Eating a vegetarian or primarily plant-based diet is associated with a variety of health benefits.
But simply being vegetarian is not enough to reap those benefits—the quality of the food matters, too.
Mounting evidence suggests a plant-based diet lowers heart disease risk
Eating more plant protein, less animal-derived protein associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease
In a study of nearly 6,000 people based in the Netherlands, those who ate more plant protein at the expense of animal-derived protein showed a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease during a median follow-up period of more than 13 years.
Eating more plant protein, less animal-derived protein associated with less plaque in the arteries
A study of 4,500 Brazilian adults finds that people who regularly consumed more plant-based protein were nearly 60 percent less likely than those consuming more animal-based protein to show evidence of plaque in the heart’s arteries based on coronary artery calcium scoring, a measure of plaque buildup commonly used to assess heart disease risk.
Vegetarian diet associated with reduced risk factors for heart disease and diabetes
Among South Asians living in the US, people following a vegetarian diet were found to have a lower number of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference and lower amounts of abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar compared to people in the same demographic group who ate meat.
Don’t forget: The quality of plant-based food impacts health, too
Eating healthful plant-based foods associated with less weight gain
An analysis of changes in body weight among more than 125,000 adults over 4-year periods shows plant-based diets rich in high-quality plant-based foods (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts) were associated with less weight gain, while a higher intake of unhealthful plant-based foods (such as sweets, refined grains and fries) was associated with significantly greater weight gain.
Eating higher quality plant-based foods associated with lower risk of death
A study of nearly 30,000 US adults bolsters evidence that a higher quality diet helps you live longer and suggests that the quality of plant-based foods in the diet is more important than the quality of animal-based foods.
Better choices in the plant-based components of the diet lowered mortality by 30 percent while higher quality animal-based components had little effect on mortality.
The beneficial effect of high-quality plant-based foods was even more pronounced among people with chronic health conditions.