In the last week here in the UK, there has been a lot of talk about the increase of obesity in the UK however this too is reflected world wide through our modern day living. It was reported that in the UK, 63% of the population are obese and in the US 69% of their population being obese – wow! These are really high numbers and significant when it comes to us wanting to live a more healthy lifestyle that is balanced.
So how can we turn things around?
My take on this is that we should follow a more fresh whole-foods plant-based regime where we limit the amount of processed foods we consume, as well as the amount of processed sugars and fats that we add to our foods and enjoy much more fresh whole foods, fruits & vegetables.
The basic principles of a whole-foods, plant-based diet are as follows:
- Emphasises whole, minimally processed foods.
- Limits or avoids animal products.
- Focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils and beans, seeds and nuts, which should make up the majority of what you eat.
- Excludes refined foods, like added processed refined sugars, white flour and processed oils.
- Exclude snack items that can be high in fats, sugars as well as artificial sweeteners i.e. soda drinks, chocolate bars, sweets, crisps & fast foods.
- Pays special attention to food quality, promoting locally sourced, organic foods where possible.
As we mentioned before, obesity is an issue of epidemic proportions worldwide. Why? Purely because we are all living a faster pace of life, looking for convenience foods which are highly processed and include high numbers of fats and sugars as well as all too often enjoying one too many take-aways because we either don’t have the time to cook, don’t have the energy (probably down to our diet and lifestyle) or simply can’t be bothered!
Fortunately, making dietary and lifestyle changes can facilitate weight loss and have a positive lasting impact on health.
The high fibre content of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, along with the exclusion of processed foods, is a winning combination for shedding excess pounds.
Adopting a healthy plant-based eating pattern may also help keep weight off in the long run.
There are of course other contributing factors that need to be considered when it comes to being overweight and all of these need to be taken into account when making any lifestyle changes i.e. medical issues, psychological issues etc! Consulting with your medical practitioner, a nutritionist or specialist in this area is a good place to start.
So it is good to consider the following when planning to enjoy a balanced whole foods plant-based diet:
- Have a good variety of fruits and vegetables every day (recommended between 5-10 portions)
- Protein: Ensure you have a good source of plant-based protein every day. Protein helps you to feel fuller for longer. Nutritional guidelines suggest a daily intake of:
- To lose weight 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or . 73 and 1 grams per pound
- Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram (1-1.5 grams per pound) if aiming for weight loss
- Plant-based proteins to consider: tofu, beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, seeds, nuts (walnuts are especially good), nutritional yeast, quinoa, to name but a few
- Carbohydrate: Carbs get bad press when it comes to wanting to lose weight however some carbs are needed in our diet to ensure overall health. Best ways to enjoy carbs are by consuming some of the following: Quinoa, oats, buckwheat, bananas, sweet potato, beetroots, oranges, grapefruits, kidney beans, chickpeas, blueberries, apples.
- Fats: Fats also get bad press when it comes to weight loss. However we need essential fats in our diet in order to achieve maximum health and some of these healthy fats we can enjoy are: avocado, nut butters, nuts & seeds, vegetable/olive/seed oils,
- Fibre: Fibre is also known as roughage that the body can’t break down. It passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body. You can enjoy these by adding the following to your diet: grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. Fibre heavily resides in the ‘skin’ of our fruits and vegetables i.e. apples, potatoes, therefore if these items are clean and organic, it is a good way to enjoy your fibre by not removing these skins.
- Water: Ensuring the body is hydrated is an essential part of overall healthy therefore it is recommended that we consume at least 2 litres of pure water daily.
So, as you can see, and as with any lifestyle change, eating a healthy balanced whole foods plant-based diet can have its benefits. The key to success, like with anything in life, is to plan and be prepared. Sit down and work out some delicious recipes you want to try out, look at the ingredients you need, plan your weeks menu ahead of time, shop for that weeks food so you have all the ingredients you need to create your plant-based dishes, ensure you have enough fresh fruit and vegetables for snacking and off you go.