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Eat the Rainbow

Eat the rainbow

Fruit and vegetables are good for us and a plant-based diet is also good for the planet. Plants provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals, plus fibre - all of which is crucial in warding off lifestyle illnesses. Fibre is essential for gut health, as they feed the 'good' bacteria in the gut, and is known to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. Plant-based foods, in its more natural form, is minimally processed, reduces inflammation in the body and provide satiety, all of which is beneficial for weight management. But did you know that a largely plant-based diet can also benefit your hormones?

Female hormones and plants

A largely plant-based diet benefits both men and women as outlined above. But there are plenty of good reasons for women in particular should increase their intake of fruit and vegetables. Plants help balance female hormones due to their direct impact on gut health and also due to phytoestrogens, a naturally occurring component in plants. As phytoestrogens are not dissimilar to the oestrogen produced in the body in reproductive years, studies have shown that they can help issues with PMS and with vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) in peri-menopause. They also lower the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, both of which becomes more prevalent in post-menopause years.

Plant-based diet and weight management

If you are looking to lose weight, consider increasing your intake of minimally processed plant foods. Fruit and vegetables are very low in calories and help fill you up. And I'm not talking about eating lettuce leaves for dinner and not having any carbs whatsoever. As we do need carbs, despite the bad rep they often get. Focus on adding whole-grains such as quinoa, brown rice, beans and legumes to your plate. These are filling and nutritious, providing plenty of fibre and nutrients including protein. If you are worried about not getting sufficient protein, focus on lean protein sources such as fish, prawns or lean white meats, but make this a smaller part (1/4) of your plate. Speaking of plates - a good rule to stick to is to fill 1/2 your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with a (lean) protein source and 1/4 with a (wholegrain) carbohydrate source. A word of caution: I mentioned sticking to minimally processed foods. With the increasing popularity of vegan diets, there are plenty of meat substitutes available, often with unhealthy additives and preservatives that do more harm than good. If you can't make out what it's made of, nor recognise the names in the ingredients list, it's highly likely it's not particularly good for you.

Protein-rich plants

I've mentioned the importance of protein in another post and we can get blinded by the meat counter when it comes to protein sources. This is because plant-based proteins don't provide all essential amino acids in one package (as beef would), hence the importance of eating a wide variety of plants. Here are some plant-based options that fit the bill. The benefit of plant-based protein is that, with the exception of nuts, it is low in saturated fats:

Chickpeas (7.2g per 100g)

Peanuts (26g per 100g)

Whole grain bread (13g per 100g)

Black eyed peas (7.7g per 100g)

Almonds (21.1g per 100g)

Quinoa (4.4g per 100g)

Soy beans (13.5g per 100g)

​Walnuts (14.7g per 100g)

Broccoli (4.4g per 100g)

Lentils (4.8g per 100g)

Chia seeds (17g per 100g)

Green peas (5.9g per 100g)

Edamame (11g per 100g)

Alfafa sprouts (4g per 100g)

Tofu (8g per 100g)

Further reading / references:

Protein in a healthy diet:

What are phytoestrogens? Benefits and foods:


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