It's probably no surprise that when your diet is comprised primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and other plant-based foods rather than meat and animal-based foods, you may reap a number of health benefits. Vegetarian diets, and even diets that aren't completely vegetarian but include a lot of plant-based foods, tend to supply less saturated fat and cholesterol and more fiber and other powerful disease-fighting vitamins and minerals.
Of course, the types of foods you eat when following one type of diet or another will ultimately determine how healthy any particular diet is but here are 3 good reasons your heart will thank you when you eat more plant-based foods:
- Heart Disease. Fewer vegetarians die from heart disease than non-vegetarians. One reason may be because plant foods tend to be extremely low in artery-clogging saturated fat, the worst culprit in heart disease. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins, such as C and E, which may provide a heart-protective bonus.
- Hypertension. Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure) than non-vegetarians. This appears to be independent of body weight, sodium intake, exercise habits and dietary fat intake. Eating more whole grains, nuts/seeds, fruits and vegetables seems to play a role.
- Diabetes. High-fiber, plant-based diets have been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who eat more red and processed meats may be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes without factoring in body weight.
You don't have to strictly follow a vegetarian or vegan diet to reap these benefits. Cutting back on animal foods and increasing the amount of vegetables and plant-based foods you eat is a solid step in the right direction. As you replace some of the animal foods in your diet with plant-based foods, you may even lose a few pounds in the process!
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Date Last Reviewed: August 8, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor