A plant-based diet is a type of eating pattern that prioritizes whole plants as your main source of food and nutrition. In other words, it means your diet is almost entirely composed of:
● leafy greens
● whole grains
● beans and legumes
● nuts and seeds
Many people adopt a plant-based diet for reasons relating to ethical concerns about the treatment of animals, or for environmental sustainability.
But one of the best reasons to include more plant-based foods in your diet is to improve your health. Here are 7 evidence-based health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet:
Weight Loss and Maintenance
Clinical studies have consistently shown that individuals who follow a whole food plant-based diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and are significantly less likely to be overweight or obese.
Plant-based diets are naturally lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber and nutrients. As a result, they can help you feel full and satisfied, making it less likely you’ll overconsume calories and easier to stick to a healthy weight.
Improved Heart Health
A plant-based diet has also been shown to have numerous benefits for heart health. Several studies have found that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of heart failure, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
This may be due to the fact that plant-based diets are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are beneficial for heart health.
Additionally, plant-based diets are typically low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are major risk factors for heart disease and cardiovascular mortality.
Better Blood Sugar Control
For people with type 2 diabetes or at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a plant-based diet can help to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is the primary underlying condition that leads to high blood sugar levels in people living with type 2 diabetes.
Plant-based whole foods are also generally low on the glycemic index scale, which is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar levels rise after eating. This means that these foods are much less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Lower Cancer Risk
Vegetarians and vegans tend to have a significantly lower risk of developing certain types of cancer.
This is likely related to how plant-based whole foods are high in antioxidants, fiber, phytonutrients, and other protective compounds that may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Although this doesn’t mean that vegetables cure cancer, it does suggest that a plant-based diet can be a useful strategy for reducing your risk of developing cancer and improving health outcomes associated with a cancer diagnosis.
Improved Kidney Function
Studies have shown that plant-based diets may help improve kidney function and slow the progression of kidney disease.
This may be due to the fact that plant-based diets are naturally low in protein and other substances that can be hard on the kidneys.
Improved Brain Health
People who follow a plant-based diet also tend to have a lower risk of developing cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and other age-related brain conditions.
Common risk factors for these conditions include chronic inflammation, malnutrition, and other factors that can be alleviated by a plant-based diet.
Many plant-based foods such as berries and dark leafy greens also contain compounds that have been linked to improved brain function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease age-related cognitive.
Plant-based diets are associated with a longer lifespan and healthspan.
Several studies have found that people who follow a plant-based diet tend to live longer and have a lower risk of death from all causes. They also tend to maintain good health, free of disease and chronic illness later in life.
If you are interested in trying a plant-based diet, you can start by simply increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant-based foods, while also reducing your intake of meat, processed foods, and other foods that are not plant-based.
Consult with your doctor if you have a health condition or are taking medications that may be affected by a change in your diet.