What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Whole Food Diet?

There’s always some new, trendy diet fad that comes along, to the point that it can be confusing to know what’s beneficial and what isn’t. Lately, a term that’s been used a lot when it comes to food and nutrition is a plant-based diet. While it might sound trendy, it’s not really. 

A plant-based diet focusing on whole foods is one in which you’re not necessarily a vegan or vegetarian, but most of what you eat is from plant-based sources. For example, your meals may consist primarily of vegetables and legumes, and you may shift to use dairy-free yogurt and other dairy products. 

You can opt to eat no animal products, but that’s not an inherent requirement of going plant-based and whole food-based. 

You can interpret plant-based in the way that works best for you and your family. 

There is an emphasis on foods that are minimally processed, and along with fruits and vegetables your diet might include whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. You would try to avoid refined foods such as white flour and added sugar, and the quality of the food you’re consuming is integral to this type of diet. 

The following are some of the benefits of a plant-based and whole-food diet. 

Weight Loss

Many people want to find ways to lose weight, whether it’s a bit of weight primarily for vanity purposes or a significant among of weight to improve overall health. In the U.S., more than 69% of adults are overweight or obese, making this one of the most significant public health issues the country faces.

Research shows plant-based diets are helpful for weight loss. This is because they are high in fiber and should be low in processed foods. 

There have been studies showing plant-based and whole-food eating is good to not only initially lose weight, but to maintain weight loss. 

One specific study in 2018 found a plant-based diet was an effective obesity treatment. Researchers assigned 75 overweight or obese people to either a vegan diet or a continuation of their regular diet containing meat. After four months, the vegan group had a significant weight loss showing, as well as more lost fat mass and improved insulin sensitivity. 

Protect Against Diabetes

Recent research found that people who ate a primarily plant-based diet reduced the risk of diabetes by 23%. There are different reasons why plant-based eating might be helpful to combat diabetes. One reason could be that a plant-based diet is likely to be high in antioxidants from fruit and vegetable sources. 

Antioxidants can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation. 

The type of plant-based foods is an important link between this style of eating and a reduced risk of diabetes.

There are processed foods that are plant-based in theory, such as white rice. These foods often have a high glycemic index and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, so it’s best to make sure you’re combining plant-based eating with the consumption of primarily whole foods. 

Blood Pressure Control

High blood pressure or hypertension is something many people deal with.  

While it’s a common problem, there are many serious and even deadly risks associated with hypertension.

Hypertension can cause silent damage to the body over the years and ultimately cause disability or a reduced quality of life. 

High blood pressure that’s not well-controlled increases the risk of artery and heart damage, and cognitive effects such as mild cognitive impairment. 

A 2014 meta-analysis look at 39 studies and found that vegetarians tended to have lower blood pressure as compared to people who ate meat. 

What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Whole Food Diet?

Heart Health

Heart health is so important, but as with other chronic diseases is also something people struggle with. By eating more fruits and vegetables and shifting toward a plant-based diet, you might be able to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers looked at 95 studies and found consuming more fruits and vegetables daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

A separate large study found people who consumed more vegetables had a lower risk of chronic heart disease. The more vegetables eaten, the more the risk went down. 

Finally, a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer.

A study looking at more than 69,000 people found vegetarian diets were linked to a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Another study that looked at 77,000 people found individuals following a vegetarian diet had a 22% lower risk of colorectal cancer than non-vegetarians.