As Dietitians we are trained to look at the research and translate it to education and practical strategies. As we continuously examine the research, the health benefits of a diet rich in whole and plant-based foods become more and more clear.
- Lower blood cholesterol levels are linked to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. High intake of animal-based food correlates to a higher blood cholesterol, while eating more foods from plants correlates to a lower blood cholesterol.
- Countries that consume the least amount of animal products and processed foods have the lowest diabetes rates.
- A high fiber diet (fiber is only found in plants, not animals) is associated with having a healthy weight, as fiber stimulates satiety (that full feeling).
- A diet high in animal products can increase calcium excretion (leading to weak bones) and countries that drink the most milk have the highest occurrence of bone fractures.
- Diets high in animal products and processed foods increase the risk of breast cancer, likely related to hormone levels being off-balance.
- Animal product rich diets correlate to higher rates of kidney stones.
- Eating more plant-based foods correlates with lower blood pressure, which decreases the risk of heart disease.
- In general whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods are more nutrient-dense, while animal products and processed foods tend to be more calorie-dense.
These are just a sample of the many reasons we strive to make eating unprocessed, plant-based foods do-able in a world where processed foods and animal products are often the norm.
Some healthcare professionals recognize the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet but avoid promoting it because “no one is ever going to stick to that diet.” They continue telling patients “watch your portions,” “everything in moderation” and “cut back on red meat.” While we recognize that in many communities eating plants may not be the easiest, most convenient option, whether an individual will be able to follow a specific diet is not our call. The research available should be shared with everyone and then each person has the autonomy to make their own decision about how they want to apply this information.
In our pursuit of health and well-being, we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. When you dive into the work of many top nutrition researchers they recommend a diet that is as close to 100% plant-based and as unprocessed as possible, because this correlates with the greatest health benefits. However, as someone transitions from eating animal products at every meal to 80% of meals, they are likely to enjoy health benefits. If they then transition from 80% to 50% of meals, it’s expected that their health would improve even more. With this being said, if we want to make significant changes to our health, it would only make sense that we have to make significant changes to our lifestyle.
If you’re interested in learning more about the why behind eating whole foods that come from plants, check out the resource tab. The books, documentaries and other resources available will help you to become a more informed eater. A little knowledge goes a long way when making changes and staying motivated. Not to mention, plants taste even better when you know all of the amazing benefits of eating them!