Why Eat a Plant-Based Diet?
A whole-food, plant-based diet is healthful, nutritious and appropriate for all, regardless of age or stage of life. There are many health benefits to those who adopt such an eating pattern, including the prevention and treatment of certain diseases!
The Position Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Vegetarian Diets provides a good summary of the advantages of this eating approach:
“Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease.”
In addition to lowering the chances of developing certain chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, children and teens who eat this way are also at a lower risk for overweight and obesity, consume more fruits and vegetables regularly, and establish healthful lifelong habits.
Remember this: Eating a plant-based diet does not mean you need to give up all animal-based products immediately. Although those who switch completely to a whole-food, plant-based diet do reap the most health benefits, a good initial starting place can be just to begin intentionally making plant-based foods the 'star' or center of your meals, instead of animal-based foods.
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(Source: Melina, V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. Accessed April 2, 2021.)