The popularity of plant-based diets has significantly risen in the past few years. But what is all the hype about?
Well, plant-based diet is associated with various health benefits like improved cholesterol profile, balanced blood pressure, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, improved digestion, delayed progression of kidney disease, and supported mental health.
This article will guide you through the important health benefits of long-term plant-based eating.
Table of Contents
What is plant-based diet?
Plant-based diet focuses on consumption of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, oils, and other plant-based products.
It may sound surprising, but a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily exclude animal products! It only limits the consumption of meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products, but they can still be present in moderate amounts.
In fact, according to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, consuming high-quality plant-foods together with limited animal products, may have a positive effect on heart health! 
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you follow a plant-based diet, it’s recommendable to reduce your intake of red meat (pork, beef, lamb) to a minimum and avoid all kinds of processed foods, including sausages and bacon. They are usually high in calories and rich in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats, which can raise LDL (bad cholesterol), blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart and kidney disease. 
That being said, if you want to include only plant-based proteins, you can absolutely do so! It’s up to you and your food choices!
What are the benefits of plant-based diet?
Evidence suggests that adopting a plant-based diet may play an essential role in improving symptoms of the following health conditions  :
- Poor cholesterol profile
- Heart disease
In addition, plant-based diet can lead to other health benefits, including  :
- Increased RMR (resting metabolic rate)
- Increased energy
- Slowed progression of kidney disease
- Increased consumption of antioxidants (like vitamins C and E)
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Reach ideal weight
- Reduced inflammation in the body
All those positive aspects of plant-based diet can be associated with overall long-term improvement in your wellbeing and physical health.
Another benefit, unrelated to physical health, is that switching to a plant-based diet can be budget-friendly! A 2015 study in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition suggests that by going plant-based you may actually save about $750 a year. 
Make sure all of your meals include at least one good source of protein. Great plant-based sources of protein include beans, nuts, lentils, seeds, peas, tofu and some whole grains such as quinoa and kamut. If you choose to include eggs & dairy in your diet, they are also good sources of protein. The protein from these foods, in addition to the small amount you’ll find in all vegetables, fruits and grains, will easily provide adequate protein for most people.
How to adopt plant-based diet?
There are different plant-based diets that you can choose from. Some of the most popular ones are:
- Vegetarian diet (excluding meat, poultry, and seafood)
- Vegan diet (excluding all kinds of animal products, like meat, dairy or honey)
- Pescaterian diet (vegetarian diet including consumption of seafood and fish)
- Flexitarian (including dairy foods, eggs, and other secondary animal products, with occasional consumption of meat, seafood, and poultry)
- Plant-forward (eating meals that focus on plant foods, but are not limited to them and may include some, though limited, animal products)
What are the disadvantages of a plant-based diet?
Talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet, we should mention it’s potential downsides (even though there are not many).
- The American Heart Association reminds you to be careful when substituting animal products for vegan “junk food” like french fries or packaged vegan foods rich in added sugar and fats.  As that happens often, people may not see the optimal health benefits of plant-based diet and may even start making poor food choices.
- A 2019 study suggests that vegetarians may bear 20% higher risk of stroke compared to meat eaters (yet, experience significantly lower risk of heart disease). However, those results are still unsupported by other medical research pieces. 
- According to the National University of National Medicine, lack of proper planning and food education about plant-based diet may pose health concerns including:
- Risk of low protein intake if meals are not balanced
- Risk of deficiency in vitamins D and B12, as well as iron and calcium
- Reduced intake of essential fatty acids
Disclaimer: This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the counsel of a medical doctor.