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Can a plant-based diet help you live longer?

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Can a plant-based diet help you live longer?

We know we can add color with fruits and vegetables at every meal, but could we see even more health benefits from eating a mainly plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet? According to new research, the answer may be a hearty “yes!”

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Put more plants on your plate.

The 2019 study on plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease found that eating mostly plant foods and fewer animal foods was associated with significantly lower risk of heart disease and other health problems.

When compared to people who ate the least amount of plant-based foods, the people who ate mostly plant-based foods were:

  • 16% less likely to develop heart disease.
  • 32% less likely to die from heart disease and stroke.
  • 25% less likely to die from any cause.

Didn’t we know this already?

Sure, previous studies have shown the benefits of a plant-based diet for specific populations, but this is one of the first studies to look at the differences between plant-based and animal-based diets in the general U.S. population. And the findings were consistent.

The study was observational, so it does not prove cause and effect. But with plant-based, vegetarian and vegan food options becoming more popular and readily available, this provides more reasons to support those choices.

Quality matters.

The study also found that the quality of plant foods — healthier nutrient-dense foods vs. less-healthy processed foods — may make a difference for longevity. The researchers defined a healthy plant-based diet as one higher in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein and lower in refined carbohydrates and sugar. In other words, just because something is plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy (for example, snack chips vs. carrot sticks). It’s about making smart choices.

The American Heart Association recommends an overall healthy eating pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes.

The research indicates that increasing plant foods and reducing animal foods can have major health benefits. And another recent study on plant-based diets and hypertension showed that a healthy plant-based diet can be an effective way to manage high blood pressure.

Why not give it a try? Start with a few plant-based meals a week and go from there. Check out these delicious vegetarian recipes.

How will you add plants to your plate?