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Switching to a plant-based diet can have more benefits than just weight loss. In fact, including more whole foods and greens in your diet can help reverse some chronic diseases and also play an important role in disease prevention.

Food for thought

When structuring your diet, you want to think about foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. These food items can help lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol, therefore helping to prevent or manage diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Visiting a lifestyle medicine specialist can help you get on track when starting your new diet. He or she will be able to create a lifestyle plan that works for you and assess your family history to best determine what diseases you should be proactive in preventing.

Foods to include

Your plant-based diet should include non-starchy vegetables, legumes, fresh fruit and nuts. These are disease-fighting foods that are easy to incorporate into your daily meals.

Good vegetable choices include broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions and peppers. When in doubt, go green and leafy.

For energy, you should also eat legumes as a source of carbohydrates. These include beans, lentils, peas and other foods rich in B-group vitamins. Regularly eating legumes can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes and colon cancer.

Nuts also have many health benefits. They provide the body with healthy fat and have anti-inflammatory effects that can lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

Lastly, fresh fruits like berries, citrus and tomatoes work as antioxidants and can help prevent heart disease and some cancers.

Foods to avoid

There are many foods that should be avoided due to their role in contributing to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.The main culprits usually include excess salt, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat and simple carbohydrates. Examples are fried foods like French fries and potato chips, sugary drinks like soda and meals centered on bread, like pizza and pasta.

Instead of eating junk food and sugary snacks, opt for plant-based items that are filling, like beans or vegetables. If you are really craving a sweet treat, eat a small piece of fruit or dark chocolate.

If you are interested in adopting a plant-based diet, visit a lifestyle medicine specialist for more information.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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