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Want to Boost Immunity and Lower Your Risk of Disease? Go Plant-Based – The Beet

Posted: March 19, 2020 at 7:44 pm

One of the main reasons you embarked on a plant-based dietwas likely the health benefits of eating this way. In fact, newresearch has found that eating a plant-based diet can help you boost your immunity andlower your risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

When you eat more plant-based foods, youre getting benefits purely from eating more plants, says Torey Armul, MS, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We know plants are some of the best sources of vitamins and minerals, and fiber--things that are all heart-healthy and body-healthy. The other factor that's happening is that people tend to eat less unhealthy food. So, youre improving your diet by eating less of the worst foods and more of the best foods.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lists plant-based foods high in vitamins as one way to boost your immune system right now. They suggest eating foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fight off COVID-19 and other seasonal flu.

Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables provide nutrientslike beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin Ethat can boost immune function. Because many vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, they help reduce oxidative stress.

Beta-Carotene:Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the body, according to the PCRM. Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamins C and E:Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the bodys natural immune response, the PCRM says. Sources of vitamin C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E sources include nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli.

Vitamin D:Research shows that vitamin D may reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, so try to get yours from shiitake or portobello mushrooms.

Zinc:Zinc is a mineral that can help boost white blood cells, which defend against invaders. Since your body can't store zinc it's a good idea to get it daily. Sources include nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils.

While a plant-based diet definitely improves your overall health now, there are also serious chronic diseasesthat a plant-based diet can protect you from, lowering your risk factor. Here a rundown of those diseases and why a plant-based diet is often the first line of defense.

A recent article published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that sticking to a more plant-based diet was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Those subjects who ate healthy plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, as part of their diet had a 23% lower risk of type 2 diabetesthan those who didnt follow as much of a plant-based diet.

Eating this way can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes because, first, youre paying more attention to your diet, says Armul. When someone makes a change and starts reading food labels, planning ahead, and making their own meals, you tend to see some great health benefits.

So how many plant-based foods should you aim for daily to lower your type 2 diabetes risk? If I had to estimate, it looks like the majority of studies showed that around eight to 10 servings of plant foodsincluding beverages such as coffee and teaseemed to demonstrate the strongest protective association, says Frank Qian, who conducted the research published in JAMA Internal Medicine as a masters student in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

When you eat less meat or ditch it completely, youre doing your ticker a number of favors, like reducing the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Thats because a lot of meat is loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and create buildup and blockages in your arteries. But on top of lowering your meat consumption, eating a diet filled with high-quality plant foods is associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study saw a 19% decrease in cardiovascular-related mortality and up to 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease to start.

A plant-based diet can help your kidney health, and there are a few different reasons for that. Weight management in itself is very important for kidney disease, says Armul. Eating fewer animal-based foods reduces the acid-based load in your body, so youre putting less stress on your kidneys. Plant-based foods also contain phytates, which bind phosphorus. Since youre eating less processed foods, youre not absorbing as much phosphorus, which tends to build up in the blood of those with kidney disease, damaging bones, and blood vessels, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

As of right now, eating patterns that show a reduction in the risk of cognitive diseases through a plant-based diet is association-based research (like this study published in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research), says Armul. Meaning, we cant say eating this way definitely has that result. I think these diets tend to be full of healthy omega-3 fats and we know that's brain-boosting food, she says. Youre getting the one-two punch because youre consuming less processed foods, simple sugars, high sodium foods, and saturated fats which we know are not brain boosters. Then, youre boosting the nutrients we know are good for healthy brains, memory, and acuity, says Armul.

By eating more prebiotics (good gut bacteria) that are naturally found in plant-based diets, you tend to nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut, says Armul. That strengthens your immune system and it helps with weight control. It even assists with things like blood sugar management and blood pressure, she says.

When you boost the healthy gut flora you also crowd out the less healthy gut flora. That means youre reducing the less healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract that can lead to chronic disease, she says. Gut bacteria has been linked to chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and even certain cancers, making a plant-based diet a long-lasting eating prescription to help protect your health today as well as into the future.

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Want to Boost Immunity and Lower Your Risk of Disease? Go Plant-Based - The Beet

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