A review of 87 published studies showed that those who consume a plant-based diet have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Additionally, people have experienced weight loss independent of exercising.
Eating whole plant foods increases fiber, which in turn increases our sense of fullness and proportionally lowers our calorie intake. We also gain the benefits of numerous macro- and micro- nutrients in eating a diet rich with fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, all of which are effective protectors against cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation. In other words, the more whole plant foods one eats per day, especially fruits and vegetables, the lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The risk appears to decrease by 4% for each additional daily fruit and vegetable portion and by 7% for fruit consumption.
A healthy whole-foods, plant-based diet consists of fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. It excludes or minimizes meats, dairy products, eggs, and highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil. The general macronutrient ratio is no more than 10% of total calories from fat, 75% from carbohydrates and 15% from protein.
Type 2 diabetes raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in United States and the world. Increasingly, studies done on whole-foods, plant-based vegan diets have been done to show their effectiveness in combating our growing health problems.
Plant-based diet and type 2 diabetes:
Fiber rich plant-based diet is very effective in improving type 2 diabetes. When compared to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet, the Plant-Based (PB) diet favoring low-glycemic index foods was more effective in improving type 2 diabetes in long-term diabetic volunteers. The PB diet, without restricting calories or portions, showed better results in:
- Improving insulin sensitivity (ability for insulin hormone to help glucose enter the cells so it can be used for energy),
- Lowering blood glucose (more glucose was able to enter the cells from the blood),
- Lowering lipid levels more effectively.
By improving these type 2 diabetes markers, the PB diet also lowered the volunteers’ risk for heart disease more efficiently. Because they consumed more plants, their fiber and antioxidant intake was greater, which meant they potentially had better protection against oxidative damage and cancer.
Whole plant foods help improve heart health:
Plant foods also demonstrated potential in preventing cardiovascular disease. In 2000, the American Heart Association diet (AHA) changed their dietary guidelines to include more whole plant foods, which are known to help lower blood cholesterol levels. In a 4-week study at a Cleveland Clinic, the AHA diet was compared to the PB diet. Volunteers were obese children and their parents who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The two diets helped both groups with weight loss and lowered their cholesterol levels; however the PB diet proved to be more efficient than the AHA diet in lowering the children’s blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, insulin levels, and inflammation markers ( MPO and hs-CRP, which are cardiovascular disease risk markers).
Increasingly, American medical professionals, including the well-known surgeon Dr. Codwell Esselystein, have been promoting a whole-foods, plant-based diet to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Esselystein conducted a study on plant-based nutrition for 177 patients with severe cardiovascular disease. After only a few years of eating vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, cardiovascular disease ceased to progress in 93% of volunteers. 99.4% of the volunteers also avoided major cardiac events. With time, there was less plaque and more space for blood flow inside some of the volunteers’ veins.
If this macronutrient ratio and whole nutrition source is so effective in stopping and even reversing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, it would not be a far stretch to consider whole, plant foods as the answer we have been looking for to change our future.
Katja Breceljnik is a Clinical Nutritionist who runs the blog More Than An Apple. She graduated from the California College of Natural Medicine and has received a certificate in NeuroEndocrine Regulation & Anti-Aging. She is a passionate advocate for healthy living in a dirty city. She has helped many people with both reversing their symptoms and gaining understanding of the connection between their symptoms and the cause.
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