The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages increased consumption of plants — whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds — and reduced consumption of solid and added fats, added sugars, and refined grains. However, people are not eating nearly as much plant food as is recommended. Only 19% of Kansas adults eat enough fruits and vegetables. Don’t let a busy schedule keep you from choosing healthful foods. Instead, turn to a diet with more plants, one that is full of flavor and nutrients, low in calories, and very satisfying.
Benefits of Consuming More Plants
- Weight control: Weight gain is generally correlated with high daily calorie intake without nutrient-dense foods full of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain foods typically provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories, compared to other types of foods. Putting more of these kinds of plants on the plate makes it easier to manage appetite and maintain body weight.
- High dietary fiber: Only plant foods contain fiber. Dietary fiber is a complex form of carbohydrate. Several decades of studies have confirmed the health benefits of eating a fiber-rich diet. Specifically, diets rich in foods containing fiber — such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and improve regularity. A healthy elimination system allows bodies to get rid of toxins. Beans and legumes contain more dietary fiber than almost any other food, so they are an integral and versatile part of a balanced diet. The dietary fiber in legumes is both soluble, which is especially useful in helping control cholesterol levels to lower heart disease risk, and insoluble, which improves regularity. Beans are also filling, so they help promote weight management by satisfying hunger.
- Chronic disease management: Consuming a diet featuring more plants is good for your health, today and tomorrow. Complex carbohydrates are easy to digest, and the antioxidants in plants help strengthen your body’s immune system. Many people with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and various autoimmune diseases have been able to alleviate their symptoms by eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and consuming fewer solid and added fats, added sugars, and refined grains.
Adopting a more plant-based diet requires a change in thinking. It is not easy to change eating habit. But gradually, as more vegetables, fruits, and grains and legumes are added to your daily menu, you will discover how “real food” looks, smells, and tastes.
For more information about adding more plants to your plate, please view our K-State Research and Extension publication MF2977, which is the source of this information.
By: Ashley Svaty