Plant-Based Diets Promote Health
Science supports a low-fat, plant-based diet for optimal health. The American Dietetic Association (ADA), the nation’s largest organization of nutrition experts, states that “vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
The ADA’s position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, published in 2009, references more than 200 studies and papers to support its conclusions. Studies continue to show that plant-based diets can aid in reversing the symptoms of America’s most devastating diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.
People who follow a plant-based diet have a healthier heart. They reap the benefits of lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters, and heart disease is less common in vegetarians. Plant-based meals are typically low in saturated fat, and since cholesterol is found only in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, it’s easy to consume a cholesterol-free diet.
Another benefit of consuming a plant-based diet is getting your blood pressure numbers down. An impressive number of studies show that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than nonvegetarians. A low-fat, plant-based diet has also shown to reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. A diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains, which is also low in fat and sugar, can lower blood sugar levels and often reduce or even eliminate the need for medication. Since individuals with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease, avoiding fat and cholesterol is important, and a vegetarian diet is the best way to do that.
A plant-based diet helps prevent cancer. Studies of vegetarians show that death rates from cancer are only about one-half to three-quarters of those of the general population. Breast cancer rates are dramatically lower in countries where diets are typically plant-based. When people from those countries adopt a Western, meat-based diet, their rates of breast cancer soar. Vegetarians also have significantly lower rates of colon cancer than meat-eaters. Colon cancer is more closely associated with meat consumption than any other dietary factor.
Protective against cancer, plant-based diets are lower in fat and higher in fiber than meat-based diets. They are also full of foods that have phytochemicals, cancer-fighting substances. This might help to explain why vegetarians have less lung and prostate cancer. Also, some studies have suggested that diets that avoid dairy products may reduce the risk of prostate and ovarian cancer.
People who consume plant-based diets are also less likely to form either kidney stones or gallstones. They may also be at lower risk for osteoporosis because they eat little or no animal protein. A high intake of animal protein encourages the loss of calcium from the bones. Replacing animal products with plant foods reduces the amount of calcium lost. This may help to explain why people who live in countries where the diet is typically plant-based have little osteoporosis, even when calcium intake is lower than that in the dairy-consuming countries.
A simple dietary graphic does not replace nutritional teaching, particularly with regard to nutrient adequacy, supplementation, and dietary changes for specific stages of life. It is important to note that vitamin B12 supplementation is essential for individuals following vegan diets. Because of absorption issues, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the IOM also recommend vitamin B12 supplementation for all individuals older than 50 years.
Taking control of your quality of life starts with consuming a plant-based diet. Filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains is not only your best bet for disease prevention, it’s an easy way to reverse damage already done. Follow the Power Plate to optimal health.
For more information and scientific references, consult our dietary guidelines monograph (PDF) >
How Does My Diet Affect My Health?
What you eat can greatly affect your health and well-being. Scientific studies have shown time and again that choosing healthy foods can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
A healthy diet can help prevent cancer, since up to 60 percent of cancer cases are diet-related. Healthy foods can also help you maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, close to 100 million Americans are overweight or obese. Being obese or overweight substantially increases the risk of morbidity from several conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and several types of cancer.
So what type of diet is best for disease prevention and to maintain a healthy weight? The best diet is one that you can stick with for life. A healthy diet is a lifestyle, not a fad that is dangerous or difficult to maintain.
Abundant evidence suggests that the most healthful diets set aside animal products and also reduce fats in general, while including large amounts of vegetables and fruits. Eliminating meat and dairy products from your diet is a powerful step in disease prevention. These products are typically high in saturated fat and cholesterol and completely devoid of fiber. They have also been specifically linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers. Eating a low-fat, plant-based diet rich in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables is the best way to prevent disease and increase chances of survival.
One additional diet consideration may be useful for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Choose foods that have a low Glycemic Index (or “low GI”), which means the foods that turn to sugar more slowly and cause less of a rise in blood sugar levels. Although you’ll find various lists of the GI values of different foods, there are really only a few foods to be concerned about. Sugar, of course, has a high GI, as do white or wheat bread, most cold cereals, watermelon, pineapple, and baking potatoes. Foods to enjoy that have a low-GI are pumpernickel, rye, multi-grain or sourdough bread; old-fashioned oatmeal, bran cereals and Grape-Nuts; most fruits; sweet potatoes, pasta, rice, barley, couscous, beans, peas, lentils, and most vegetables.
Ready to Get Started? Learn more about how to switch to a healthy vegetarian diet >
Why The Power Plate?
Rewarded for Being Vegan
by GENTLE WORLD
Contrary to what many people believe, veganism extends far beyond dietary choices. For those who are committed to the cause of ending animal exploitation, leather, wool, silk and down go out the window alongside meat, dairy, eggs, honey and all other ingredients that involve animal use. This paradigm shift in perspective is all-encompassing, and extends to every area of life where animal products are used.
But for many people, the transition to being vegan begins with the obvious shift toward eliminating animal-based foods. Since animal products are so toxic to the human body, many people report that their health dramatically improves as a result.
Over many years of encouraging people to become vegan, Gentle Worlders have had the remarkable privilege of witnessing the wonderful physical benefits that occur when individuals take advantage of this amazing opportunity. From eliminating asthma and hayfever to curing chronic conditions and diseases, a vegan diet offers benefits to anyone and everyone.
At the beginning of this year, Gentle World volunteer M Butterflies Katz asked her Facebook friends a very simple question:
“What physical conditions have miraculously gone away since you became vegan?”
Vegan friends came out in force to share their stories. Following are some of our favorites…
Sue: My asthma – which I thought would kill me by the time I was 40 – disappeared completely in just a few weeks. From the constant use of two kinds of inhaler and being threatened with steroid injections I went to wheeze-free and I haven’t needed meds for 17 years. I also stopped having colds. I get the occasional sniffle but never anything serious. I get what I call colds but they only last 24 or 48 hours and are nothing like the ones I used to get before I went vegan.
Julie: I switched to a vegan diet for the animals. Nothing else. I had no idea the health benefits that would follow! My goodness. IBS: gone! Migraines: gone! What I thought were allergy symptoms: gone!
David: I used to get sick a lot. Since becoming Vegan I don’t… ever. And this is also because the mind is now cleansed of confusing internal debate. Going Vegan is like a breath of fresh air and life just makes sense!
Robin: My husband thinks it has relieved his arthritis. He mentioned this in passing and I googled it and found out veganism has often been cited as a contributing factor in alleviating arthritis.
Billy: Many! Indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation (I was lucky if I went to the bathroom twice a week), hemorrhoids, depression, skin problems, aching joints, tooth decay, bad breath, and that’s just a few caused by dairy products. Since I ditched that killer, I am a new man! I never ate meat anyway so I know dairy was the culprit.
Stacie: I have a family history of IBS. Everyone on my Mom’s side of the family has severe bouts of it. As a vegetarian, my symptoms were mild, but when it was bad it was really bad. Since going vegan – no more symptoms!
Barbara: My genetically high cholesterol went down 100 points and has stayed down. I am able to eat whatever I want for the first time in my life.
Elizabeth: My lifelong horrible acne got cured… I stopped getting colds and flu. I am not exaggerating. STOPPED. However it took over a year after switching the diet for this to come about. The first year or so I reckon I was still detoxing the animal products out of my body, so I still had acne and got my yearly flu and cold. But only that first year. Since then, nothing. And that is after 20 years of acne, and many many years of getting at least one horrible flu bug (usually around Christmas for some reason) plus one or two colds every year.
Diane: I’ve had bouts of depression most of my life, but not once since becoming vegan almost 6 months ago. Also, I no longer have mid-afternoon energy slumps, and I’ve lost most of the stubborn excess pounds I never was able to lose before!
Julie: Acid reflux disease. Migraines. IBS. Those are gone. I also have arthritis…though it is not gone, what used to be extreme pain in my hands and knees is very minimal now. It amazes me every day.
Laura: I used to have an unexplained skin problem, I used to get groups of sores that wouldn’t heal on my arms, chest and upper back, had it for years and years. After I became vegan they cleared up. I’m assuming it was either an allergy or a hormone imbalance caused by dairy. I’m also no longer anaemic. I never passed the iron test at blood donations before I was vegan.
Don: Lower back pain and sinus infections have virtually disappeared. I used to get 2-3 bad sinus problems a year, and have had just one in the last 21 dairy-free years.
Alexa: My post-traumatic arthritis doesn’t hurt as much; or for as long. Also, I feel like my reflexes got better. I catch myself in a skid and I’m able to stop it rather than landing painfully on the ground.
John: I lost about twenty pounds of body fat. Also, since I began drinking green smoothies two years ago, I have not been sick. I’ve also had more energy and been more passionate about life since I became a vegan.
Dianne: Headaches and migraines. I still get them but not as often and not so severe.
Billy: I had a headache all the time too! Another thing – I always had that fungus thing with my toenails. Gone now! I also seldom ever get sinus infections or even colds or flu. Veganism is the way to go! Not just for better health, but for the animals, that’s all I really care about. But feeling better is nice too…
Tierra: When I went vegetarian 31 yrs ago, my monthly migraines decreased by 95% – they are rare and are stress induced rather than due to hormonal imbalances brought on by meat and dairy. And even though I was 90% vegan for the past 10 years, I didn’t realize even that much dairy was giving me wretched indigestion! After going 100% vegan, that’s gone! Antacids are a thing of the past for me and for my husband who no longer needs medication for that.
Emma: I don’t get all the normal bugs and infections that the mass population gets. I haven’t had a cold or flu for at least five years.
Marilyn: My Multiple Sclerosis SHUT UP!!!!
Amanda: Chronic eczema and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared within a month of going vegan. Numerous specialists had never once suggested I try giving up dairy. 27 years later still as healthy as ever.
Selena: I don’t have upset stomachs anymore!!! I don’t give my digestive system such a hard time! I love being vegan!
Rex: 30 years ago I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Well… I am still here.
Robin: I used to have terrible Rosacea! And now I literally have that porcelain skin that I always dreamt about!! Clear skin and a clear conscience. My doctor put me on some pills to help it (go figure) and of course they never did… once I went totally vegan, BAM. Gone. Pills: Gone. Doctor: Gone. Now I see these commercials for those pills and it drives me crazy! I just want to jump in the TV, push all those silly actors out of the way & scream just GO VEGAN!! Btw, I didn’t go vegan to help my skin. I went vegan for the animals and environment. I’ve just always looked at my skin problem being gone (and just feeling wonderful in general) as a little thank you from the planet and animals for doing the right thing!
Robert: There`s a whole bunch of health benefits I experienced. I also lost 35 lbs without even trying – all I did was go vegan. I feel really light now, and have energy like I never had.
Suzanne: I had a terrible skin condition for about two years and tried all creams and potions etc… Nothing really did any good, but within two weeks of a vegan diet it went away.
Christine: I used to have some pretty intense joint pain in my fingers if I squeezed them; that’s now gone. I had acid reflux for about six years, and that went away too. I’ve lost almost 30 lbs and my skin is clear. Gotta love that! Oh… and I also had a problem with mucous in my head. That’s gone away too! I guess it was in my lungs and worked its way throughout the body.
Paul: A curious one: I lost a lifelong allergy to peanuts. And a more common one: weight loss and more immunity to flus and colds.
Martina: I stopped needing my reading glasses. Same for my mom, who became vegan in her eighties.
Alexa: I stopped getting Charliehorses in my calves and calcium spots on my fingernails.
Deborah: 30 lbs of fat!!! Very nice side benefit. OH… Gout – I had that bad in my big toes. No more! I became Vegan for the animals without a thought to the health benefits which just seem to be never ending!!
Jenn: I have been healed from IBS since going vegan. Every day I am grateful and amazed! It was a miracle for my life.
Rat: IBS and I never get colds or flu I lost weight too changing from just veggie to vegan as did my girlfriend. PMT is nowhere near as bad either when you’re vegan also, as you are not consuming extra hormones in your food! But I also did it for ethical reasons not health. But I always am aware of the health of being vegan; it is the best for your body and mind!
Sue: I rarely get a cold (twice in 17 years in case you’re interested) and when I do it’s barely noticeable. The big thing for me was that my asthma, which was simply getting worse and worse on the drugs I was on, disappeared completely.
Kathleen: Asthma and allergies! and all the horrible meds that went with them.
Heidi: High Blood Pressure! No more meds!!!!
Chandra: Asthma flare-ups from dairy
Harold: Chronic fatigue syndrome/Epstein Barr Syndrome, and heart disease.
Philippa: I lost weight, going from Vegetarian to Vegan, cutting out cheese and other dairy was a big change on my body… But health had nothing to do with it for me; I would still be doing it if it was hard on my health.
Jennifer: Since giving up dairy I’ve had only a few sore throats (vs getting them every month or two). They only last a few days instead of weeks. So wonderful!
Stephanie: I haven’t gotten any food poisoning in the past four years. I used to throw up at least once a year after eating at a restaurant but it hasn’t happened since.
Jay: Spare tires… and aches in leg joints caused by carrying excess weight.
Nick: My Hyperthyroidism.
Chris: A chemical imbalance in my brain that made me stupid But seriously, The worst “cold” I’ve had in four years since being vegan is a runny nose! I’m also running further than I ever could before.
Faye: I don’t get colds and flus, throat and chest infections any more.
Mandy: No colds since going veg and no allergies either!
Nick: Colds still happen but take care of themselves.
Liliya: To be honest, I feel lighter in my heart and soul, and that’s important to me…