Going Plant-Based for Your Health: Lifestyle Risks Drop Fast

by Karen Pullen

At the risk of sounding like a broken record…wait, that idiom is based on a disappearing technology! 

OK, I do repeat the same message each month in this column. Eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the best way to reduce your risks of the lifestyle diseases that plague our nation: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Does it take a long time to turn your health around? No. You can experience rapid, profound changes with this kind of dietary 180. 

If, however, you take your time making it to 100 percent plant-based, changes will be milder and take longer.

Important! If you are on medication, let your doctor know that you are changing your diet.

Within 1–2 days: Symptoms of diabetes will be easier to manage

Within a few days of starting a whole-food, plant-based diet, you may be able to significantly reduce your insulin dose or medication. Reminder: talk to your doctor about changes in medication.

In 3–4 days: You’ll start heading to the bathroom more regularly

Because only plants contain fiber, your bowel movements will become more regular after eating whole plant-based foods. You’ll also alter the bacteria in your gut to a healthier mix.

Within 1 week: Your cholesterol will be lower

Plant foods have zero cholesterol and generally have a much lower saturated fat content, except for palm and coconut oils, which should be avoided if your goal is to lower cholesterol. A total immersion into a whole-food plant diet, by adding fiber, can result in a rapid drop in your total cholesterol. 

Within 1 week: Your blood pressure may drop back to normal

A single week of eating a totally plant diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can often allow medications to be reduced, under the doctor’s supervision. The one caveat: if you eat a processed ‘junk’ vegan diet, your blood pressure may not respond at all.

Within 1–2 weeks: You’ll get slimmer, especially if you avoid sugar

In studies, the average weight loss after transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet is about a pound a week. Some people, though, may lose two or three pounds a week, if they also stay off the simple carbs and sweets. (Remember, plant-based does not mean Oreos and Mountain Dew but whole foods.) 

Within 1 month: Your complexion will improve

People who adopt a plant-only diet experience a clearer complexion. When you eliminate animal products, especially dairy, you’re reducing your intake of pro-inflammatory foods, which tend to cause acne.

Within 1 year: Your arteries will be less clogged

Clogged arteries have a major consequence: heart attacks and strokes. Yet if you’re consistent about eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, that clogging and hardening is stopped in its tracks. The longer you stay plant-based, the more your blood vessels can recover. What was once narrowing and constricting healthy blood flow begins to open up, in some cases. So, year after year, your heart disease or symptoms can actually reverse themselves.

This recipe for Irresistible Bean Dip calls for black salt, or kala namak. It adds an eggy flavor. Try the dip with crunchy baked tortilla chips. 

Irresistible Bean Dip Recipe

For the dip:

1 can white beans, either navy or cannellini (1 1/2 cups)

2  tablespoons lemon juice

2  teaspoons miso

 1/4 teaspoon black salt (or regular table salt)

1 tablespoon tahini or almond butter

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 tablespoon water

For the tortilla chips:

12 corn tortillas (look for those with minimal oil)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon chili powder


Combine all the dip ingredients in a small food processor, and puree until smooth. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tortillas with lime juice, sprinkle with chili powder. Cut each into six wedges and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes until golden brown.

Karen Pullen gives live plant-based cooking demos on her Facebook page,
Everyday Plant-Based, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at noon.