After years of reading science journals and doing my own self-experiments, I learned that a whole foods plant-based diet along with meditation are the keys to living with energy and calm, free from pain and disease.
I’ve included some of the latest research below on the benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet and zen meditation to human health, in case you love technical science details and want to read more for yourself.
Whole foods plant-based diet
The trend of studying a whole foods plant-based diet is gaining speed in the world of science. In 2000, only 7 papers were published using the phrase “whole foods plant-based diet”, while in 2020, 54 papers were published in scientific journals on this topic. You’ll find a total of 9,527 papers if you search PubMed for plant-based diet. A few interesting studies:
- One study in Michigan randomized 40 patients with osteoarthritis into eating either a whole foods plant-based diet or their regular diet. After 6 weeks, there were significant improvements in the patients’ energy, pain levels, and ability to function, but only in the plant-based diet group.
- A systematic review of all studies assessing the effect of a plant-based diet on Type 2 Diabetes showed that shifting the diet in this way led to a significant improvement in glycemic control, as measured by a reduction in HbA1c levels compared to a conventional diet. This improvement held after followups at 22 weeks and 72 weeks post-intervention.
- A woman in New Zealand with long-term livedoid vasculopathy (a blood vessel disorder causing painful ulcers and scars on the feet and legs) was successfully treated into remission using only a whole foods plant-based diet, and no other interventions. During phases where she lapsed back into her regular eating habits, her symptoms returned until she resumed the plant-based diet.
- Doctors at Kaiser Permanente have analyzed the mechanism by which a plant-based diet helps protect against coronary artery disease. With a plant-based diet, they see increased endothelial protective factors and reduced factors that injure the endothelial cells. These are the cells that line the vascular system and are progressively damaged in atherosclerosis, due to things like smoking, high meat or fat intake, and oxidative stress. So a plant-based diet protects these important artery linings.
- A comprehensive review of the effect of a plant-based diet rich in polyphenols (citrus fruits, grapes, berries, nuts, etc) on age-related cognitive decline showed that these plant foods can enhance neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, and neuronal survival by reducing oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. This translates to improved cognition, especially frontal executive function.
- A meta-analysis of 96 cross-sectional and cohort prospective studies of plant-based diets on health outcomes found that a vegetarian diet reduced the risk of heart disease by 25% and reduced cancer risk by 8%. A vegan diet, on the other hand, was able to reduce cancer risk by 15%.
Meditation is likewise getting a lot of attention in the science world lately. In 2000, only 70 papers were published about meditation, while in 2020, 765 papers were published in scientific journals on this topic. You’ll find a total of 7,566 papers if you search PubMed for meditation. A few interesting studies:
- Two decades of research papers have found that mindfulness meditation like that practiced at the Plum Village Zen center, where one focuses on one’s breath or parts of the body, has beneficial effects on physical and mental health, including cognitive performance.
- A review of studies looking at mind-body therapies as part of cancer treatment found that these therapies, including meditation, were effective at improving common cancer-related side effects, including nausea and vomiting, pain, fatigue, anxiety, depressive symptoms, decreasing stress hormones and improving overall quality of life.
- Specifically related to Alzheimer’s disease, a meta-study showed that just 12 minutes of meditation each day was able to improve memory in studies of people with cognitive decline or mild cognitive impairment, improve sleep, reduce depression and anxiety, downregulate inflammatory genes, upregulate immune system genes, improve insulin and glucose regulatory genes, and increase telomerase by 43%.