Medical schools generally only offer minimal nutrition education. Yet research demonstrates that plant-based diets may help prevent and reverse many chronic diseases.
Plant-based diets focus on diets rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats like nuts and seeds to lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
Plant-based diets are high in fiber and low in insulin levels, making it harder for cancer cells to flourish. One study concluded that women who consumed more fiber-rich foods were 25% less likely to develop breast cancer later. Plant-based meals include hearty vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fat sources like avocados or nuts or seeds – adding these items can fill your plate while decreasing your risk of obesity – something which has been linked with higher rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Studies analyzing data from the UK Biobank revealed that people eating healthful plant-based diets were at reduced risk of death and major chronic diseases than those eating mostly animal-based diets. Physicians can help their patients adopt healthier lifestyles by suggesting plant-based diets rich in whole, plant-based foods while restricting processed meats, refined carbohydrates, salty snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages and trans fats.
Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Studies have consistently linked plant-based diets with reduced cardiovascular disease risk. A low fat, whole food plant-based diet has been demonstrated to not only lower but reverse atherosclerotic plaque buildup in arteries that causes heart attacks (1-3). Furthermore, this way of eating has also proven successful at treating and even reversing other chronic illnesses like diabetes, fatty liver disease, and early stage prostate cancer (4-6).
A plant-based diet involves increasing intake of vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits while decreasing intake of meat products such as dairy and processed food products. A lifestyle medicine practitioner can assist their patients in adopting and maintaining such a diet.
Rebholz urges those with family histories of heart disease or other inflammatory conditions to visit a lifestyle medicine clinic and explore plant-based diet as one option that has consistently been associated with lower cardiovascular morbidity and mortality rates among population studies (1).
Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
According to a 2014 Nutrients study, plant-based diets may help those living with diabetes reduce their blood sugar and improve emotional well-being, quality of life, HbA1c levels, weight, and total cholesterol. Researchers investigated various dietary patterns – from those that focus on healthful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts instead of meat or refined carbs – on blood sugar and total cholesterol.
Research published in Oxford-EPIC cohort demonstrated that diets emphasizing plant-based foods — like those seen in this cohort — were linked with unique metabolite profiles that reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes even after accounting for other factors like BMI. Furthermore, unhealthy plant-based diets that favor more processed food and beverages were found to increase diabetes risks significantly; supporting their role as diabetes prevention strategies.
Reduced Risk of Obesity
For anyone hoping to reduce their risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or premature mortality due to obesity, eating predominantly plant-based meals is one of the best things they can do. Focus on eating mostly vegetables and fruit while cutting back on meat products, processed food items, sugary beverages, and oils – you will maintain a healthier weight this way.
People who eat more plants also gain more fiber, helping with weight management and decreasing their risk for chronic diseases. By adding exercise into this diet it becomes even more effective at disease prevention.
Interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet? Consult your physician or dietitian. They can create a meal plan tailored specifically to you and can direct you towards resources available in your community to support health goals. A nutrition specialist may even recommend suitable cookbooks.