- Plant-based diets can help address a variety of health issues, according to a new expert commentary.
- Eating more plants and less animal products may help manage weight and blood sugar.
- Nutrients in plants can also help prevent chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
A plant-based diet might help improve health by managing weight and preventing illness, and doctors should take note, according to a commentary published May 26 in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
Doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization of health experts advocating for vegan diets, wrote in the commentary that medical experts should be more aware of the evidence-based benefits of diets rich in plant foods like greens, beans, fruits, and nuts.
Plant-based diets may be especially helpful for six common health concerns, research suggests, ranging from cancer and cognitive decline to weight management and stable blood sugar.
Low-calorie plant foods may aid weight loss
Eating a mostly
could help you maintain a healthy weight, according to the commentary. The authors cite a 2013 study of more than 70,000 people which found vegans tended to weigh nearly 10 pounds less, on average, than their omnivorous peers.
Diets rich in plants may make it easier to maintain a lower weight because plant foods tend to be lower in calories than processed foods or animal products. Switching to a plant-based diet can help people
too — a 2022 study found vegan diet led to weight loss in 12 weeks, compared to either a
or participants’ typical eating habits.
Vegan diets may also help with weight loss by feeding the gut microbiome, beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, with plenty of fiber, according to a 2019 study. Fiber may also help you feel full for longer after eating, according to dietitians.
Fiber in plant foods could help prevent cancer, too
Fiber is an important nutrient for long-term health and disease prevention, according to the commentary, and plant-based diets have been linked to lower risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.
Adding more vegetables, fruits, and grains may also prevent cancer by increasing your intake of antioxidants, micronutrients that help reduce inflammation and stress on the cells.
Plant-based diets may reduce diabetes risk
Plant based diets are also linked to significantly lower risk of diabetes, according to the commentary, and fiber likely plays a role.
Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of glucose as your body breaks down carbohydrates for energy, which helps prevent dips and spikes in blood sugar, dietitians previously told Insider.
As a result, plant foods may also help people who have
manage their blood sugar too, research suggests.
Nutrient-dense plants could protect brain health as you age
The vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients in plant foods could also stave off cognitive decline, evidence suggests. A 2020 study found that combined with other healthy lifestyle factors, eating more vegetables, grains, and legumes was linked to significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
As a result, plant-based diets should be recommended to fight Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, according to the commentary.
Cutting out cholesterol on a plant-based diet is heart-healthy
A wealth of evidence suggests eating plants is great for your heart by adding beneficial foods and reducing foods like meat linked to heart disease.
Studies show vegetarians and vegans have significantly lower risk of heart attacks and similar issues than omnivores.
Plant foods tend to be low in cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which have been linked to risks for heart health.
Some evidence suggests plant-based diets are linked to lower risk of COVID complications
More research is needed, but the health benefits of eating plants may be protective against the pandemic, according to the commentary. Healthy plant-based diets were linked to significantly lower risk of severe coronavirus infection, one 2021 study found.