Plant-Based Diets

Is eating a plant-based diet best for everyone? There are many advocates of some plant-based diets, but just avoiding meat does not automatically equal a healthier diet. We often see this with “vegetarians” who primarily eat refined carbohydrates and cheese with plenty of sugar-laden drinks. A typical day of food may consist of sugary cereal with milk, cheese and crackers, pizza, and soda. As a general rule, we should all try to consume multiple servings of fresh vegetables each day, while limiting carbohydrates like bread, fruit, and potatoes. Even though vegetables and fruit are often lumped into the same category in some diet programs, there are more calories and sugar in fruit. Eating one serving of fresh fruit three or four days per week is much different than eating it throughout the day.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study recently which included three different plant-based diets. One combined the eating of any type of plant-based foods along with reducing animal-based foods. Another focused on eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The third centered around unhealthy plant-based foods, like refined carbohydrates, potatoes and sugar-laden foods and drinks.

The research comprised long-running studies including the Nurses’ Health Study (73,710 women), the Nurses’ Health Study II (92,329 women), and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (43,247 men).The results showed that healthy plant-based diets (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) were associated with decreased heart disease risk.  Interestingly, the group that ate less meat, but consumed more refined foods, had a 32% increased risk of heart disease.

The study recommended increasing healthy plant food intake and decreasing unhealthy ones. We agree! We also find that each of us has a unique physiology requiring different types of food for optimal health which, for some of us, includes meat.