If you’re still not convinced that being a vegetarian is good for you — then this will probably change your mind.
In recent years, more and more studies are showing just how healthy being a vegetarian really is. In fact, it’s reached the point where many health organizations shortlist vegetarianism as one of the few go-to diets. Of course, things are not always straightforward, and eating only plant-based foods doesn’t guarantee that you’re healthy — but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Now, a new series of studies adds even more weight to that idea.
Among its main advantages, the vegetarian diet is most praised for its cardiovascular benefits. It’s one of the diets that heart doctors often recommend.
The new study was carried out on nearly 6,000 people in the Netherlands, finding that those who ate more plant protein at the expense of animal-derived protein showed a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study was carried out over 13 years, and results showed a very strong correlation.
The study confirms what others have already found, and solidifies the vegetarian diets as one of the go-to for reducing heart diseases.
Study 2: Replacing animal protein with plant protein associated with less plaque in the arteries
It’s one of the main myths about being a vegetarian: you’re not getting enough protein. But not only is plant protein sufficient to live by, it’s actually better than animal protein for your body. A study of 4,500 Brazilian adults finds that people who regularly consumed more plant-based protein were nearly 60 percent less likely than those consuming more animal-based protein to show evidence of plaque in the heart’s arteries.
Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood and it can slowly build up and stiffen the arteries, with dangerous consequences.
Study 3: Eating plant-based foods associated with less weight gain
Ah yes, the most popular concern about every diet: weight management. A study carried out over 4 years tracked the body weight among more than 125,000 adults. The study found that diets rich in healthy plants (whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts) were associated with less weight gain. However, unhealthy plant foods (such as sugars, refined grains, and fries) are associated with more weight gain.
Significantly, you don’t need to fully dedicate yourself to vegetarianism — the more healthy plant-based foods, the better, even if you don’t go all the way.
Study 4: Vegetarian diet associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes
I feel like a broken record already: a vegetarian diet reduces your risk of heart diseases — and diabetes. A study on South Asians living in the US found that vegetarians have a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference and lower amounts of abdominal fat, lower cholesterol, and lower blood sugar compared to people in the same demographic group who ate meat.
This suggests that the vegetarian diet reduces the risk of heart disease in a number of ways, often interconnected.
Study 5: Eating higher quality plant-based foods associated with lower risk of death
Results from this study are even blunter: if you want to live longer, eat more good plants. Analyzing data from 30,000 US adults, researchers found that the quality of plant-based foods in the diet is more important than the quality of animal-based foods. Opting for better plant-based components of the diet lowered mortality by 30 percent while higher quality animal-based components had little effect on mortality.
The effects were strongest on people with chronic health conditions.
These are just a few of the studies which will be presented at flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, called Nutrition 2018. Overall, the scientific evidence showing the keeps piling up, so if you want to stay healthy, focus more on those plants!
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.