4 Benefits Of A Healthful Vegetarian Diet

Looking for motivation to give up meat as a part of mid-year resolutions? You're in luck as new research examining the health impacts of a plant-based diet found numerous associated benefits.

The studies were presented at Nutrition 2018, the inaugural flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston from June 9-12.

1. Better heart health

Researchers from the Netherlands examined nearly 6,000 people and found those who ate plant protein had a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to those who primarily consumed meat protein.

The American Heart Association explained excessive protein intake from meat can pose a problem due to high saturated fat content which can increase cholesterol levels. Douglas Paddon-Jones, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas, recommended a mix of protein sources including yogurt, soy milk, quinoa, beans, eggs, tofu, and fish.

In addition, a study of 4,500 Brazilian adults found people who ate plant protein were 60 percent less likely to have plaque build up in their arteries. 

2. Reduced risk of diabetes

In a study conducted by George Washington University, the health and dietary patterns of South Asians living in the United States were examined. Vegetarians were found to have lower risk factors for diabetes. They included a lower body mass index, lower blood sugar, smaller waist circumference, lower amounts of abdominal fat, and lower cholesterol.

Frank Hu, a Harvard nutrition and diabetes researcher, also arrived at similar findings in past research.

“A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” he said.

3. Lesser weight gain

Being a vegetarian does not necessarily mean you are healthy as the choices of foods can affect many aspects of health. Body weight changes among more than 125,000 adults were analyzed over four year periods in a study conducted by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

The findings showed plant-based diets rich in high-quality foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts were associated with less weight gain. On the other hand, unhealthful plant-based foods like sweets, refined grains, and fries were associated with significantly greater weight gain.

4. Lower risk of death

Opting for a vegetarian diet is not enough as the quality of plant-based foods makes all the difference. A large study of nearly 30,000 American adults linked better choices in the plant-based diet components to lowered mortality by 30 percent. However, higher quality of animal-based components had little effect on mortality. This benefit was particularly evident in people with chronic health conditions. 

However, experts have noted there is not enough evidence to suggest a plant-based diet alone increases lifespan. Melody Ding, a senior research fellow from the University of Sydney in Australia, explained vegetarians may benefit from associated factors such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and avoiding the cancer risk linked to processed meat