No matter what diet you follow, the health benefits of increased plant consumption is the one thing we can all agree upon.
While not everyone is willing to ditch animal protein altogether, reducing our reliance on animals and eating more plants can have profound effects all around. In fact, eating more plants, regardless of meat consumption, can have significant disease-preventing benefits for both vegans and hard-core carnivores. Here are five common diseases that can be thwarted by a densely plant-based diet.
A recent study suggested that increasing the amount of plant-based foods you consume can reduce diabetes risk by 20 to 34 percent. Participants did so while consuming small amounts of meat, which means the diabetes-protective benefits may extend beyond vegans to include responsible carnivores. The protective effects not only include prevention, but diabetes management as well.
A healthy diet filled with vegetables—not necessarily vegetarian—is key in the prevention of heart disease. Not only is a diet higher in plants linked to lower body mass, but there are several factors at work to protect your heart and arteries. The soluble fiber of plant foods helps to reduce blood cholesterol.
Folic acid, a B vitamin, present in many fruits and vegetables, has been shown to be a powerful preventer of heart disease. Additionally, the high levels of antioxidants can prevent cholesterols from oxidizing and becoming inflammatory within the walls of your arteries. The message is simple: your heart likes plants.
A lot of research supports the idea that a largely plant-based diet works to prevent most types of gastrointestinal and respiratory cancers. While the reasoning behind why red meat promotes tumor growth and plant foods reduce it is still unclear, moderation seems to be key.
If you do consume meat, consider how often our ancestors ate meat. Probably whenever they were lucky enough to make a kill while hunting—a few fish or small rodents if they were lucky. Red meat was was even more or a rarity. The rest of the time they ate—you guessed it—plants. That’s what our bodies are designed for—mostly plants, some animals.
Thirty to 40 percent of Americans over the age of 50 have diverticulitis, although many experience no symptoms. However, when there are symptoms they can include severe diarrhea, gastrointestinal pain, bleeding and loss of appetite. According to research, the fiber in fruits, vegetables and bran may exert a protective effect over diverticulosis.
According to the research, those who consumed less fiber are up to twice as likely to develop the disease. It is debated whether fiber is actually responsible for these protective effects; but either way, it seems that certain components in fruits, grains and vegetables help to reduce the risk of this gastrointestinal disease.
The nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, along with other antioxidants found in plant foods, are essential in the prevention of macular degeneration. Studies have shown that consumption of these antioxidants in whole food sources exerts a protective effect over macular degeneration and the development of cataracts. While degeneration of the eyes is far more complicated than diet alone, eating more plants definitely doesn’t hurt.
Regardless of whether you are vegan, vegetarian, carnivorous or something in between, eating more plants is just plain good for you. Make fruits and veggies a standard part of your diet and your body will thank you.