Do opt for plant-based diet, just like Team USA

Do opt for plant-based diet, just like Team USA
By Anuradha Sawhney Aug 11 2016
Tags: Leisure Writing
The OLympic fever is on. The world is watching with bated breath as top class athletes’ battle it out for a gold, silver and bronze. I am for sure! Everyone must have read about the doping allegations that some athletes have faced. Not sure why people don’t realise that they don’t need external boosts like steroids and their ilk to do well. Diet helps. Don’t believe me? Read on then.

A few top athletes from the USA have asked for seven dietary guidelines for a healthy gut, which include building meals around plant-based foods, recommendations for fibre and prebiotics intake and avoiding red meat and high-fat foods. Gut health is important for athletic performance, immune function, and disease prevention.

The seven dietary guidelines, modelled by Team USA athletes April Ross, Venus and Serena Williams, and Kendrick Farris, are as follows:

First, they recommend building meals around plant-based foods: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. This plant-based foundation supports symbiosis, or microbial harmony, in our gut. A thriving microbiota helps maximise absorption of nutrients and vitamins, while regulating immune function, inflammation, hormones, mood, and behaviour.

Additionally, one should aim to consume at least 50 to 55gm of fibre each day. Historic populations consumed nearly three to four times as much fibre as we do today. The average American today consumes 16 gm of fibre. Increasing dietary fibre intake by at least 14gm a day is associated with a 10 per cent decrease in net energy intake.

We should consume at least 5 to 8 gm of plant-based prebiotics each day. This is easy to accomplish with two cups of leafy greens or a half-cup serving of beans. Good sources include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole wheat, beans, bananas, oats, and soybeans.

Adding of fermented foods, or probiotics, to our diet is important. Dietary sources for these include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, water kefir and kombucha.

One should avoid red meat, high-fat dairy products, fried foods, food additives and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs include proteins and fats exposed to high heat and sugar molecules, like sausage links and candy bars.

It is important to limit fat intake. Especially if you have or are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Instead, opt for healthful sources, including an ounce of nuts or seeds or a small amount of avocado.

One should use antibiotics only when necessary and avoid using for viral illnesses. Overexposure to antibiotics destroys good gut bacteria, along with the bad.

According to, we can manipulate our dietary choices to create colonies where beneficial bacteria flourish. Whether one wants to treat diabetes, reduce the risk of a heart attack or bolster athletic performance, one can start by building meals around colourful, plant-based foods.

The microbiota includes 1,000 different species and weighs 4 to 6 pounds. What we eat feeds beneficial bacteria that respond to changes in just 24 hours. This influences both immune function and our risk for chronic disease.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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