8 Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Eating from the earth is great for your body, mind, and overall health.

Veganism has been around for thousands of years, but it’s only now going mainstream. Why? The research is clear: It’s better for your body, mind, and overall health. In fact, The Economist named 2019 "the year of the vegan."

That’s great news for people who rely on Kate Farms for sole-source nutrition—all our formulas are vegan, meaning they’re plant-based and free of animal products. But they also provide huge benefits for those who use our formulas as supplemental nutrition.

"You don’t need to eat 100 percent plant-based to reap the benefits of nutritious plant foods," explains Taylor Wolfram, R.D.N., who specializes in intuitive eating, self-care, and plant-based nutrition. "Adding vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds is a great move for everyone."

In other words, the more plants you eat, the better. Here are nine reasons to fill your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Plant-based benefit #1: Reduces heart disease risk

"Anyone who has a family history or other risk factors for heart disease may especially benefit from a plant-based diet," says Wolfram.

In fact, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, following a vegan diet can help reverse coronary heart disease. It also found that a vegetarian diet (meaning no meat but some consumption of animal products, like milk and eggs) is associated with a 40 percent lower risk of CHD. The review also found a 34 percent reduced risk of hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

"Given that heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans, I think a plant-based diet’s association with significantly lower heart disease risk is huge," says Wolfram.

Plant-based benefit #2: Tames inflammation

Inflammation has been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and chronic inflammatory disease. Research shows that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat helps reduce inflammation by strengthening the immune system.

In addition, plant-based foods have plenty of carotenoids and flavonoids— phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that help eliminate free radicals, which can damage DNA and prompt an inflammatory response.

Plant-based benefit #3: Lowers diabetes risk

In a study of 8,401 adults, vegetarians were 74 percent less likely to develop diabetes over the course of 17 years when compared to those who ate meat at least once per week.

A plant-based diet is also useful in managing existing diabetes because it’s very high in fiber and plant compounds with antioxidant activity, which can help regulate blood sugar, explains Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., author of The Plant-Powered Diet and Plant-Powered for Life.

Plant-based benefit #4: Helps maintain a healthy weight

If you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight without the ups and downs that come with traditional dieting, there’s evidence that cutting back on meat can help.

"A plant-based diet is naturally satisfying and rich in fiber, which we know increases satiety," says Palmer. "If your diet is based on whole foods, research shows it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight."

For example, in a series of studies in the U.K., researchers tracked weight gain in meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women over a five-year period. They found that those who ate less meat were less likely to gain large amounts of weight. In addition, people who gained the least weight were those who changed their diets to a category with less meat, such as switching from meat-eating to fish-eating, or fish-eating to vegetarian.

Plant-based benefit #5: Reduces cancer risk

Yet another good reason to opt for a meat-free dinner tonight? A 2012 meta-analysis in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that vegetarians have an 18 percent lower risk of cancer compared to non-vegetarians. Researchers credit the diet’s immune-boosting properties.

Plant-based benefit #6: Lowers cholesterol

Having high cholesterol increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, but a plant-based diet is associated with lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, according to a study in the journal Nutrition Reviews.

The study found that a plant-based diet also decreased HDL (good) cholesterol, but in a much smaller proportion to LDL (3.4 compared to 12.2 mg/dL), thereby lowering the ratio of LDL to HDL. A high ratio is a predictor of heart disease.

Plant-based benefit #7: Keeps you young

It’s not quite the fountain of youth, but a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—and low in sugar, salt, and processed meats—may promote healthy cellular aging, according to a 2018 study of women in the American Journal of Epidemiology. This is important for avoiding chronic health conditions that become more common as we age.

Plant-based benefit #8: Protects your brain

A meta-analysis in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 20 percent reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Researchers say this is likely due to the antioxidants in plants that clean up cellular waste (a.k.a. free radicals) and protect cells from damage.

Bonus benefit: Protects the environment

Finally, eat off the land and the planet will thank you. According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it takes 11 times more fossil energy and 100 times more water to produce animal protein than it does plant protein.

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