Can a plant based diet improve overall health?

misc image

Can a plant based diet improve overall health?

If you’ve seen me for your hypertension, diabetes, fibromyalgia, or other chronic health conditions-we’ve likely discussed the importance of plant-based foods. It's been proven that adapting to a plant based rich diet can reduce chronic inflammation, lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, lower your blood sugar and is some cases even reverse chronic disease. Overall, improving your health.

Think RAINBOW the next time you’re stocking up on your vegetables at the grocery store. Colorful vegetables are high in antioxidants which can delay or prevent types of cell damage.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a role in the following:

  • Vision

  • Bone growth

  • Reproduction

  • Cell function

  • Immune system

Vitamin A is an important antioxidant It can come from plant or animal sources. Plant sources include colorful fruits and vegetables. Animal sources include liver and whole milk. Vitamin A is also added to foods like cereals. Vegetarians, young children, and alcoholics may need extra Vitamin A. You might also need more if you have certain conditions, such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn's disease.

Vitamin B’s

The B vitamins are

  • B1 (thiamine)

  • B2 (riboflavin)

  • B3 (niacin)

  • B5 (pantothenic acid)

  • B6

  • B7 (biotin)

  • B12

  • Folic acid

These vitamins help the process your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. They also help form red blood cells. You can get B vitamins from proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas also have B vitamins. Many cereals and some breads have added B vitamins. Not getting enough of certain B vitamins can cause diseases. A lack of B12 or B6 can cause anemia.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It is important for your skin, bones, and connective tissue. It promotes healing and helps the body absorb iron.

Vitamin C comes from fruits and vegetables. Good sources include citrus, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and greens. Some juices and cereals have added vitamin C. Some people may need extra vitamin C:

  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women

  • Smokers

  • People recovering from surgery

  • Burn victims

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is one of the main building blocks of bone. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis or rickets. Vitamin D also has a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems.

  • Older adults

  • Breastfed infants

  • People with certain conditions, such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis and Crohn's disease

  • People who have obesity or have had gastric bypass surgery

You can get vitamin D in three ways: through your skin, from your diet, and from supplements. Your body forms vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight. However, too much sun exposure can lead to skin aging and skin cancer. So many people try to get their vitamin D from other sources. Vitamin D-rich foods include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. Some other foods, like milk and cereal, often have added vitamin D.

You can also take vitamin D supplements. Check with your health care provider to see how much you should take. People who might need extra vitamin D include

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant. It plays a role in your immune system and metabolic processes. Good sources of vitamin E include

  • Vegetable oils

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Leafy greens

Most people get enough vitamin E from the foods they eat. People with certain disorders, such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn's disease may need extra vitamin E. Vitamin E supplements may be harmful for people who take blood thinners and other medicines.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps your body by making proteins for healthy bones and tissues. It also makes proteins for blood clotting. If you don't have enough vitamin K, you may bleed too much.

Newborns have very little vitamin K. They usually get a shot of vitamin K soon after they are born.

If you take blood thinners, you need to be careful about how much vitamin K you get. You also need to be careful about taking vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E can interfere with how vitamin K works in your body. Ask your health care provider for recommendations about these vitamins.

There are different types of vitamin K. Most people get vitamin K from plants such as green vegetables, and dark berries. Bacteria in your intestines also produce small amounts of another type of vitamin K.


It is important to get plenty of calcium in the foods you eat. Food's rich in calcium include

  • Non-dairy/dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

  • Leafy, green vegetables

  • Fish with soft bones that you eat, such as canned sardines and salmon

  • Calcium-enriched foods such as breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice drinks, and tofu. Check the product labels.

The exact amount of calcium you need depends on your age and other factors. Growing children and teenagers need more calcium than young adults. Older women need plenty of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. The body stores most of its calcium in the bones and teeth. The rest is throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells. Your body needs calcium to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to assist in sending messages through your nervous system

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body make healthy new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For women who may get pregnant, it is really important. Getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain or spine. Foods with folic acid in them include

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Dried beans, peas, and nuts

  • Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products


Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. It is present in every cell of the body. Most of the phosphorus in the body is found in the bones and teeth. The main function of phosphorus is in the formation of bones and teeth. Phosphorus works with the B vitamins. It also helps with the following:

  • Kidney function

  • Muscle and cardiac health

  • Nerve signaling

Phosphorus plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats. It is also needed for the body to make protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. Phosphorus also helps the body make ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy. Selenium Selenium is a trace mineral. Your body only needs it in small amounts. Selenium helps your body make special proteins, called antioxidant enzymes. These play a role in preventing cell damage. Some research suggests that selenium may help with the following:

  • Prevent certain cancers

  • Protect the body from the poisonous effects of heavy metals and other harmful substances

Selenium is an essential trace mineral. This means your body must get this mineral in the food you eat. Small amounts of selenium are good for your health.


Iodine is a trace mineral and a nutrient found naturally in the body.

Iodine is needed for the cells to change food into energy. Humans need iodine for normal thyroid function, and for the production of thyroid hormones.


Zinc is an important trace mineral that people need to stay healthy. Of the trace minerals, this element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.

Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It is needed for the body's defensive (immune) system to properly work. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.

Zinc is also needed for the senses of smell and taste. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Zinc also enhances the action of insulin.

Talk to your provider about the benefits of a plant based diet.

For additional information you can visit https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-VitaminsMinerals/