During flu and cold season, building your immunity is very important. One way you can do this is by eating more whole, plant-based foods. Here are 4 reasons why you should start incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
4 Reasons to Eat Plant-Based Foods
1. Plant Based Foods Provide Energy
Before the body can turn cooked food into usable fuel, it must produce enzymes to aid in the digestion process. A healthy person can create these enzymes, but it costs energy, which creates a nominal amount of stress. As we get older our enzyme production naturally slows down; if we are not getting enough enzyme-rich foods in our regular diet, our enzyme-production system will have to work even harder.
Plant-based foods, particularly raw foods, are easily digested and assimilated, which directly translates into additional energy by means of an increase in net gain. Enzymes that contribute to overall health and aid digestion are not present in cooked food; heating above 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys them.
2. Plant-Based Foods Help You Conserve Energy
When the body doesn’t have to expend a lot of energy digesting, it can conserve energy for other functions. Plant-based foods are high-net-gain foods that deliver us energy by way of conservation as opposed to consumption.
At the onset of eating, we begin spending digestive resources in an effort to convert energy stored within food—also known as calories—into usable sustenance to fulfill our biological requirements. And, as we know, whenever energy is transferred from one form to another, there’s an inherent loss. However, the amount of energy lost in this process varies greatly and depends on the foods eaten.
Related: 7 Ways to Have More Energy
3. Eating More Plant-Based Foods Will Help You Avoid Processed “Empty” Foods
Most processed foods and snacks are really just “empty foods.” These foods still have plenty “empty” calories but little nutrition, and usually filled with starch and sugar. All of this can lead to quick weight gain and a feeling that you aren’t satisfied.
Highly processed, refined, denatured “food” requires that significantly more digestive energy be spent to break it down in the process of transferring its caloric energy to us. While it’s true that a calorie is a measure of food energy, simply eating more calories will not necessarily ensure more energy for the consumer.
If there were such a calorie guarantee, people who subsisted on fast food and other such calorie-laden fare would have abundant energy. And of course they don’t. This is a testament to the inordinate amount of digestive energy required to convert such “food” into usable fuel.
Related: 8 Things Healthy People Do
4. Eating More Plant-Based Foods Will Help You Sleep Better
In addition to feeling better while you are awake, proper nutrition can help you sleep better. Balanced nutrition provides building material to replace aging cells with new, vibrant ones. Nutrient-dense, whole food reduces stress; a healthy diet improves cortisol levels and thus the quality of sleep.
Better rested people do not crave sugary and starchy foods, since they simply do not require their stimulating energy. And in turn, high-quality sleep makes it easier to maintain a healthy diet. A person needs to have his or her nutrition needs met through quality food or quality sleep can’t be had at all.
Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He is now a successful performance nutrition consultant, bestselling author of the Thrive book series, formulator of the award-winning line of plant-based Vega nutritional products, and creator of Thrive Forward, an online video series designed to inspire and educate through plant-based nutrition.
Featured photo by Muffet
Originally published 1/13/13 and updated 1/24/14.