The idea of eating a plant-based diet sounds healthy. Plant-based is also a buzzword that we are seeing more and more. What is a plant-based diet? What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian? More importantly, what are the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet? This article will attempt to answer these questions.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet? Vegan vs. Vegetarian
A plant-based diet means eating whole foods and plants – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. One of the best things about a plant-based diet is that you can define your boundaries.
For some people, a plant-based diet means excluding all animal products (vegan diet). For others, it is about proportion choosing of foods, that is, more from plant sources than animal sources (vegetarian diet). Being a vegetarian is a great way to make plants a primary part of your diet without completely eliminating fish, eggs, and dairy (you can just eat less of these).
Health Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet
1. Better nutrition
Eating a plant-based diet is good for the health. However, most people don't eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, which is sad because fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
In particular, fiber is a nutrient that most people don't get enough of, and it has lots of health benefits – it is good for your heart, your gut, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Also, studies show that people's overall nutrition gets better when they eat a vegetarian or vegan diet compared to when they eat an omnivorous diet.
2. Healthier hearts
Eating a vegetarian diet can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce risk factors for heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and improving blood sugar control. A plant-based diet can also help reduce inflammation, which raises the risk of heart disease by promoting plaque build-up in the arteries.
3. Weight loss
Individuals who eat a plant-based diet tend to have lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who eat an omnivorous diet. Additionally, research shows that people who follow a vegetarian diet to lose weight tend to be more successful not only at losing pounds, but also at keeping them off.
4. Lower diabetes risk
Regardless of your BMI, eating a plant-based diet can lower your risk of diabetes. One study reported that meat eaters have twice the risk of diabetes compared to lacto-ovo vegans and vegetarians (those who eat a plant-based diet but also consume some animal products such as eggs and dairy). Another study shows that individuals who eat a plant-based diet have better insulin sensitivity, important for maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
5. Reduced cancer risk
Research shows that regularly eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains is associated with a lower cancer risk. Also, the disease-fighting phytochemicals in plants have been shown to prevent cancer. On the other hand, studies show an association between eating processed meats and an increased cancer risk, especially colorectal cancer. So there are health benefits not only from eating a plant-based diet, but also from replacing less healthy foods with healthier options like fruits and vegetables.