Plant-based diets are more than a mere fad. While it’s true that this type of food plan is more popular than ever, it’s by no means style over substance. Believe it or not, there are many persuasive reasons why you ought to give it a go for yourself (you can even use your slow cooker for easy vegetarian recipes). Here are just nine that you should consider.
1. It decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes
Food is intrinsically linked to health. In fact, eating a plant-based diet that is rich in whole grains, vegetables and legumes is linked to having a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to recent research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Since there are a whopping three million cases of diagnosed diabetes in 18- to 44-year-olds here in the United States, a change in our diets and lifestyles could well be the answer.
2. It can help you lose weight
There’s no denying the fact that weight loss can be tricky, but could a plant-based diet really help? A recent study from the University of South Carolina seems to suggest it can. Researchers found that dieters following a vegan plan lost more weight than those eating a mix of plant- and animal-based foods. What’s more, this was still true despite the vegan group eating a considerable amount of carbs. Bring on the whole grain bread!
3. It just might save the planet
Sustainability is a hot topic right now and it’s something that we should all take more seriously. A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition investigated the diets of 34,000 people and concluded that eating regimes rich in fruits and vegetables were better for the planet than those high in animal products. Even if you can’t completely stop eating meat and dairy, cutting back could make a real difference to the environment.
4. Eating plants could ward off prostate cancer
Surprisingly, eating plant-based foods could have a rather unexpected side effect. Since these types of food are rich in the compounds known as flavonoids (like those found in dark chocolate), they may lower the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, according to research from the University of South Carolina.
“We found that higher total flavonoid intake was associated with reduced odds for aggressive prostate cancer in both African-American and European-American men,” explains Susan Steck of the Arnold School of Public Health. “But no individual subclass of flavonoids appeared to be protective independently, suggesting that it is important to consume a variety of plant-based foods in the diet,” Steck says.
5. Oh, and it could ward off breast cancer, too
Prostate cancer isn’t the only disease to be affected by your diet. As part of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that the plant-based compound phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) slows down the effect of mammary gland tumors in mice. The theory is that this compound could slow down the progression of breast cancer in humans as well.
6. It could help lower cholesterol
We all know that protein is important for a healthy diet, but where you get it from could be just as vital to your health. Research from St. Michael’s Hospital found that substituting just a couple of portions of animal-based protein with plant-based alternatives per day could reduce your cholesterol levels. That could lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disorders and other related diseases.
7. You can still get omega-3s
Eliminating fish from your diet may seem like a leap, especially since we know that there are many benefits from seafood. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of heart disease. However, what many people don’t understand is that you can still get omega-3s from plant-based alternatives. Research from Penn State suggests that this acid is present in flaxseed oil, vegetable oils, and even some nuts, too.
8. Meat and dairy could be very bad for you
There’s some evidence to suggest that meat and dairy could be as bad for you as smoking. Research from the University of Southern California found that study participants that ate a diet rich in animal protein when middle-aged made them twice as likely to die and four times as likely to die of cancer. The key, of course, is moderation and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
9. It’s a chance to get creative
Are you stuck in a rut when it comes to your cooking skills? If you always stick to the same old meat and potato dishes, it could be time to change things up a little. Opting for a plant-based diet means that you will have to think outside the box when it comes to recipes. Take this chance to try out some delectable vegetarian dishes (these recipes have just 5 ingredients or fewer–bonus!). Every now and then, it’s a great idea to try something new and unexpected in the kitchen.
How to include more plants in your diet
Changing your diet overnight is unrealistic; it’s never going to happen. However, taking positive steps toward a healthier, more balanced diet is achievable. If you want to include more plants in your diet, here are some top tips to help you along the way:
Swap meat-based protein for plant-based alternatives. These protein-packed vegetarian meals will do the trick.
Sneak in more vegetables–aim for three types of veggies in each dish.
Try one new plant-based recipe per week.
Have a vegetable-rich breakfast.
Add a leafy side salad to your meals.
Remember, it’s all about making small, long-term changes. When you start being more conscientious about the food that you eat, you should find that it has a great impact on your health and well-being. Why not get started today?