In a new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some of the nation’s leading experts in nutrition outlined the benefits of a plant-based diet, stating that they’re “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
Musicians like Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez, and athletes like Venus and Serena William and Tom Brady join millions of Americans who—whether vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian—are enjoying the power of plants.
Here are four ways that eating less meat and more plant-based food is good for us:
1. Plant-strong eating means less disease.
Nutritionists with the Academy found, “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including Ischemic heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.” The World Health Organization warns that processed meat and red meat are probable carcinogens (things that cause cancer).
On the contrary, many plant foods like blueberries, which contain phytochemicals, and beans and legumes, which contain lignans, are cancer fighters. The authors at the Academy found that people who enjoy a completely plant-based diet reduce their risk of diabetes by 62 percent, heart disease by 29 percent, and the risk of all cancers by 18 percent.
2. More veggies means less muffin-top.
Meat consumption is associated with weight gain, according to the Epic Panacea study which researched hundreds of thousands of men and women in ten countries. Its conclusion: “A decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management.”
Many were surprised that eating poultry seemed to cause the most weight gain. In contrast, plant foods tend to be lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber, which is associated with lower Body Mass Index. Researchers at the University of Oxford wrote, “An increase in the proportion of plant foods in the diet may help to prevent overweight and obesity.”
3. Less meat = more life.
People who live in Blue Zones—regions in distinctly different parts of the world where people live significantly longer lives than most, often to be 100 or more—eat primarily plant-based diets and consume a lot of legumes. Earlier this year, the Mayo Clinic concluded that a plant-based diet could add as many as four years to our lives.
4. The secret to happiness is…plants?
Researchers in Australia and England found that increasing our daily fruit and vegetable intake had positive effects on satisfaction and overall mood. The researchers couldn’t pinpoint exactly why eating more plant foods makes people happier, though suggest it may be due to the carotenoids and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.
A different study published in the Journal Nutrition concluded, “Vegetarians reported significantly less negative emotion than omnivores.”
In the interest of being the happiest and healthiest we can be, we can practice the three Rs: Reducing or replacing consumption of animal products, and refining our diets by switching to products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Author: Kristie Middleton
Image: Courtesy of Michelle Cehn; Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson