If you’re transitioning to a more plant-based diet, you’ll be happy to know that new studies confirm that the vegetarian diet—typically high in fiber and low in fat—is beneficial to many aspects of your health. And if you’ve been a vegetarian for years, these findings will give you good cause to pat yourself on the back.
Here, highlights from new research explain just why the veg diet is good for you:
1. It keeps your weight down
Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils are staples of a veg diet. Eating just 3/4 cup of these foods every day for six weeks can result in modest weight loss, even when a person’s diet was not restrictive calorie-wise, according to Canadian researchers.
2. It can reduce your risk of heart disease
A diet that relies on plant-based foods compared to one based on animal-based foods may reduce the risks of dying from stroke and heart disease by an impressive 20 percent, according to the American Heart Association.
3. It can keep your blood pressure low
A group of researchers from Japan reviewing more than 258 studies found that consuming a vegetarian diet was associated with low blood pressure. The researchers concluded that a veg diet “could be a useful nonpharmacologic means for reducing blood pressure.”
4. It can lower your risk of colorectal cancer
The National Cancer Institute cites colorectal cancer as the third most common type of cancer in the United States. A recent study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that people who ate a vegetarian diet had a 22 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who didn’t. Vegetarians tend to consume more fiber from whole grains, veggies, and fruit.
5. It reduces your risk of diabetes complications
A veg diet can help reduce complications related to diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts can improve blood-sugar control and make a diabetic’s body more responsive to insulin.
6. It can reduce breast-cancer risk
Teenage girls and young women who eat more high-fiber foods—particularly fruits and vegetables—may have a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer later in life, according to results from an analysis of more than 90,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study.
7. It can reduce painful symptoms of arthritis
A veg diet lessens inflammation and arthritis symptoms, according to Nathan Wei, MD, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, MD. Meat-free diets decrease the production of proteins like cytokines that cause or aggravate inflammation.
8. And best of all, it can extend your life
A study conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University, in California, followed 73,000 Seventh-day Adventists between 2002 and 2007 and found that a vegetarian diet is associated with lower mortality—from all causes—than all other diets.