The term plant-based is a word used to describe a diet that focuses on real, unprocessed plant foods, including vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, as well as small amounts of plant oils (e.g. extra virgin olive oil).
Animal foods, including meats, seafood, chicken, eggs and dairy, are kept to a minimal or completely excluded.
Highly processed foods, such as white sugars, white/refined flours and highly-refined oils are also completely excluded.
Plant-based diets are rich in fibre, water and antioxidants, all of which promote healthy digestion through a number of physiological processes.
FIBRE is the part of plant foods that does not completely digest after we eat it. Fibre keeps our bowel movements regular, our intestinal tract healthy, and our gut microflora (bacteria) flourishing. Fibre is only found in plant foods.
Soluble fibre, found in oats, legumes, seeds, fruits and vegetables, forms soft gels in our bowels which helps to increase the mass of our stools.
Insoluble fibre, found in the skin and husks of vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, absorbs water, which bulks and softens our stools, making them easier to pass.
Prebiotic fibres, found in onions, garlic, legumes, wheat, barley, green bananas and stone fruits, promote the growth and diversity of our gut flora. This is significant because healthy gut flora are essential for various gut functions including: assisting further food digestion; immune function; as well as contributing to healthy bowel motions.
Your stools are actually made predominantly of dead and alive bacteria. Healthy stools contain water (up to 75%), bacteria (up to 60%) and some undigested food materials, particularly fibre. If you do not consume enough fibre, including the particular different types, your digestion can become compromised, and you further increase your risk for various health conditions such as constipation and colorectal cancer.
ANTIOXIDANTS, particularly Vitamin C, play an important role in digestion, including their function of protecting the digestive tract from various diseases.
Vitamin C, found only in plant-based foods, with rich sources including capsicum, brussels sprouts, berries, kiwi fruit and citrus, is particularly required for connective tissue synthesis. Connective tissue makes up a very important layer of your digestive tract lining. Further to this, Vitamin C helps to neutralise and get rid of free radicals that form within your digestive tract. Free radicals cause cell damage and can increase the risk for digestive conditions, including irritable gut, inflammation, malabsorption, and colon cancers.
Plant-based diets are rick in Vitamin C and numerous other antioxidants.
MAGNESIUM, a mineral found in rich amounts in plant-based foods, including oats, pepitas, avocados and legumes, assists in the contraction and relaxation of muscles lining the digestive tract.
Digestive muscle contractions are critical for the digestive process known as peristalsis. This is the bodily function that crushes your food into smaller amounts and pushes it through the various sections of your digestive tract, allowing for proper digestion, as well as efficient stool transit.
BY CONSUMING A PLANT-BASED DIET that includes a variety of plant-based wholefoods, you will not only be obtaining rich amounts of fibre, water, antioxidants and magnesium, all of which support optimal digestion, but you will also be limiting/avoiding animal and processed foods that can hinder digestion and increase the risk of digestive conditions.
EAT MORE PLANTS.