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Plant-Based Eating Is the Best Medicine

posted Oct 17, 2018, 1:51 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Nov 20, 2018, 12:42 PM ]

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

Plant-Based Eating Defined

Plant-based eating, simply put, is consuming plant foods in all your meals.  If you are not excited about giving up salmon, eggs, Greek yogurt, or cheese, which are the foods not generally included in vegan or vegetarian diets, the good news is that you may not have to give up those animal-based foods to achieve excellent health. 

When you hear “plant-based” eating, vegan or vegetarian comes to mind.  Plant-based eating is commonly thought of as diets with no animal products, as is true of vegan diets, which are devoid of any animal products.  Vegetarian diets do allow dairy and egg consumption, which are referred to as lacto-ovo-vegetarian.  There is also pescatarian, another vegetarian diet that includes fish.  One more diet rarely thought of as plant-based eating is that of an Omnivore diet, which consists of both plant and animal foods. 

Plant-Based Eating Promotes Longevity

The benefits of plant-based eating are not just reserved for those who avoid all animal foods. A study, the  Adventist Health Study 2, which was published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), followed 73,308 Seventh-day Adventist men and women to compare the health benefits of vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and semi and non-vegetarian diets.  The mortality rates over the course of 5 years in these groups were lowered when eating plant-based for groups that were vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or pescatarian, as compared to nonvegetarians.  Interesting enough, the pescatarian (fish eating and plant-based diet) group had the lowest death rate when compared to all these groups, including vegans.  Although the vegan and vegetarian diets had a lower rate of heart disease and cholesterol levels, the fact that the pescatarian group had the lowest rates of all mortality rates indicates the health benefits of including fish, along with an abundance of vegetables in your diet helps you live longer.(1)

Plant-Based Eating Lowers Blood Pressure and Prevents Type 2 Diabetes

Many individuals adopt plant-based eating for many different reasons and often times, a health condition surfaces that can be remedied by eating more wholesome plant-based foods.  Individuals who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes will find that by switching to healthier options and including more plant-based foods in their meal, their health and energy improves tremendously.   The high content of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and folic acid is known to promote healthy blood pressure and healthy blood sugar levels.

Plant-Based Eating Protects Against Cancer 

Plant-based eating is anti-inflammatory, especially, if you are consuming plant-based foods that are not processed.  That’s because eating plant-based foods can change the physiology of your cells for the better, due to polyphenols that help fight free radicals and inhibit the growth of cancer.(2)  Specifically, the nutritional properties of fruits and vegetables like blueberries, raspberries, citrus fruits, kale, cauliflower, asparagus, and brussels sprouts,  provide an abundance of nutrients. 


The Healthy Plant-Based Meal

Eating for good health and well-being can be achieved by consuming meals that contain more fruits, vegetables, beans, healthy starches and reserving only a quarter of your plate for animal protein (see image below).  Being mindful to lower the portion sizes on your plate, specifically in the foods that can increase weight such as fats, nuts, animal protein, and whole grains.  For example, pasta, rice, and potatoes are allowed in a vegetarian diet. However, too much of these items can cause weight gain.  Sodas, sugar and plant fats are considered vegetarian, but these can pile on the calories and promote weight gain and insulin resistance that lead to diabetes when consumed in excess.  Consuming more raw fruits, vegetables and beans will ensure that you will stay satisfied on wholesome high-fiber foods.   

All IL Creations cafés have a house made salad bar and offer a variety of lean meats to help you on your path to healthy plant-based eating.  At select locations, Registered Dietitians are able to answer your questions about plant-based meal planning for your specific needs.*

For more information about this article, please email the author, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, 
For plant-based recipe ideas click here Recipes           

1Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, et al. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA internal medicine. 2013;173(13):1230-1238. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.
2. Pandey KB, Rizvi SI. Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2009;2(5):270-278.