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When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, the verdict is in: a plant-based diet is the best way to eat healthily. And while going completely vegetarian or vegan might not seem like a viable option for your lifestyle, even introducing more plants into your diet can help you make great strides in your overall health and fitness.
The benefits of a plant-based diet are numerous, and the benefits extend beyond maintaining a healthy weight. As more people recognize the many benefits of cutting back on meat, plant-based diets are gaining more mainstream popularity, partly on the recommendation of physicians who are touting the health benefits to their patients. And the good news is, even if you are an elite athlete or looking to build muscle, introducing more plants into your diet won't set you back on achieving your nutritional goals.
Read on to learn some of the benefits of adding more plant-based foods into your diet and how you can reap the physical and mental rewards.
The benefits of a mostly or strictly plant-based diet are numerous.
Improved Heart Health
By cutting out all or some meat from your diet, you can help reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet—the main contributor to heart disease. To optimize heart health, experts recommend not exceeding 5-6% of your daily calories in foods high in saturated fat.
Lowered Blood Pressure
As part of improved heart health, evidence also suggests a plant-based diet also lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure is a significant contributor to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious ailments. People eating a vegetarian diet were shown to have lower blood pressures than those incorporating more meat into their meals.
Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Many people are increasingly taking their environmental impacts into consideration in all aspects of their lives, including the food they eat. Whether you are an animal lover or simply want to make a minimal impact on the environment, a plant-based diet can help you feel as good mentally and emotionally as it can physically.
Drop Unhealthy Weight
On average, those who eat meat-heavy diets are heavier than those adhering to a mostly or strictly plant-based diet, to the point of having BMIs that qualify meat-eaters as overweight.
One hesitation some people, especially athletes and lifters, may have in switching to a strictly or mostly vegetarian diet is protein intake. How can your body get the protein it needs if you're sticking mainly to plants?
One option is adding soy into your diet. Soy provides a high-quality protein source that can help fuel your body and muscle production.
Beans and legumes also are a solid choice that are protein-packed. Nuts are another great option when enjoyed in moderation.
Research suggests that a plant-based diet can still give your body the nutrients it needs to fuel your workouts and aid in muscle recovery. By eating a wide variety of plants each day, you can help fuel your body with the essential amino acids it needs to repair your muscles—a comparable amount that meats such as chicken and beef provide.
Another consideration for those maintaining a workout or weight lifting regimen is monitoring your leucine intake, which is another amino acid critical to muscle recovery. It can be difficult to get the leucine you need on a plant-only diet, so adding in a supplement can be one way to help ensure your body receives this essential BCAA so you can maximize your workout and help your muscles recover. BELDT Lab’s REBARR is a vegetarian supplement option that delivers the leucine you need to improve strength and promote muscle recovery.
Similarly, getting the fatty acids you need can also be achieved through supplementation. BELDT Lab’s CLA-1000 gives your body the fatty acids found in animal meats without the adverse side effects of upping your meat intake.
No matter if you’re looking to reap the many health benefits of a plant-based diet by going completely vegetarian or simply upping your plant intake, you can still achieve your physique goals through proper diet planning and a high-quality supplementation program.