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In study after study, a low-fat plant-based diet has been shown to actually elevate one’s metabolism and burn adipose fat. Plant-based diets have been shown in controlled conditions to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events by about 40%. The plant-centric diet has also been shown to reverse atherosclerosis and lower both bad (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure.
Yeah, plants are more than just frilly windowsill garnish. Who knew?
Plant-Based Diet and Your Metabolism
What explains the plant-based diet’s effect on metabolic processes, cardio health, and blood lipid improvements? Is it all to do with simply avoiding the fats and cholesterol associated with animal food products?
That’s only part of the answer. Plants and animals have been sharing planet Earth for long enough that the plant kingdom’s chemical blueprint — evolved to help the green stuff survive and flourish across time — lends itself to similar purpose in the human body. It's a little weird; but then again, maybe not so much?
To mention only the most obvious benefits of eating plants; you’re looking at a lower caloric intake, a higher fiber intake, and a natural dietary increase in healthful polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. In the arena of harmful saturated fats, asparagus and prime rib part ways. Amicably, we assume.
Plant-Based Diet and Phytonutrients
Plants and their phytonutrients are providers of serious antioxidants and micronutrients; and plant sterols — the floral version of structural cholesterol — are known reducers of ”bad” (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream. The soluble fiber in a plant-based diet also adds bulk without adding calories.
This leads to satiety (that helpful feeling of fullness which fiber confers) and a resulting lower intake of food while eating. That can mean weight loss. Soluble plant fiber also binds with bile acids in the small intestine, literally helping the liver to pull cholesterol out of the bloodstream.
Among other things, this means you feel fuller after eating and are less likely to sneak back into the darkened kitchen to hastily grab — and flee with — the cookies you hid earlier. By the way, the hefty trail of cookie crumbs left behind by your ninja-like stealth gave your post-dinner secret away a long time ago. Just sayin'.
What Plant-Based Foods Help Your Metabolism?
Ginger’s Thermic Effect Keeps the Digestive Burn Going
Ginger’s powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects are well-documented. But ginger also helps reduce BMI and insulin levels, and research further shows that ginger increases metabolism. How? Through its apparent extension of the thermic affect. When we are digesting our food, a couple things happen.
You retrieve a blanket (or ”blankie” depending on the setting) and a pillow, send the dinner guests home early, and curl up on your couch and drift away. This is called post-prandial fatigue, and is a sign your digestion is working overtime.
The other physio-phenomenon is called thermogenesis, also known as, yes, the thermic effect. Our bodies actually have to expend energy to burn our food. Let’s say you eat 200 calories worth of protein. Your body is going to burn somewhere between 40 and 70 of those calories just digesting and metabolizing the protein.
Ginger’s active ingredient is gingerol (not making this up), which is similar in chemical structure to capsaicin, the stuff that makes chili peppers intolerable in mixed company. So ginger actually extends and prolongs the thermic effect, causing your bod to burn even more “resting” calories as you digest. Add a little ginger to your diet and you’ll be burning a few more cals a day just by being you.
Oregano Modulates Your Fat Synthesis
Oregano is an herb we all know and love. Or most of us do, anyway. Its phenol carvacrol is what give oregano its signature scent.
But carvacrol (who names these things?) is also thought to help with weight loss and weight management.
Researchers believe carvacrol works by triggering proteins responsible for controlling fat synthesis and metabolism.
Oregano’s anti-inflammatory, pain mitigation properties mean you will also be able to work out a little longer before you feel the full body achy-breaky of your regimen.
Cumin, I’m Assumin’?
Yes, cumin. Cumin is loaded in phytosterols. These are plant compounds known to slow the absorption of cholesterol in the body. How?
Phytosterols are actually indistinguishable from cholesterol in your intestines, so your plumbing will often absorb the phytosterol instead of the harmful lipid it mimics. Downside? It makes your intestine feel stupid for having been so easily duped, so you will likely need to have a positive reinforcement sit-down with your insecure intestine afterwards.
Cumin, like other “hot” spices, also prolongs the thermic effect, causing your system to burn more calories during digestion than it normally would.
Turmeric and the Mellow Yellow Fire Down Below
Turmeric — known by the hastier readers among us as “Tumeric” — is another spice that sets a helpful little bonfire down there in the furnace room of your digestive wonderland. But turmeric also comes with a side order of other benefits.
The curcumin in turmeric (no relation to cumin) is showing great promise as a possible mitigator of the Beta-amyloid plaques that typify the onset of Alzheimer’s, and turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are likewise thought to push back against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognition issues.
Plant-Based Diet and Your Engine
It seems strange that eating a plant-based diet can have such dramatic effects on such things as weight loss and caloric burn.