The 20 Benefits of the Healthy, Plant-Based Lifestyle I Harvest Every Day

Farmer Fred, Bailey, and his grandson building a block tower

Farmer Fred, Bailey, and his grandson building a block tower

I strive to be a positive person. One of the major reasons why I run Plant-Smart Living is to help show people how they can change their lives for the better – regardless of their age. Through much of my life, I lived a poor lifestyle. That is not to say I was lacking happiness at different points, but over time as obesity and other health conditions started to significantly impact me, I became more depressed as a result of being unable to do the things I love with ease. When my first grandson was born, I could hardly keep up with his desire to run around the yard and play with his toys. This was one of the main things that caused me to want to make the change to a healthier, plant-based lifestyle. It has been almost 4 years now on this road, and while it is not always easy, I harvest success from the choices I make every day. 

I hope these 20 benefits of living a health conscious life will help motivate you to work towards bettering yourself. These are 20 benefits I see in my personal life, maybe you will see some similar (or different) ones? 

Because of my healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle, I am able to - 

1). Live longer. One of the most critical things I think about is how living a healthier lifestyle rooted in a whole foods, plant-based diet is allowing me to live a longer life. Just a few years ago I would have expected to die young, but I feel full of energy and very much alive right now. Of course, the length of the life is not nearly as important as the quality, and at this time I am happy to say I have a quality life as well. As I just saw my 2nd grandson born to my daughter Julie, I am glad I am able to be around for these new lives entering the world, and hope to be around for more to come from my other, now grown up, children. 

2). Look and feel younger. While a plant-based diet is not going to make a 60 year old look like they are 16, this diet paired with a healthy lifestyle will lead to a 60 year old not looking their age. A decrease in wrinkles and other signs of aging is common in really healthy folks. Most important to me is the actual feeling of vitality I have. When I am outside tending to my garden, or canoeing across the lake at my local Green Lane State Park, I have noticed that I just don’t feel abnormally tired or sluggish. I feel capable of doing these things, and get full enjoyment out of being able to do them without feeling like an old man in the process.

3). Lose weight. Looking at pictures of myself now, it is hard to believe that only a few years ago I was significantly overweight. Obesity is an epidemic in the Western world, with the highest rates being in the USA and Mexico. A number of factors have contributed to this, including the Standard American Diet (consisting largely of processed fast food) and a decrease in activity level in exchange for sedentary activities like playing video games and watching movies.

For myself, I was addicted to unhealthy foods, which would feed a vicious cycle of self-loathing and depression. This, in turn, led to a lack of desire for living life to its fullest. After making the change to adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet, I began to naturally find myself shedding weight, and becoming a healthier person in the process. By having more energy and less weight to carry around, I became able to enjoy natural exercise much more. These days, especially during the colder months of the year, I also go to the gym to supplement my exercise routine. In total, I have lost 65 pounds and feel the best I have in years.

Related: The 24 Biggest Lies About Weight Loss You Need to Know About!

4). Lower my blood cholesterol. Just a few years ago, my blood serum cholesterol level reached as high as the high 200's mg/dL. Today, at its lowest point, my blood serum cholesterol has been in the 120s mg/dL - one of my last readings was at 129 mg/dl. The power of a healthy lifestyle is hard to deny with these hard statistics. They will forever be embedded in my brain. I have also been able to come off of my cholesterol medications as a result. This is a powerful change that could impact many people.

5). Prevent and reverse heart disease. In his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn discusses how one can virtually heart-attack proof themselves by keeping their blood serum cholesterol below 150 mg/dL. In fact, this "150" number can be seen echoed by several other plant-based doctors, such Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Neal Barnard. Given that heart disease is a leading cause of death - and specifically makes up 25% of deaths in the United States each year - it is a beautiful thing to have such a simple prevention method readily available.

6). Lower my risk of prostate, breast and other cancers. While treatment for cancer is not always reliable, most cancers are preventable. Did you know? As much as 80% of cancers are due to already identified factors, and as a result can be prevented before the disease even takes hold. Any good prevention will be simply designed to maximize value. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a key component of cancer prevention is a diet rooted in a lot of vegetables and soluble fiber.

All the evidence points to a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, as being the best for cancer prevention. Not surprisingly, vegetarians, whose diets easily meet these requirements, are at the lowest risk for cancer. Vegetarians have about half the cancer risk of meat-eaters.
— Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

7). Preserve my eyesight in later years. Dr. Michael Greger (author of How Not to Die) runs the website Nutrition Facts with the intention of bringing more scientific literature to the forefront of diet discussions. If you ask me, this is a very "plant-smart" approach to diet. One piece of content in particular - Preserving Vision Through Diet - provides evidence for how a plant-based diet can impact the preservation of eyesight over time. The best part? A direct comparison through a rigorous study detailing the different between "meat-eaters" and vegetarians/vegans. It revealed that those with a plant-based diet had 20% - 40% lower risk for cataracts.

8). Prevent and cure diabetes. Diabetes comes in multiple forms, often referred to as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is less common, and often considered the result of genetics. However, like many genetic traits that are passed from parents to child, it is possible to live a healthy lifestyle and counteract this gene displaying itself. Type 2 diabetes is more strictly linked to poor health, and usually becomes displayed in overweight and obese adults. While Type 2 diabetes is the most preventable, a plant-based diet offers solutions for both forms, especially if measures are taken to "prevent" instead of "cure." Of course, it should go without saying, if you do happen to end up diagnosed with diabetes, and have avoidable health problems such as obesity, a whole food, plant-based diet can be a solution to help you lose weight and reclaim your natural insulin producing capabilities - thus defeating diabetes once and for all!

9). Avoid surgery in many instances. As we get older, our likelihood to need a major surgery increases. Sometimes it is just unavoidable for reasons beyond our control, but there are simple preventive measures we can take regardless of our age. As I have shown, well into my 60’s I have made a change towards a whole foods, plant-based diet and paired it with a good amount of exercise. I have avoided major surgery, and I expect I can keep them away by continuing down this path of health awareness.

10). Vastly decrease the need for pharmaceutical drugs. These days, there seems to be a pill for everything. Medications are used to treat everything from the common cold to anxiety and depression to blood pressure. It’d be a surprise if you were not prescribed some medication at some point in your life. An extension of this industry is the herbal supplement industry, which is far less regulated, but still makes many claims to have found a “miracle cure.” I do not want to say that there are not cases where medications and supplements can’t be useful, or even necessary, but I will say that, for myself, the cure lies in simply changing my lifestyle. Through diet and exercise I have seen many ailments cured. Ailments for which I once took medications, and for which numerous medications have been created and sold at high costs.

11). Keep my bones strong. While advertisements from the milk industry may make you think otherwise, milk is not the only source of calcium, a leading nutrient required to maintain and increase bone density. Most fruits and vegetables have some level of calcium that they provide to you, with green leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and Romaine lettuce providing it in large amounts. Given that these veggies are a significant part of my diet, I have no concern of lacking in calcium supplementation. Of course, strong bones are not just dependent on calcium, there are other nutrients required - all of which can be derived from plant-based foods (yes, including B12 through fortified vegan foods). Not to mention, the value added from exercise is also a necessity.

Related: Why Milk Life Should Not Be a Sponsor of the 2016 Summer Olympics

12). Avoid impotence. Impotence is an important topic few seem to talk about. Sure, we see plenty of advertisements for “the blue pill” and other supplements, but these are hardly a real discussion of the problem. Impotence can effect anyone, both male and female, just in different ways (as you might expect). As a man, it is especially hard to deal with because having an intimate relationship with my wife is important to me. For some time, I experienced symptoms of this health problem, but they have been entirely reversed by a healthy, plant-based diet and exercise. This is a simple case where the pharmaceutical drug industry has opted to replace natural change – even when it is completely unnecessary. As you might imagine, I am far happier without this condition plaguing my life.

13). Avoid stroke. I have seen friends live through having a stroke, and it is not a pretty sight. It hardly seems like living when you become so limited in terms of movement and mental ability. One friend in particular comes to mind who was a great guy, but had made poor lifestyle choices. Some were pushed on him since birth, such as his fat and carb heavy Italian food diet by his parents, but it’s important to remember one simple thing: we all have a choice in what we eat, and what we do. It is great to see that he has made an almost full recovery since his stroke a few years ago, but watching as he went through rehab to learn how to walk again, regain muscle control, and do mental exercises just to start thinking like he once did is incredible, and not something I want to experience in my life.

14). Prevent kidney stones. Often considered more painful than childbirth, I am glad to be rid of high risk foods that are directly connected to kidney stone growth such as carbonated soda. Making simple changes from soda to water, tea, and organic fruit juices have done a tremendous job in helping me avoid the pitfalls of an unhealthy diet. If you have never experienced kidney stones, be glad! I would not wish the pain on my worst enemy!

15). Play actively with my grandsons. One of the major reasons I changed my lifestyle was so I could be around for my grandson Hunter. His younger brother was just born a few weeks ago, and this stands true to be around for Benjamin too. As a grandfather, I want to do more than just be around for these kids, I also want to be able to be active and engage with them. This is a great way to bond, and a great way to model good behavior, good diet, and a healthy life for them as well. I have spent a lot of time with Hunter over the years, and have shown him a lot with my garden. He seems to enjoy it, even though he is only 3 years old. I hope he will continue to enjoy it, and follow in my footsteps to live a healthy life too.

16). Lower my blood pressure. At its lowest reading--and, a reading that I have maintained being near since adopting a WFPB lifestyle--my blood pressure was 110/70. Having learned the severe implications of having high blood pressure, leveraging food as a medicine has allowed me to gain a new lease on life by no longer being at risk for conditions such as stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease - all conditions interconnected with blood pressure readings.

17). Alleviate constipation. Like impotence, no one really wants to talk about feeling bloated and unable to go to the bathroom. But, also like impotence, it is something that impacts many of us throughout our lives at one point or another. My plant-based diet provides me with plenty of fiber, far more than you would typically get on the Standard American Diet, that it makes using the restroom a simple and biologically regular process. There is no added stress from this simple to remedy, but sometimes very damaging (and even fatal) condition of incontinence and constipation.

18). Avoid Alzheimer’s. It is natural to forget things from time to time, but downright frightening to have a condition that causes forgetfulness to be the norm. I have seen friends and family go through the process of having Alzheimer’s, or caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s, and it is painful to watch. While research on Alzheimer’s disease is still growing, and it is not completely avoidable, it is becoming well known that there are certain preventive measures that can be taken to bypass the condition altogether. Like so many diseases, simple things like a good diet and exercise can mean a world of change, and decrease the probability of having this condition in later years.

19). Beat arthritis. Although I'm not sure that I ever developed full blown arthritis as I was never officially diagnosed with it, I do recall a time where I suffered from some pain and inflammation in my joints. Having been a self-employed contractor for 40+ years now, this pain, coupled with inflammation, caused a direct impact on my work. In a profession where scaling ladders is a common demand of the jobs I do even to this day, you can likely imagine just how limiting and debilitating the inherent physical limitations associated with the joint pain and inflammation I had experienced were. This has significantly subsided since adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet several years ago.

20). Avoid costly medical visits. There is nothing wrong with going to the doctor if it is necessary, but by living a healthier lifestyle, I have reduced the need to go to the doctor because I have no uncontrollable pain or diseases that need constant attention. More importantly, I save on other emergency medical costs as well, as I am able to control many variables that get out of hand for so many others. Of course, this doesn’t mean a trip to the ER is entirely avoidable, as it’s always possible to step on a rusty nail or trip and fall down a flight of stairs, but it does decrease the likelihood that I will need to go to the ER!

22). Do active things I love like hiking, gardening, and canoeing. I am very much into enjoying the outdoors, and all nature has to offer us. In a past life, I really enjoyed hunting, mostly for the reason to be outside in the early morning. These days, I do not hunt for food or sport due to my newly adopted ethical stance towards the better treatment of animals, but still love taking hikes. These simple pleasures are a core reason why I enjoy my life as much as I do.

Related YouTube Video: Canoe Introduction and Taking the Adventures of Farmer Fred to the Water!

23). Live a happy life. Talking about all the specific things that my diet and lifestyle changes have influenced is important, but at the end of the day when I lay down to go to sleep next to my wife, the most important thing is that I am able to live a happy life. I am able to enjoy the little things, like tea on my patio, getting my hands dirty in my garden, or a casual walk through the woods. It would be difficult to enjoy these things with looming medical appointments and pain associated with so many curable diseases. I remember the days when even a simple walk was difficult because I was carrying around so much extra weight...

24). Inspire others to live a happy, healthy life, too!

One of my real passions in life is Plant-Smart Living, and having the opportunity to connect with many people around the world as I share an optimistic story of hope and transformation. This started by simply informing myself about the benefits of this lifestyle, by reading much online and books like The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall. This has evolved over the years to be more than just a diet. I have a great backyard garden that I sow seeds and reap beautiful vegetables from throughout the year (especially during the summer months). My plant-based diet has enabled me to feel more alive, and as a result I am able to exercise and do things I love, like hiking and canoeing.

Whether your aspirations in life are really large, or just simple like mine, I hope you are able to feel encouraged as you read through this list of 24 benefits of living a health, plant-based lifestyle.  In cannot be denied, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are enormous!

Need a way to kick start a healthier, plant-based diet? Check out The Plant-Smart Living Digital Recipe Guide!