Ready to refresh your eating habits? Set your plate with foods that come from plants, and you’ll go a long way toward reaping big health benefits.
A plant-based eating plan puts the emphasis on whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Studies show these foods can protect you from illness and disease. That means you can lower your risk for cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other diseases.
Eat well, feel better
Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to boost your body’s natural defense system. Nutrients from plant-based foods – including vitamins, minerals phytochemicals and antioxidants – fuel your immune system to build antibodies and shield you from disease threats.
Leafy greens and vegetables have the power to naturally control inflammation. They are loaded with natural compounds, including phytochemicals and antioxidants, that improve your immune system.
Antioxidants help your body get rid of free radicals. These are molecules that can damage DNA and trigger a number of diseases, including cancer.
Foods from plants are full of fiber, which has all kinds of health benefits. The more fiber you eat, the better your body functions. It fuels your digestive system with good bacteria, nourishes your gut and keeps your bowels healthy. Not only does fiber help your body absorb nutrients better, it reduces your risk for colorectal cancer and can lower cholesterol levels.
5 ways to power-pack a plate
Swap ingredients in recipes you enjoy. Use beans in chili, chickpeas for chicken salad, or tofu in a scrambler.
Switch to soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The nutritional value in soy milk is similar to cow’s milk. Try using soy milk to cook oats, if a glassful is too much for you.
Go meatless at lunch once a week for a month. It may be easier to start with just one meal than to completely change how you eat. A good starting point – try a bean burrito with guacamole and corn chips.
Search the internet for ideas to create a menu of plant-based foods. Make a list of ingredients for each recipe, so you have everything you need when it’s time to fix a meal.
Get creative with salads as a way to include more plants in your diet. Choose romaine lettuce, spinach or cabbage as your base. Then add toppings, like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, beets, avocados or carrots. Don’t forget to include a source of protein, like beans, tofu, tempeh, edamame, seeds, cheeses or nuts.
Remember – you don’t need to be perfect. Just get creative, explore new options, and build healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
Maricel Lopez-Colon, RD, is part of the Integrative Care Team at Goshen Center for Cancer Care. She offers nutritional support for patients before, during and after treatment. As an advocate for patients and their families, Maricel blends education and a common sense approach to help them face nutrition challenges related to their treatment. She also answers questions about cancer diets, trends and fads.