Paleo. Vegan. Raw. Even keto. A whole food plant based diet will do anyone a whole lot of good. And while the reasons are admittedly complicated, the food is not. A good rule of thumb is to eat the rainbow. In other words, fill your plate with plant foods that hit every color – from red tomatoes to purple potatoes – and you can bet that your body has what it needs to feel good.
The terrific thing about a plant based diet is that you can include or avoid specific plants, based on your personal health goals. For example, if you’re paleo – nix the grains and legumes. Keto folks go a step further and focus only on leafy, above-ground veggies. If you swing vegan, well anything goes as long as it doesn’t involve animals.
Why a whole food plant based diet makes you feel awesome
#1 – Hearty greens keep you light and limber
There’s a whole family of greens called cruciferous vegetables, otherwise known as brassicas. Within this family, you’ll find hearty greens like brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, collards, and mustard. Iconic veggies like broccoli are also in the mix, along with cauliflower, turnip, and radish. Lighter brassicas include arugula and watercress.
Big family, right? And practically every good-for-you veggie belongs to it.
It turns out that the power of cruciferous vegetables comes from something called sulforaphane. This sulfur-rich compound is able to turn the dial down on inflammation. So much so, that it has created quite a stir in the scientific community. Shrinking tumors and better health with type 2 diabetes? Kale yeah.
If you really want to benefit from sulforaphane, eat broccoli sprouts on the regular. They add a touch of pungent spice to salads and they are full of anti-inflammatory magic.
#2 – Fiber from plants feeds your microbes
Although almost every disease seems to have roots in poor digestion, the story of your gut microbes is quite simple: human beings evolved on foraged food and ate mostly plants. Like roots, tubers, leaves, berries, and other fruit. What’s more, mainstream veggies are less fibrous than their wildcrafted ancestors.
Wanna fix your gut? Eat more fiber…unless you have something called IBS or SIBO going on. These digestive ailments initially get worse with fiber and more strategy is needed.
Jeff Leach, co-founder of American Gut, works closely with modern day “paleo”hunter-gathers who are free of chronic disease like autoimmunity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. According to his estimates, folks living in the United States eat around 20 – 40 grams of fiber a day. Whereas a hunter-gather child living in Tanzania can eat up to 150 grams of fiber a day.
This means that even if you try – your fiber game isn’t strong.
But still try. Because a massive amount of microbes call your colon home. And these tiny bugs consume fiber. They also make special fatty acids that soothe inflammation. No inflammation = no pain. It’s a co-dependent, symbiotic relationship. And you really want your symbionts to be happy.
#3 – Colorful food makes you beautiful
Notice we didn’t say that colorful foods makes you feel beautiful. Is does that too. But in this case, the mojo of colorful food goes beyond how you feel and targets the stuff you can casually measure…like age spots, wrinkles, and thinning skin.
As it turns out, diet impacts skin health. And a whole food plant based diet that’s filled with antioxidants is more likely to result in smooth, plump, and blemish-free skin.
This is because a group of antioxidants in plant foods – called proanthocyanidins – protects your skin against sun damage, cancer, and inflammation. You can find these beautifying antioxidants in red, blue, and purple plants. Examples include cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, red cabbage, and red wine.
A handful of blueberries won’t turn back time. But it can equip your body with resources to fight inflammation and keep you looking your personal best. Which is pretty awesome.