Our typical diet is relatively low in fruits and vegetables, and this is a pity! There is growing evidence that a diet rich in plants is not only beneficial for weight loss and gastrointestinal health, but it can also help to reduce blood pressure, prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some studies even point out that there might be a correlation between such a diet and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. However, the last point is still under intense research.
Micronutrients – Vitamins, minerals & phytonutrients
But why are plants so healthy? … Again, it is all about biochemistry! Plants contain a lot of beneficial molecules that help our body to work properly and prevent dysfunctions and disease. These molecules are vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Vitamins are essential micronutrients that our body needs to work properly. Without vitamins, certain body functions break down and we can get various diseases like dermatitis, scurvy, and many more. So, vitamins are essential for our bodies! Plants are the major source of several important vitamins.
Vitamin A, which is important for our immune system and for good vision can be found in carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and pumpkins.
Vitamin C, which is important for our neural system and our immune system can be found in broccoli, kale, oranges, lemons, pineapples, cauliflower, spinach, and cabbage.
Vitamin K, which is important for blood coagulation and for binding of Calcium in our bones and tissue can be found in spinach, collard, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, blueberries, and carrots.
A diet rich in plants provides you with a high-quality source of these vitamins and make sure that your body and metabolism work properly. When cooking plants you should avoid long cooking times because the high temperature destroys some of the vitamins. Always make sure that you cook only for a short time or eat raw plants (when possible).
Minerals, such as Calcium, Magnesium Potassium, and iron are very important for our bones and muscle function. We need to provide our bodies with enough minerals with our nutrition. They can be found in both animal and plant products. It is a myth that a plant-based diet does not provide enough minerals. This is absolutely not true as some plants are high in healthy minerals.
Calcium can be found in nuts, seeds, and almost any green leafy vegetable.
Magnesium can be found in spinach, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Potassium can be found in tomato, potato, beans, lentils, and bananas.
Iron can be found in nuts and beans.
Another interesting family of nutrients found in plants are the phytonutrients. These molecules are the subject of intense research and scientists have already found some very interesting effects of phytonutrients on our body. However, this topic is not understood completely yet by scientists and we will only name effects here that have been confirmed by scientific studies (although there might be many more positive effects on your health)Cartenoids
, such as pro-vitamin A carotenoids can enhance our immune system and may protect us from certain types of diseases. Several studies found that they may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers (e.g. head and neck cancer). They also have a positive effect on the strength and elasticity of our skin. They can be found in pumpkins, sweet potato, carrots, and winter squash
Phytosterols can reduce our blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) makes the following recommendation for phytosterols: "Foods containing at least 0.65 g per serving of plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3 g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."Phytosterols can be found in vegetable oils such as soybean oil, rapeseed oil, or olive oil.
Plants and weight loss
Plants can help us staying skinny! How?... The answer is fiber.
Plants contain a lot of fiber, which is basically cellulose. Cellulose cannot be burned by our metabolism and thus it contains more or less no calories. Goes in ... Comes out ... But fiber is filling. If you have 1 pound of broccoli you will feel quite full, but you only consume about 150 kcal. That is nothing!
You should not over-use this effect. It makes no sense to eat only fiber because your metabolism will get crazy after some time and you will get the munchies and crave carbohydrates. However, it makes total sense to mix a healthy amount of fiber to your dishes to be full without consuming too many calories.
We have to note here, that not every plant contains only fiber. Some plants like potatoes, rice, or grains are high in carbohydrates because they contain a high amount of starch. You will see this immediately when you check the kilocalories. Fiber-based plants, which are generally green plants (salad, broccoli, etc.) have an energy of less than 40 kcal for 100g, while starch-based plants have more than 100 kcal, sometimes even more than 300 kcal.
A good way to eat more plants?
Plants are healthy nutrition and we always tend to forget about them in our diet. We encourage you to increase the amounts of plants in your diet.
I have just taken part in a 30 plants challenge myself. The target was to eat 30 different plants within 7 days. They have to be different plants, which means that every plant only counts one time. If you had an avocado, a second avocado does not give you a point. They also have to be fresh and green plants. Dried plants do not give any points. Seeds and nuts do not give you any points (although they are also very healthy). I thought: "Well, this is gonna be easy!", and I was surprised when I only ended up with 25 plants after 7 days!!!
My finding was that we always tend to eat the same stuff and we eat too few plants. Try it yourself and check out if you can win the 7 days challenge. How many plants did you eat? Did you achieve 30 different plants? Write us an email and tell us about your experience! We would love to hear your story!