INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Skip the pharmacy and head for the produce aisle. We're looking at the Top 5 reasons you should switch to eating a plant-based diet.
"Most people think when they hear 'plant based diet' -- vegetarian or vegan," says IU Health Dietitian Anna King. "But that's not necessarily what it means."
A plant-based diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole Grains, according to the American Dietetic Association . These foods are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. They are also naturally lower in calories than foods made from animals.
To get the health benefits of a plant-based diet, King suggests adults eat 2 to 2.5 cups of fruits each day and 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables each day – for a total of about 5 cups a day.
"If you're more [physically] active, you should look at eating more than that," says King. "Just picture your plate -- each time you eat, at least half of your plate should be covered with fruits and vegetables."
For a simple calculation of how many fruits and vegetables you should eat, click here !
The Top 5 Reasons to Eat a Plant-Based Diet:
- Lower risk of heart disease and stroke: Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, and a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows women who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing the disease. Doctors are not entirely sure why it is, but r ecent studies suggest nutrients and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, including fiber, potassium, and folate, could be independently or jointly responsible for the reduction in risk.
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure: Diet can play an important role in lowering your cholesterol. According to Harvard Health , different foods lower cholesterol in various ways by delivering soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. By incorporating more plants in your diet, like oats, eggplant and okra, you can lower your ‘bad' cholesterol.
- Lower risk for cancer: The National Cancer Institute catalogs several studies showing how increased vegetable intake, specifically cruciferous vegetables like arugula, broccoli and kale decrease the risk of developing cancer. Studies in animals and experiments with cells grown in the laboratory have identified several potential ways in which these compounds may help prevent cancer, like protecting cells from DNA damage, and having anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lower risk, prevent diabetes: More than 20 years ago, the first studies were done showing significantly lower risk of diabetes in vegetarians compared with nonvegetarians. Over the years, the study results haven't changed. Consistently, studies show increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables significantly reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. In a 2006 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in Diabetes Care , Dr. Neal Barnard found a diet high in vegetable consumption proved to be three times more effective than the American Diabetes Association dietary guidelines at controlling blood sugar. You can access his program here .
- Maintain healthy immune system: Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies, according to Harvard Health . You've always heard the phrase "you are what you eat," but in this case its true!
What are the best plant-based diets?
U.S. News ranked the Mediterranean Diet as the No. 1 plant-based diet and the Flexitarian Diet – mostly vegetarian with the flexibility of meat consumption – as a close second.
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