Whenever you read about trendy diets on the internet, the information generally tends to focus heavily on weight loss, and I don’t know about you, but I am beyond tired of that chatter. There’s so much more that goes into feeling your best than the number on the scale, like waking up on the right side of the bed, and eating foods that fuel your soul. So rather than eating only for your physique, how about shifting the conversation toward eating for your attitude? For example, new research says plant-based and vegan foods make you feel good from the inside out, so instead of scanning food labels for fat percentages and sugar additives, wouldn’t you rather swap the fake stuff for the super tasty, authentically good-for-you foods?
Once upon a time, those following plant-based and vegan diets were in the minority, but as more research surfaces about the many health benefits of going meatless and dairy-free, this way of eating is quickly becoming pretty common. In fact, according to a study performed by the magazine Vegetarian Times, roughly seven million Americans follow a vegetarian diet, while approximately one million are vegan, meaning they don't consume any animal products.
There are countless benefits to making the transition from carnivore to herbivore, such as a lowered risk of disease, clearer skin, improved sleep quality, and higher energy levels. But, IMO, the benefits for your well-being are what really make the switch worthwhile.
In a recent paper, which has been published in the research journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, study authors reviewed several different clinical trials between 1999 and 2007, all of which compared the benefits of plant-based diets to other ways of eating. As per EurekAlert! Science News, eight of the studies explored the effects of a vegan diet, while six studies required that participants be educated on and given information about the benefits of a plant-based diet. The results showed that those who committed to a plant-based or vegan diet had a better quality of life overall, including "improved psychological wellbeing," according to EurekAlert! Science News.
So what is it about vegan foods that boost your 'tude? Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutrition and wellness expert and author of the book Eating in Color, attributes the positivity to the fact that a lot of fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which, she says, "do everything from boosting brain and heart health, to helping your skin look great, so there are plenty of reasons why a plant-focused diet might boost your mood."
Interested in reaping the benefits? Here are a few key grocery items to add to your list ASAP.
Registered dietitian/nutritionist May Zhu, MBA, RDN tells Elite Daily that plant-based protein shakes, such as Koia, boast an ideal balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, which she refers to as the "perfect nutrition trifecta for giving our bodies stable, long-lasting energy, any time of the day." This is because, unlike animal-based proteins (like whey), Zhu says plant-based proteins are easy to digest, and they won't give you that gross, weighed-down, too-full feeling after you've consumed them. In other words, you'll feel energized, without any lag or wave of lethargy.
The best feel-good foods are the ones that not only benefit your body, but that benefit the Earth, too. For instance, Largeman-Roth recommends adding seeds like hemp and flax to your diet because they're easy on the environment, and amazing for your insides, too.
"Seeds are high in ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory benefits," Largeman-Roth tells Elite Daily via email. "Inflammation is at the root of most of our major illnesses, including heart disease and cancer, so that may be another reason why plant eaters are more positive." Translation: Eating foods that ward off potential health issues equates to peace of mind. Makes sense, right?
Granted, I can only speak for myself here, but I'm almost positive that channeling your inner yogi and taking a second to relax when life gets super hectic is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. But if breathing exercises and guided meditations aren't doing it for you, CBD oil, aka cannabidiol oil, could be the thing to do the trick. And because CBD oil is derived from plants, it's safe to say these supplements are 100 percent vegan-friendly.
"CBD oils can help boost positivity and help relax your body," Chef Daniel Angerer of Hu Kitchen tells Elite Daily, and you can add them to all kinds of recipes like smoothies, baked goods, coffee, etc.
As if you needed yet another excuse to indulge in squares of rich, dark chocolate for dessert, a mid-afternoon snack, or, you know, breakfast (no judgment), Largeman-Roth tells Elite Daily that this decadent treat is definitely one she'd put at the top of her feel-good vegan foods.
"Dark chocolate is rich in heart-protective flavonoid, and has been shown to help lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease," she says. "It may also help keep your skin hydrated and your brain sharp."
It's also going to make you feel subliminally happy, because, you know, chocolate.
There's arguably nothing worse than the sluggish effects some foods can have on your physical body and mental state. Think about it: When you treat yourself to yummy takeout, sure, it tastes good in the moment, but how do you feel afterward? I know myself, and snacking on greasy French fries and milkshakes makes me want to crawl into a food coma not even two hours after the fact. Salads, however, have the opposite effect.
"All greens, especially kale, are incredible for your body, as they layer your internal organs for a larger meal and they energize your body," Angerer says. And considering leafy greens are probably the most basic plant-based food options you can eat, I think it's safe to say these nutritious leaves should top your grocery list.
Some stomachs (aka mine) simply cannot handle dairy, and where there's an upset stomach, there is definitely an upset human. Vegan dairy alternatives, like almond milk cream cheese, coconut milk yogurt, and cashew milk ice cream, are not only good for you, they're also allergy-friendly, so you can feel your best while you indulge.
"[Kite Hill] believes there is a very strong link between what you eat and how you feel. This link is not just about the functionality of the ingredients, but also about how one feels after eating great tasting foods that are good for you, the environment, and culture," Rob Leibowitz, CEO of Kite Hill, tells Elite Daily. "So many people want or need dairy alternatives and have had to sacrifice taste for years. Today, they can feel good about a plant-based diet with brands like Kite Hill where they don’t have to sacrifice taste, and thus feel great about their choice."