Recent research has found that plant-based food has gained a lot of popularity in recent times. A plant-based diet is a diet that involves mainly consuming or only foods that come from plants. Some people consider it a vegan diet where all animal products are avoided. While others view it as plant food such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, they may rarely consume dairy products, meat, and fish. The plant-based diet focuses more on whole food rather than process food.
According to Lauren Manaker, RDN based in Charleston, South Carolina, “A plant-based diet emphasizes foods like fruits, vegetables, and beans, and limits foods like meats, dairy, and eggs. It may completely eliminate foods from animals or just limit intake, depending on the individual’s interpretation.” This does not mean that meat and seafood have to be stopped completely but have to reduce the number of intakes in a week. Lauren further said it is a broad diet category, with other more specific diets under its umbrella. Mideterian diet is the best example of a plant-based diet; even though it has fish and poultry, the emphasis is on plant-based foods.
According to top nutritionists, to start a plant-based diet, one must eat lots of vegetables, choose good fats, include whole grains for breakfast, go for greens, build a meal around a salad, and eat fruits for dessert. As per current data from the Plant-Based Food Association plant-food, the industry is now a $7 billion market. In 2020, more than 71 million American households purchased plant-based groceries, which is a 4% increase from 2019. Research suggests that people who mainly eat a plant-based diet have a lower rate of heart disease, obesity, diabetics, and lower body mass index than people who eat meat.
Associated health benefits of a plant-based diet –
A study was published in the Journal of American Heart Association. Between the ages of 18 and 30 eating habits of 4,946 adults over 32 years were monitored. A detailed diet history was taken from the participant. Then food choices on a scale were created by the authors. Beneficial food was given the highest score, while adverse foods were given a low score.
In the study, all other risks factor were also taken into account. On the long-term diet scale, the participant who scored in the top 20% had a 52% less chance of suffering from heart disease three decades later. Between 7 to 20 years, the participants who changed their diet for the better had 61% less chance of heart disease than the participants who opted for more adverse foods—as per research, eating less meat can also reduce the risk of stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and certain cancers. People who ate a vegetarian diet, including eggs and dairy, also had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Plants-based food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains contains sterols. Eating 2 grams of sterols each day can help lower cholesterol levels by 5 to 10%. Many heart-friendly plant-based foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, lentils, beans. Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat both are responsible for increasing cholesterol levels in the blood.
Research by the American Academy of Neurology found that having plant-based food like oranges, blackberries, strawberries could reduce the risk of cognitive decline by 20%. A particular type of flavonoids is there in red, purple, and blue foods, reducing cognitive impairment by 24%. People look three to four years younger than their actual age.
Research has found that a plant-based diet slows the progression of Alzheimer’s. If extra 100 grams of fruits and vegetables are eaten per day, then 13% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Fruits and vegetables are rich in polyphenols which help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and help reverse cognitive decline.
According to a study, people who ate plant-based food reduce the risk of diabetics by 23%. People who eat whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables have a 30% have reduced risk of type 2 diabetics. These foods contain antioxidants, fibre, minerals, vitamins, and other beneficial ingredients like antioxidants and healthy plant oils. The beneficial compounds help reduce inflammation and promote insulin sensitivity.
Researchers from the UK examined the data from 11 clinical trials that examined the effect of a plant-based diet over other diets. According to their findings, a plant-based diet had physical and psychological benefits for those living with type 2 diabetes. For example, for people who ate less or no animal diet, fasting glucose fell sharply, but their symptoms of depression improved significantly. If one has an increased blood glucose level, a plant-based diet can positively impact gut health.
Plant-based food supports the immune system. Plants have essential nutrients which one cannot get from other food. The antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins in plants help keep cells healthy, and the body balanced so that the immune system can function at its best. What body needs to fight infection plants can give that. A plant-based diet strengthens the immune system to protect against microorganisms and germs. A healthy immune system reduces the risk of cancer because it can recognize and attack mutations in cells before progressing to disease.
The plant’s essential nutrients help to resolve inflammation in the body. Phytochemicals and antioxidants neutralize toxins from processed food, pollution, viruses, bacteria, and more. Prolonged inflammation can damage body tissue and cell and has been liked to arthritis and cancer. A plant-based diet removes some of the triggers to these diseases.
In a 2018 study, it was found that a plant-based diet was effective for treating obesity. In the study, 25 participants were there who were overweight or had obesity to continue their regular meat diet or vegan diet. The vegan group showed a weight loss of 6.5 kilograms after four months. More fat mass and improvement in insulin sensitivity were seen in participants with a plant-based diet. But those who consumed regular meat did not show these changes.
In another study in March 2017 published in Nutrition & Diabetes found that 65 overweight adults lost 9.25 pounds on average who followed a plant-based diet for a year. The reason for weight loss is that vegetables and whole grains are relatively low on the glycemic index, which means they are digested more slowly. Fruits contain fibre and antioxidants, which help keep the stomach full for a long time. If one wants to reduced weight, then a healthy plant-based diet will be the best option.
In 2009, a study on more than 60,000 people was conducted, and it was found that vegans had the lowest average BMI, and non-vegetarians had the higher average BMI. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, hypertension or high blood pressure can cause other health issues, including type 2 diabetics, stroke, heart disease. Many studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet will reduce blood pressure, reducing the risks of other conditions. In 2014 a meta-analysis published explored the data from 39 studies that found that people who followed a vegetarian diet had lower blood pressure on average than those who followed the meat-based diet.
The journal of American Heart Association study found that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all causes of mortality by 25%. Suppose one stick to plant-based healthy food, then the protective level increases. According to the American Institute of Cancer, the best way to find cancer-protective nutrients (phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins, fibre) is to eat a diet rich in seeds, nuts, beans, grains, fruit, vegetables.