Why The Power Plate?
Plant-Based Diets Promote Health
Science supports a low-fat, plant-based diet for optimal health. The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the nation’s largest organization of nutrition experts, states that "vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
The ADA's position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, published in 2009, references more than 200 studies and papers to support its conclusions. Studies continue to show that plant-based diets can aid in reversing the symptoms of America’s most devastating diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.
People who follow a plant-based diet have a healthier heart. They reap the benefits of lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters, and heart disease is less common in vegetarians. Plant-based meals are typically low in saturated fat, and since cholesterol is found only in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, it’s easy to consume a cholesterol-free diet.
Another benefit of consuming a plant-based diet is getting your blood pressure numbers down. An impressive number of studies show that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than nonvegetarians. A low-fat, plant-based diet has also shown to reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. A diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains, which is also low in fat and sugar, can lower blood sugar levels and often reduce or even eliminate the need for medication. Since individuals with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease, avoiding fat and cholesterol is important, and a vegetarian diet is the best way to do that.
A plant-based diet helps prevent cancer. Studies of vegetarians show that death rates from cancer are only about one-half to three-quarters of those of the general population. Breast cancer rates are dramatically lower in countries where diets are typically plant-based. When people from those countries adopt a Western, meat-based diet, their rates of breast cancer soar. Vegetarians also have significantly lower rates of colon cancer than meat-eaters. Colon cancer is more closely associated with meat consumption than any other dietary factor.
Protective against cancer, plant-based diets are lower in fat and higher in fiber than meat-based diets. They are also full of foods that have phytochemicals, cancer-fighting substances. This might help to explain why vegetarians have less lung and prostate cancer. Also, some studies have suggested that diets that avoid dairy products may reduce the risk of prostate and ovarian cancer.
People who consume plant-based diets are also less likely to form either kidney stones or gallstones. They may also be at lower risk for osteoporosis because they eat little or no animal protein. A high intake of animal protein encourages the loss of calcium from the bones. Replacing animal products with plant foods reduces the amount of calcium lost. This may help to explain why people who live in countries where the diet is typically plant-based have little osteoporosis, even when calcium intake is lower than that in the dairy-consuming countries.
A simple dietary graphic does not replace nutritional teaching, particularly with regard to nutrient adequacy, supplementation, and dietary changes for specific stages of life. It is important to note that vitamin B12 supplementation is essential for individuals following vegan diets. Because of absorption issues, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the IOM also recommend vitamin B12 supplementation for all individuals older than 50 years.
Taking control of your quality of life starts with consuming a plant-based diet. Filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains is not only your best bet for disease prevention, it’s an easy way to reverse damage already done. Follow the Power Plate to optimal health.
For more information and scientific references, consult our dietary guidelines monograph (PDF) >