Plant-Powered Health: How Going Green Can Supercharge Your Well-Being

September 15, 2023

In recent years, more Americans have moved toward plant-based eating. Whether driven by ethical, environmental or health concerns, more people are embracing a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and beans. Beyond being a sustainable choice, plant-based eating offers many health benefits, both mental and physical. We’ll delve into the numerous advantages with insights from our experts, Registered Dietitian Lauren Zimmerman and Psychiatrist Kelly HolesLewis, MD. 

What is a Plant-Based Diet? 

Plant-based diets are more than fruits and vegetables; they also include nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. On a plant-based diet, meat and dairy can still be eaten, but most food comes from plant sources. 

Improved Heart Health 

“A plant-based diet is a heart-healthy choice,” Zimmerman said. “It’s associated with lower rates of heart disease due to its lower levels of saturated fats and cholesterol in addition to all the protective compounds it provides.”  

Plant-based foods are rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants and potassium, reducing the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances on artery walls.  

Mental Health and Cognitive Benefits 

“Plant-based diets are linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety, likely due to mood-boosting nutrients like folate, phytonutrients, antioxidants and reduction in inflammation,“ Holes-Lewis said. 

These diets may also protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, preserving cognitive function. 

Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases 

“Beyond heart disease, plant-based diets that are high in fiber, low in fat and rich with phytochemicals lower the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and certain cancers,” Holes-Lewis said. 

The abundance of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and phytonutrients in plant foods combats oxidative stress and inflammation, reducing the risk of developing these conditions. 

Enhanced Digestive Health 

“Dietary fiber in plant foods promotes digestive health, preventing constipation and supporting a healthy gut microbiome, Zimmerman said.  

Fiber also reduces the risk of digestive disorders such as diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Increased Energy and Vitality 

The high intake of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients a plant-based diet provides, fuels the body with essential and protective nutrients that can enhance overall vitality.  

We see in The Blue Zones, where people are living long healthy lives, that their diet is plant-based and they cook most of the food they eat. This really speaks to the protective and supportive nature of this way of eating,” Zimmerman said.  

Weight Management 

Plant-based diets can support weight management by promoting feelings of fullness and reducing calorie intake, Holes-Lewis said. 

These diets are high in fiber, lower in calories and saturated fats, and increase metabolism, making it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  

Better Skin and Hair Health 

“Plant-based diets promote healthier skin and hair through the abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, Zimmerman said. 

Nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene boost collagen production, reduce signs of aging and improve skin’s radiance. 


Modern Minds with MUSC Health

Synchronicity is a subsidiary of Modern Minds, a non-profit organization dedicated to treating and empowering mental health and wellbeing. We often partner together to offer truly integrative care for Modern Minds clients, Synchronicity members and the greater Lowcountry community.