You’ve probably heard the phrase “plant-based diet” before, but have you ever stopped to think about the actual health benefits such a diet has to offer? Essentially, a plant-based diet consists mainly of plants (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), with a modest amount of lean poultry or fish (or sometimes no meat at all). Researchers have found that this simple rule of eating more plants can lead to a variety of different health benefits, and we’ve listed 7 of them for you.
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1. Feed your brain
More and more research suggests that there are “brain foods” that help keep your mind sharp, including leafy greens, berries, beans, and nuts. In 2015, a plant-based diet called the MIND diet was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. While the study was observational, consumption of more plants and veggies definitely can’t hurt.
2. Beautiful, glowing skin
Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins, pigments, and phytochemicals that help contribute to healthy skin. For example, vitamin C in sweet potatoes can help smooth wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen, and flavanols in cocoa powder can help reduce roughness in skin and protect it from the sun. What’s not to like about good skin?
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3. Lower blood pressure
A study by the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong in 2012 has shown that about 1 in 3 Hong Kong adults has hypertension (or high blood pressure), and that among them, only half are aware of their condition. While the causes of hypertension are generally unknown, a diet consisting of more fruits and veggies can help to lower blood pressure. It’s becoming more important than ever to stay aware of our bodies, and a plant-based diet can help improve our overall health.
4. A healthy heart
Harvard researchers found that people who consumed 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who were consuming 1.5 servings or less per day. Essentially, higher intake of fruits and veggies means lower chances of developing heart disease — sounds good to us!
5. Say no to diabetes
While type 1 diabetes is unfortunately, not preventable at this moment, type 2 diabetes is preventable, and you can ward it off by eating healthier. According to a 2007 study, 2 - 3 servings of whole grains daily translates to a 30% less chance of developing the disease.
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6. Lose weight
Granted, this is one of the more obvious reasons, but nonetheless is still worth mentioning. Research has shown that people on plant-based diets, like vegetarians, usually consume fewer calories compared to non-vegetarians, and therefore weigh less and have a lower body mass index. You don’t have to give up meat entirely to reap the benefits, but a focus on fibre filled fruits, veggies and whole grains in your diet will leave you feeling more full when consuming fewer calories.
7. Prevent visual decline
We’ve all heard the saying that carrots improve your eyesight, and it’s true! Beta-carotene helps to produce vitamin A in our bodies, which in turn facilitates our eyes and brain to help us see in conditions that are low-light. Pigments in foods like spinach, squash, corn and kiwi are also thought to prevent vision loss.