Thursday, November 22, 2018

What is a Healthy Plant-based diet?

This is probably a good point to define some terms. You'll hear vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and starch-based diets used interchangeably in conversations and even on some blogs and other sites, even among those who know there are differences. Vegan has become a catch all term for anyone who doesn't eat meat or their products, like dairy and eggs. However, in reality, it is a bit more complicated than that.

So, what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? As far as food consumption goes, vegetarians will eat dairy and egg products. Vegans will not. Both avoid all meat. However, often for different reasons.

That's because vegetarians are eating their diet for primarily health reasons. True, some are doing it for ethical and other reasons, but primarily they are doing it because they believe it is a healthier diet. Vegans, on the other hand, avoid all animal products our of ethical concerns for animal rights and such. For that reason, they avoid even eating eggs and dairy.

A plant-based diet is focused on eating plants primarily for health reasons. As far as to avoiding all animal products including eggs and diary, they are nearly identical to a vegan diet. At least in what is and isn't allowed to be eaten. However, because often vegans don't avoid meat for health reasons, many of them, not all, are not that concerned about eating healthy and are more prone to many of the chronic diseases that meat eaters are.

A starch-based diet is a subset of plant-based, which focuses more on eating foods containing starch. Fruits and other non-starchy vegetables are eaten because of the added nutrients that have, but they are not the focus or the primary part of the diet.

Plant-based and starch-based are "focused" upon eating plants and starches. In theory, that allows for some meat to be eaten and some dairy, more as an exception to the situation than as a standard practice. That said, some people in transitioning to a plant-based diet will eat some meat, gradually weaning themselves off of meat as a regular part of their meal.

So, with those terms defined, what is a healthy plant-based diet? After all, a vegan is able, and they often do, eat Oreo cookies. There is no meat or meat products in an Oreo cookie. So, to satisfy that sweet tooth, they will eat them. But most health conscious people would agree, that a diet of Oreos is not healthy for someone. Maybe as an occasional treat at best, once a week or less. There are many products like this that one could technically partake of that are vegan, but not good for you health-wise.

Likewise, if someone ate salads all the time, and feasted upon broccoli and cauliflower on a regular bases as your meal focus, you would soon find yourself with less energy and starving. Why? Because those vegetables, by themselves, have very few carbs that will sustain a person. As we discussed last time, you either burn carbs or fat. In some cases, protein when your body gets desperate enough.

That is the principle of starch-based diet. That people are designed to live on starches. We can eat meat, but we are designed as starch-based eaters. Proof, you ask? The obvious answer is to look at what our tongues are designed to taste and seek out. On the tip of our tongue is sweet and salty taste buds. Toward the back is bitter and sour taste buds. But there are no taste buds that seek out protein.

A cat has them. A cat can taste protein and seek it out, but not humans. A can gets its energy primarily from protein. We would die if all we ate was meat. That's because if all we ate was meat, we would waste away. Why? Because, as I said before, we are designed to operate on starch, on carbs, and there is no carbs at all in meat. Very little even in dairy and eggs. We do need protein, which is found in abundance in starches and other plants, which is sufficient for our needs, but we do not derive our energy, normally, from protein.

Now, we need to define what a starch is. I've been told that certain vegetables were not starchy vegetables, like winter squashes. But that was under an arbitrary definition of what a starch is. What starch is, is a complex chain of  glucose molecules. They are broken down with certain chemicals that our body makes, which allows the glucose to be used for our cells' energy. Winter squashes do contain those starches, whether one says they have them or not. That is part of their chemical composition.

Not all animals have the ability to utilize starches for their energy. Apes, for instance, are able to break down simple sugars of around three to five chains of glucose molecules, but not the long chains we call starch. That is why they are confined to climates along the equator where their food, fruit, grows. They can get energy from a banana, but not a potato.

As a matter of fact, it is our ability to use starches for energy that has allowed us to expand beyond that area of the world. But you may be wondering by now, "I thought sugar was something to be avoided? I thought eating sugar was bad for you? Everyone knows starches turn into sugar."

There is truth that starches break down into sugar. And that eating a lot of table sugar isn't good for you. So what gives? Why is eating starch okay?

Well, truth is that sugar is the primary energy source for our bodies. The problem with sugar as opposed to starch is that it has been extracted from its whole-food source, absent any other nutrients or fiber, into a concentrate compound. So while it is true that eating table sugar will give you energy, that is all it will give you. Meanwhile, starch is sustained energy. It takes a while longer for your body to break down starches into sugar, and it uses calories to do so. Plus, generally, a starchy vegetable will contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that when combined with the sugars, provides a whole package. If you eat a tablespoon of table sugar, all your doing is getting the energy.

Also, table sugar has the affect of raising one's triglyceride levels. It is due to the sudden spike, all at one time, of calories. It spikes one's blood sugar, which in turn can spike one's fat cell count. This fat is then stored as energy to be used in times of starvation. Most of the triglycerides we get are directly from butter, meat, and other such sources of fat. However, the body can, if called upon due to excess calorie intake, process those sugar calories into fat to store. That is a complicated process, however, and your body would prefer to burn those sugar calories as heat or nervous energy.

Consequently, while eating sugar to excess is bad for you, it has been made out to be the big boggie man in this regard when actually your body needs sources of glucose to run on. Obviously the refined sugars that have no nutrients other than the carbs they provide isn't a good thing to eat too much of. But it generally does not increase one's weight if eaten in low amounts. Indeed, it does provide the same calories as starch does.

It isn't sugar that causes diabetes, but fat. It isn't sugar that causes cancer, but fat. It isn't sugar that causes weight gain, but fat. Once you realize that, you can put the blame for our chronic diseases where it should fall: on fat. You won't find fat in potatoes. You won't find fat in wheat, or barley. What you will find is plenty of carbs, fiber, protein, and other nutrients. However, what you will find in meat and its products, is plenty of fat, cholesterol, and protein. The engine of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart failure, cancer to name the top three. The cause of most all weight gain.

So, I'm following a starch-based diet. That is a diet centered in starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, grains, rice, and legumes. Those will make up around 90% of my food. They will provide me with 99.9% of all nutrients I need to not only survive, but thrive!

In case you want to hear more about this, I would suggest you watch the following video from Dr. McDougall:

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