The word “cure” comes up a lot when it comes to the health effects of a plant-based diet.
There are many health claims about how plant-rich foods can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and many people are eager to take advantage of their new-found health.
But is there a scientific basis for the claim that eating a plant food can help lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, or diabetes?
Are there any plant-derived compounds that could lower those risk factors, or is there just a little-known, but powerful, antioxidant that can lower risk in our bodies?
In this article, we’ll explore the scientific basis of the health claims, as well as the possible benefits of using plant-like foods to prevent chronic disease.
But first, some background.
The idea that plant-foods can help keep us healthier came about in the 1980s, when a number of researchers found that high-fiber plant foods like whole grains, beans, and legumes reduced heart disease risk by reducing inflammation.
It’s now known that certain nutrients found in plant foods, like lycopene, can be antioxidants that can fight the damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation.
However, the same compounds are also present in a variety of plant foods—including some that are plant-related.
So while whole grains may be good for heart health, beans are good for cancer prevention, and so on.
In fact, plant-eating is so common among Americans, researchers have begun to use a different name for the same thing: “plant-derived health claims.”
The idea of eating plant-containing foods has evolved to meet the nutritional needs of our planet.
In the 1980’s, the word “plant” was a bit of a misnomer, with plant foods often being more like meat or dairy products, such as soy, nuts, and seeds.
But a lot of the research on plant-dieting has been about the benefits of eating plants, rather than animal products, so the term “plant health” has come into being.
What do we know about plant-free diets?
As the number of plant-loving people on the planet has grown, so too have the types of plant products that we eat.
Plant-based foods like beans, soybeans, and lentils have long been known for their high levels of phytochemicals and their low levels of saturated fat.
This has led some researchers to wonder if a plant diet may be better for health than a meat or animal-based one.
But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that eating plant foods doesn’t always mean eating plant proteins, or plant fats, and that there may be other benefits to plant- and animal-source foods that might be different than those listed above.
The researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1980 to 2004, and then compared the plant foods consumed by a group of men who were free of heart, diabetes, or cancer and those who were not.
The researchers found “an inverse association between consumption of plant food and risk of mortality,” but that consumption of “saturated fat, protein, and fiber were inversely associated with risk.”
The researchers suggest that a plant protein intake of 10 grams per day or less per day is better for heart and other health than the 10 grams that are recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The researchers also looked at the health outcomes of the men in the study who ate the least amount of animal-derived food, and found “a modest protective effect of animal food intake on all-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”
But the researchers also found a “small inverse association” between plant food intake and death from stroke and diabetes.
In other words, there is some evidence that plant food consumption may lower risk of these diseases.
The findings from this study may not come as a surprise to people who have followed the current dietary guidelines for plant-and-animal-derived foods.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 2006, called for eating “at least one serving of animal products per week” to be a good diet for everyone.
This guideline is still the best way to reduce the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet.
But while this guideline is an ideal way to cut down on saturated fats, it’s not the only way to do so.
Some people may be more likely to consume animal-made foods, and some studies suggest that this may be a cause of their health problems.
To find out more, the researchers recruited about 2,000 men in their study who were all free of diabetes and cancer