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Do plant-based diets really work? | New U November

Plant-based diets are all the rage now as Americans want to live longer, healthier lives. We spoke to an expert to learn more about the trend.

PHOENIX — It’s New U November on Today in AZ and we’re sharing the secrets to living your best life. You’ll see and hear lots of ideas for how to live to be 100 years old, but we went to an expert to find out what really works.

Plant-based diets are all the rage now as Americans want to live longer, healthier lives. Dr. Shad Marvasti, Director of Public Health, Prevention and Health Promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix tells 12 News there’s no question, food choice can make or break longevity.

“The biggest problem in America is the standard American diet, which is sad," Marvasti explained. "It's 64 percent processed food or as I like to call it ‘Franken food.’” 

Dr. Shad has extensively researched cultures around the world that have the highest numbers of centenarians sometimes called Blue Zones. So, what do they have in common?

“In most cases around the world in Blue Zones, 95 percent or more of them eat essentially a plant based or pescatarian diet," Marvasti said. "What does pescatarian mean? It's essentially mostly plants, but then adding in wild seafood because of the healthy fats. If they have meat, it's usually only two or three ounces a couple times a week or less often than that. Really, it’s like a condiment, almost like a special treat.”

Here’s some food for thought: Marvasti said there is a direct link between processed foods and cancer as well as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Many of us are living life on the go, which often means our food choices can suffer the consequences. A popular TikTok trend right now is “Nature’s Cereal” which is fruit floating in coconut water.  

Marvasti gives it the thumbs up over many high fat, high sugar breakfast cereals.

“I recommend a bowl of berries every day to all my patients including my diabetes patients because berries don't raise your blood sugar," Marvasti suggested. "They're full of antioxidants. They help to prevent heart attacks, strokes, dementia, cancer. So, having berries and coconut water, I think it's actually great.” 

Marvasti added the only thing that would make this treat better is a sprinkling of nuts and seeds. He also said raw nuts and seeds like almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds are good because they will add healthy fat and protein to make it a complete meal.

Your social media feed is probably full of so-called tips and tricks to weight loss and diet all in an effort to live longer and stronger. Marvasti said too often people go for drastic measures that only set us up for failure. 

“I always tell any patient when they're making any lifestyle changes to start low and go up slow and build incrementally so that that change is lasting,” he said.

As we get ready to sit down for our holiday dinners, you may want to try a Japanese way of life that includes eating until you’re 80 percent full. 

“One of the best things to do is actually eat for the first five or 10 minutes slowly, enjoying each piece of your food. Then wait," Marvasti said. "Once you've eaten half of the portion size of whatever plate you have, wait another 20 minutes before you eat more. When you wait, your body actually catches up to recognize that you're no longer hungry.” 

This is just one small change that can make a big difference. Marvasti said besides diet, healthy relationships, regular exercise, stress management and adequate sleep are just as important in achieving the longevity you desire.

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