8 Science-Based Health Benefits of the Plant-Based Diet

8 Science-Based Health Benefits of the Plant-Based Diet

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 Plant-based diets are becoming more and more popular around the world. There are several reasons why people choose to eat more plant-based foods. For many, the reason is the health benefits of plant foods.  This article will review 8 science-based benefits of plant foods.

1. The plant-based diet provides high amount of important nutrients

When you eat whole food plant-based foods in the form of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nut, and seeds; you get the highest intake of many important vitamins and minerals. Vegans have the highest intake of fiber, iron, folate, vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, magnesium, and potassium (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Also, vegans have the lowest intake of saturated fat and cholesterol (1). 

It is important to note that vegans who eat a poor diet of processed foods and added sugars tend to eat get fewer nutrients and can develop deficiency of certain nutrients like zinc, calcium, and vitamin D.

2. The plant-based diet is effective for weight loss

Obesity has continued to increase in the US and worldwide. People who desire weight loss are turning to a plant-based diet, and rightfully so. Vegans and vegetarians are generally thinner than meat-eaters. Vegans typically have the lowest body mass index (BMI) (678910, 11). In contrast, body weight tends to increase as the frequency of eating meat increases (12).  

Plant-based diets are very effective for weight loss, even without exercise or calorie restriction  (14, 15, 16, 17, 18). Plant foods contain lower fat, higher water, and higher fiber. Because of this, vegans eat fewer calories even when they eat until they were full (14, 16).  In addition, vegetarians seem to burn more calories at rest (16, 19).

In summary, vegetarian (including vegan) diets reduce body weight. It should be recommended for weight loss.

3. The plant-based effectively lowers blood cholesterol

High blood cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Since there are no symptoms, a large number of adults are not diagnosed and treated (20). Blood cholesterol is much lower in vegetarians, especially vegans, than in meat-eaters (21, 22, 23, 25). In studies, vegans had an amazing 30% lower blood cholesterol than non-vegetarians (24, 25). 

Animal foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which increases blood cholesterol ( 29). Multiple studies have proved that blood cholesterol level can be reduced by up to 32% by simply replacing animal foods with plant foods rich in fiber, soy, and nuts (18, 26, 27, 28, 30)Replacing saturated fat in the diet with plant foods can reduce the risk of heart disease by about 30%, similar to the effect of medications (31). 

Thus, you can reduce your blood cholesterol and your risk of heart disease by eating a plant-based diet.

4. The plant-based diet is good for lowering blood pressure

Many studies show that vegans and vegetarians have lower blood pressures, and a lower rate of hypertension than meat-eaters. In one study, 42% of non-vegetarians had hypertension compared with only 13% of vegetarians. Eating a lot of protein, especially from meat, increases your blood pressure (32).  Because 14% of all deaths are associated with hypertension (33), decreasing your blood pressure will decrease your risk of death (34).

The vegetarian diet, especially vegan diet have effectively decreased blood pressure in many studies (35). Part of the reason is because vegan and vegetarian diets are high in potassium and fiber, and low in saturated fat which all help reduce blood pressure.

In summary, plant based diet is clearly beneficial for lowering blood pressure.

5. The plant-based diet is beneficial for decreasing the risk of heart disease

Heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths (36). Vegans and vegetarians have a 30-40% lower risk of heart disease than non-vegetarians (37, 38).   Additionally, vegetarians with heart disease have a lower rate of death compared to meat-eaters (38, 39, 40).  One of the studies showed that the chance of dying from heart disease was 30% higher in meat-eaters (39).   This is not surprising because vegans and vegetarians have lower cholesterol, lower weight, and lower blood pressure.  All these factors contribute to heart disease and death. 

In summary, the plant-based diet is beneficial for decreasing your risk of heart disease and death.

6. Plant-based diet helps to prevent and control diabetes

On average, vegetarians have a lower rate of type 2 diabetes, though the vegans have the lowest rate (41, 42, 43). Type 2 diabetes is three times more likely to occur in meat-eaters than in vegetarians (44). Likewise, your chance of getting diabetes increases as the amount of meat you eat increases (44).

For people with diabetes, simply switching to a plant-based diet, improves how the body responds to insulin and blood sugar (454647).  This leads to a dramatic reduction in diabetes medications, especially when combined with exercise (46).  

In summary, maintaining a diet rich in healthy plant foods is helpful not only in prevention but also in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

7. Plant-based diet helps decrease your risk of getting cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Compared to the general population, vegetarians have a lower cancer rate, with vegans having the lowest rate (48, 49).

Of the different types of cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer have a strong association to diet. The Adventist Health Study showed that non-vegetarians had a 54% higher chance for prostate cancer and an 88% higher chance for colorectal cancer (48). Several other studies have also shown that diets high in red meat, especially processed meat are associated with an increase in colon cancer (50, 51, 52).

A number of factors in vegetarian diets may impact cancer risk. One factor is that plant foods contain many nutrients and chemicals that are protective against cancer (5, 6, 54, 55).

In summary, vegetarian diets confer protection against cancer.

8. Plant-based diet helps decrease your risk of stroke

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the US and worldwide. Evidence suggests that diet effects the occurrence and death from stroke (56). The risk factors of stroke like high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, heart diesase and diabetes are all decreased by the vegetarian diet. Fruits and vegetables are protective against stroke (57). On the other hand, eating red meat increases the risk of stroke (58). 

In summary, eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat is potentially effective in decreasing your risk of stroke.

Conclusions 

 The vegan and vegetarian diet is nutrient rich and is effective for weight loss. Plant-based diets lower the rate of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. It is clear that this diet can be an effective way to prevent and treat these diseases.

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Farah
Farah
1 year ago

Fantastic information!

Diran Adekanye
Diran Adekanye
10 months ago

Hmmm. I guess an apple a day should be an ape and many vegetables a day 🙂

Interesting read. Now time to incorporate some of these foods.

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