Optimal Health Through A Plant-Based Diet

Every time we eat, we make a decision — to fuel our health or feed a disease.

According to Marco Borges, an exercise physiologist and New York Times bestselling author, America has a health care crisis. Instead of practicing health care, we practice sick care.

“We wait for someone to get gravely ill and treat them with medication,” Borges explains, “but we don’t treat the cause of the malady.”

At a New York City YPO chapter meeting in May, Borges shared his findings on the benefits of a plant-based diet. He has spent the past 20 years as a lifestyle coach, empowering people with tools for ultimate wellness. Here are some insights on the salient features and benefits of a plant-based diet from Borges’s latest book, Greenprint.

1. A plant-based diet is not a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Eating plant-based foods means eating 100 percent plants – grains, vegetables and fruits. A vegetarian diet, on the other hand, includes cheese, eggs and dairy. A vegan diet may include overly processed foods.

Borges recommends eating organic plant-based foods. Doing so ensures consuming a higher concentration of nutrients and antioxidants while avoiding exposure to pesticides

2. Eating plant-based foods supports weight loss and leads to a healthier heart.

It’s possible to lose up to a pound a day when you cut out the preservatives, additives and unhealthy fats in processed food. You’ll enjoy more energy and lessen hunger pangs and sugar cravings. In addition, eating healthy unsaturated fats – nuts, seeds, avocados and other whole foods – can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which keeps your heart healthy.

3. Fiber found in plant-based foods naturally detoxifies the body.

Fiber is found only in plant-based foods. Soluble fiber, like oats, legumes and apples, act like a sponge, soaking up excess cholesterol, fat and toxins in the body. Insoluble fiber, found mostly in the skins and husks of plant food, works like a scrub brush, scouring the digestive tract. Detoxifiers include garlic, onions, fruits, green tea, whole grains, greens, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beets, walnuts, avocados and okra.

A diet rich in fiber also can help prevent acne, bowel diseases, colon cancer, gallstones, strokes and Type 2 diabetes.

4. A plant-based diet that includes intermittent fasting can accelerate weight loss and reverse aging.

By intermittent fasting, Borges suggests limiting the hours you eat to eight, followed by 16 hours of fasting. This approach has been found to slow the aging process, reduce inflammation in the body, accelerate the healing process, stimulate the brain, and strengthen the immune system. Freeing the body from digestion during the 16 hours of fasting can trigger important cellular repair processes. For example, if you have dinner at 18:00, and wait until 10:00 the next day to eat breakfast, your body had 16 hours to burn fat.

5. A plant-based diet is an environmentally sustainable way to live.

Borges says a meat-based diet requires greater land and water resources than an organic vegan diet, which has the smallest environmental impact. Beef production requires up to 100 calories of grain to produce four calories of meat. Animal farming is considered a major contributor to climate change, discharging more than 100 million tons of methane gas. In addition, Borges believes that more food would be available to people if it were not used to feed farm animals.

6. It’s OK to transition to a plant-based diet slowly.

For many, the thought of giving up red meat and other animal-based foods is distressing. Borges recommends taking small steps, focusing on kaizen, Japanese for ‘good change through small, incremental improvements.’ For instance, he suggests, you could try meatless Mondays for a month. If you feel better, then consider expanding it out a few more days.


The Bottomline

Peter Kash, a YPO member and Co-Founder of Targimmune Therapeutics, believes in spreading awareness about the topic. He’s been a pescatarian for the last 18 years.

“My diet has controlled my weight,” says Kash. “Not eating red meat has helped me not just biologically but also on a philosophical level. It has been proven that this kind of diet can help extend aging. For instance, herbivores and omnivores live statistically longer than carnivores.”

David Barse, a YPO member and CEO of DMB holdings, says he found the talk informative, but challenging as he is rather fond of meat.

“The paradox is that when we get diagnosed with a terrible illness and have to convert our nutrition for medical reasons, we would do it,” Barse acknowledges. “But Borges’s point was to eat plant-based now to prevent getting sick. I lost my father to stomach cancer, so of all people I should be altering my diet.”

Borges is the founder and CEO of 22 Days Nutrition, a plant-based lifestyle solutions company. He appears regularly on U.S. TV morning shows as a nutritional expert.

Ramaa Reddy is a journalist who works in a multimedia landscape that fuses print, audio, video and photography. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and her work has appeared in Lena Dunham's Women of the Hour podcast, the BBC, Huffington Post, NPR, PRI's the World and WHYY. In 2019, Reddy started a travel and food blog called Venturetraveller.com, and in 2020 she will be teaching a food and blogging course at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA.