Eating a plant-based diet protects against chronic diseases, stabilizes blood glucose levels and provides an excellent source of fuel for your daily routine.
When you hear the word carbohydrates, you may automatically have negative thoughts. But carbs are actually quite essential. It’s all about which types of carbs you need to fuel your body.
Carbohydrates are the sugars that are broken down into glucose that your body uses for energy. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is the key that unlocks your body’s cells to let the carbs inside. This allows the glucose to be used as energy. Carbohydrates that are heavily processed negatively impact the blood glucose levels acting to raise them, such as cakes, cookies, white pasta, white rice, bread, baked goods, soda, etc. Keep in mind that whole-food carbs such as whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, sweet potatoes and squash are great for your health and may actually help stabilize blood glucose levels.
One of the most lacking components in the Standard American Diet, also known (fittingly) as SAD, is fiber. Fiber, a carbohydrate found in plants, cannot be broken down by the body.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract intact and doesn’t dissolve in water. Examples include carrots, celery and whole grains (such as brown rice and cereals). Soluble fiber swells and dissolves in water. This type of fiber slows digestion, preventing the rapid rise in blood glucose levels. Examples include beans, chia seeds, oats, nuts, seeds, apples and berries. Soluble fiber not only helps with your satisfaction (feeling fuller for longer by stabilizing your blood glucose levels), but also protects against colon cancer and heart disease.
When adding fiber to your daily routine, remember to start low and go slow to avoid stomach discomfort. Jump-start your morning with a bowl of oatmeal, add some garbanzo beans to your vegetable stir-fry, or, as a snack, pair a cup of fresh veggies with 2 tablespoons hummus. Delish!
Protein builds your muscles and keeps you feeling full. And when paired with quality carbs, protein also slows the rise of blood glucose levels. Some great examples of plant-based proteins include nuts, seeds, legumes and beans. To increase your protein, try adding tofu to your stir-fries or nut butter to your oatmeal or apple.
Fats fuel your brain, and, when eaten alone, have little effect on blood glucose levels. But remember, not all fats are created equal. Opt for unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Examples of these healthy fats include nuts, olive oil, avocados and nut butter. Top your salad with 2 tablespoons avocado, or, for a snack, aim for a handful of unsalted nuts. Keep in mind that nuts, although healthy, can easily and quickly increase your caloric intake. When it comes to nuts, shoot for two handfuls a day.
Ancient Aztecs revered these little seeds for the energy they provided. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in protein and fiber, chia seeds work great to stabilize blood glucose levels. And, unlike flax seeds, you don’t need to crush them to reap their nutritional benefits. For additional benefits, add them to your oatmeal or salad and enjoy.