The seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion, businesswoman and an all-rounder American icon Venus Williams follows a plant-based diet!

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It is not an exaggeration to say Venus Williams who went pro at the age of 14, has changed the face of tennis. She is regarded as one of the greatest sportspersons in women’s tennis. But in the year 2011, her tennis career almost came to a grinding halt as she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. After a series of injuries and below par performances, Venus announced that she was suffering from an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome. The condition severely hindered her athletic performance, ultimately causing her to withdraw from the 2011 U.S. Open in the second round

In an interview she mentioned that she experienced breathing difficulty, dry eye, as well as crushing joint pain and fatigue. For almost six years, she kept suffering and no medication worked for her. But to everyone’s surprise Williams was able to step back onto the court in the year 2017 with her newfound strength. She made to the Australian Open final and reached a world ranking of 7.

Venus gives all the credit to the plant-based diet she adopted after her disease diagnosis, following which she experienced huge improvements in her general health and subsequently she could return to her sports.

Let’s first understand what Sjögren’s syndrome is and then we will discuss how going raw vegan helped Venus fight this condition.

Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease, in which the body’s own immune system starts attacking the healthy cells and tissues. Though it affects many different parts of the body, but most often affected are the tear and saliva glands. Sjögren’s syndrome can occur at any age, but is common in patients above 45 years of age. It is more common in women than men.

Patients with this condition may experience irritation, a gritty feeling or painful burning in the eyes, dryness in the mouth and swelling of the glands around the face and neck. Fatigue, and muscle and joint pains are also seen in more than 80% of people with the syndrome.

The exact cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is not clear. Studies suggest that genetic factors and possibly viral infections may predispose people to develop this condition. In some cases, Sjogren’s syndrome also develops as a complication of other autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Sjögren’s syndrome is considered as an incurable disease as per current scientific knowledge. So, people with this condition have to learn to live with it, deal with its symptoms and keep taking symptomatic treatment.

Now let’s see how Venus William fought it!

Venus Turning to Plant-Based Foods

“I started eating raw and vegan for health reasons,” Venus tells Women’s Health. 

After getting diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, Venus begin to follow a raw plant-based diet as per her doctor’s advice. 

A raw plant-based diet excludes all animal based products and foods that are cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. It includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as sprouted beans and grains which are soaked in water and are consumed raw. The diet excludes vegetable oils as they contain omega-6 fatty acids which can cause inflammation.

Various studies support that autoimmune disorders can be better managed well with a raw food diet. These raw foods are packed with the essential nutrients, which can help reduce inflammation and hence improve autoimmune conditions aggravated by it. Raw plant-based diet also boosts digestion, balances blood sugar levels and helps maintain overall health. 

With proper diet and treatment, her body starts healing itself. 

Williams’ diet plan

According to her recent interviews, Venus prefers light breakfast as she trains in the morning. She prefers taking fruits or a protein shake as her breakfast. Her lunch and dinner options usually vary based on her schedules. Lunch options vary from sweet potatoes and rice to a green smoothie. Venus loads her snacks with greens, veggies or energy bars. For dinner she prefers salads especially vegan Caesar salads as they are super easy to prepare. Recently, Venus added cooked foods such as potatoes, rice, and lentils in a healthy way to get sufficient carbohydrates and protein to meet her calorie requirements as an athlete.

Even at of 40, Venus Williams continues to be a tennis superstar and inspires millions of girls and boys across the world even beyond the tennis courts. 

“I started for health reasons. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.”

  • Venus Williams

Reference:

  1. Venus Williams: Plant-based diet changed my life.
    https://www.clearlyveg.org/blog/2017/01/16/venus-williams-plant-based-diet-changed-my-life/
    Accessed on: 26-11-2020.

  2. Vegan Tennis Players.
    https://www.peta.org.au/living/worlds-top-plant-powered-tennis-stars/
    Accessed on: 26-11-2020.

  3. Plant-Based Tennis Star Venus Williams Through To Wimbledon Final.
    https://plantbasednews.org/culture/plant-based-vegan-tennis-venus-williams-wimbledon-final/
    Accessed on: 26-11-2020.
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