower estrogen levels.

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Following a whole-food, plant-based diet means eating more whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, says nutritionist and nutrition educator Dr. Anna Herby.Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Anna Herby

Fiber helps the body flush out excess estrogen in the stool, while reducing fat intake can help lower active estrogen in the body, Herbie said.

3. Menopausal women have fewer hot flashes

“In a one-year study of more than 17,000 menopausal women, those who consumed more fruits and vegetables were found to have a significant 20 percent reduction in menopausal symptoms,” Luk said.

“Additionally, research shows that daily consumption of beans and legumes can delay the onset of menopause by about a year. This delay may be attributed to isoflavones, which are found in legumes and have been linked to a variety of health benefits.”

They are thought to improve cardiovascular problems, act as scavengers of free radicals that cause cell damage, and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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Luk adds that they have estrogen-mimicking properties and can help relieve symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency in women.

“By incorporating isoflavone-rich foods like soy into their diet, women may experience relief from menopausal symptoms and may gain protection against certain health conditions.”

4. Reduce arthritis and joint pain

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes painful inflammation or swelling that affects different parts of the body, including the joints.

Luk says a plant-based diet has potential benefits for RA patients.

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains provides essential nutrients that may help reduce inflammation and reduce the pain associated with RA.

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Carrying extra weight puts stress on your joints, causing increased inflammation, and excess body fat releases chemicals that promote inflammation.

Being overweight can make remission of RA more difficult, Luk says.

Even without counting calories or engaging in strenuous exercise, you can lose weight by following a healthy plant-based diet. Fiber in the diet also keeps people feeling full longer and contains fewer calories, Herbie adds.

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A plant-based diet is rich in nutrients and plays an important role in skin health. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Keep your skin healthy

Luk says a plant-based diet is rich in a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E and K, folate and other beneficial compounds.

“These nutrients play an important role in skin health by helping skin tissue repair, moisturizing cells, keeping skin hydrated and reducing the appearance of dry lines.”

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Vitamin K helps blood clot and may Reduce dark circles Under the eyes. Folic acid aids in DNA synthesis and cell repair, supporting overall skin health.

6. Helps maintain hair and scalp health

Luk says that while there isn’t strong evidence that a plant-based diet is directly linked to hair health, nutrients that improve skin health, including vitamins A, C, E and K, and folate, may also be linked to hair health. good for hair.
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Cyrus Luk is a Hong Kong nutritionist.Photo: Cyrus Lu
These nutrients also support overall health, including scalp and hair follicle health. In addition to supplementing nutrition and properly hydrating, stress management and good hair care habits It’s also important for keeping your hair healthy.

7. Relieve depression

Herbie says a plant-based diet can help improve your mood because it’s rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

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A plant-based diet helps improve mood by reducing inflammation in the brain. Photo: Shutterstock

Reducing inflammation in the brain can significantly stabilize and improve mood. Additionally, consuming more healthy carbohydrates by eating more plants not only provides your brain with a stable source of fuel in the form of glucose; It also helps increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that stabilizes mood and enhances feelings of well-being.

8. Improve sleep quality

A study published in December 2023 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed plant-based foods had a lower risk of insomnia.

These results suggest that a plant-based diet may help improve sleep quality.

Herbie says eating pistachios is a natural way to increase melatonin levels in your brain, so eating just two before bed can help you fall asleep.

9. Reduce medical costs

“Following a plant-based, whole-food diet can often address the underlying causes of chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease“, Herbie said.

“Doing so often results in fewer medications being needed and fewer medical procedures and visits. Since fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are much less expensive than medications, overall health care costs are lower if you follow this diet.”

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10. Extend lifespan

Since the root causes of many chronic diseases can be addressed through diet, following a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of illness or premature death, Herbie said.

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