The Science of Plant-Based Nutrition and Health

Nearly Half of Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes May Be Prevented with Improved Nutrition, According to a New Review Published in Nutrients

Plant-based eating patterns continue to soar in popularity and a group of nutrition researchers outline the science behind this sustainable trend in a review paper, entitled “Cardiometabolic benefits of plant-based diets,” which appears as an online advance in the Aug. 9, 2017, edition of Nutrients.  The review will publish in a future special edition, entitled “The Science of Vegetarian Nutrition and Health.”

The review outlines how a plant-based diet, which is naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and rich in nutrients, like fiber and antioxidants, could  be one tool, in addition to adopting a healthful lifestyle, used to improve nutrition intake and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The authors, Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., analyzed clinical research studies and reviews published until May 2017. Their research finds a plant-based diet, built around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, can improve nutrient intake and help manage body weight and glycemic control, improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reverse atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries caused by the accumulation of arterial plaque.

“The future of health care starts on our plates,” says Dr. Kahleova, the lead study author and the director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee. “The science clearly shows food is medicine, which is a powerful message for physicians to pass on to their patients and for policymakers to consider as they propose modifications for health care reform and discuss potential amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill.”

To understand the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the researchers analyze its structure:

Fiber

Fiber contributes to bulk in the diet without adding digestible calories, thus leading to satiety and weight loss. Additionally, soluble fiber binds with bile acids in the small intestines, which helps reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.

Plant-Based Rx: Aim to eat at least 35 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American consumes 16 grams of dietary fiber each day.

Fats

Plant-based diets are lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can decrease insulin resistance, a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Swap meat and dairy products, oils, and high-fat processed foods for smaller portions of plant staples, like a few avocado slices or a small handful of nuts and seeds, which are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Plant Protein

Vegetable proteins reduce the concentrations of blood lipids, reduce the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

Plant-Based Rx: Legumes, or lentils, beans, and peas, are naturally rich in protein and fiber. Try topping leafy green salads with lentils, black beans, edamame, or chickpeas.

Plant Sterols 

Plant sterols that have a structure similar to that of cholesterol reduce cardiovascular disease risk and mortality, have anti-inflammatory effects, and positively affect coagulation, platelet function and endothelial function, which helps reduce blood clots, increases blood flow, and stabilizes glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Consume a high intake of antioxidants and micronutrients, including plant sterols, from whole plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and seeds. A plant-based diet supports cardio-metabolic benefits through several independent mechanisms. The synergistic effect of whole plant foods may be greater than a mere additional effect of eating isolated nutrients.

“To make significant health changes, we have to make significant diet changes,” concludes Dr. Kahleova. “A colorful plant-based diet works well for anyone, whether you’re an athlete looking to boost energy, performance, and recovery by enabling a higher efficiency of blood flow, which equates to oxygen conversion, or if you’re a physician who wants to help patients lose extra weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their cholesterol.”

Dr. Kahleova and the study authors recommend using a plant-based diet as an effective tool to treat and prevent cardiometaoblic disease, which they would like to see promoted through future dietary guidelines and nutrition policy recommendations.

For more information about plant-based eating patterns, visit NutritionMD.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

This black bean and sweet potato chili is super simple and rich with health benefits. It can be made with canned beans for convenience.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable broth or water
1 cup onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned black beans
1 1/2 cups diced sweet potatoes
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
2 cups water

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5 Tips for Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

By  & Center for Nutrition Studies

Fresh produce is part of a healthy eating plan and lifestyle. Storing produce properly is important. We go to the store and buy delicious-looking food, but then we get home and end up storing it improperly, or we get busy and forget about it. Then we find our refrigerator having the aroma of overripe or rotting fruits and veggies. One way we can spend less and eat healthier is by storing our fresh food properly. [Read more…]

Mango and Salsa Bean Salad

Fit Fathers and family, please try this Mango and Salsa Bean Salad from www.TheCheeseTrap.org.

Makes 6 cups (5 servings)

 1 to 1 1/2 cups cubed fresh mango (1 medium mango), see Note

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

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Sesame Quinoa Salad

Fit Fathers and family please try this Sesame Quinoa Salad from www.TheCheeseTrap.org. #CheeseTrap #DairyFree

Makes scant 3 cups (2 main-dish servings)

2 cups cooled cooked quinoa

1/2 cup thawed frozen green peas or steamed sliced snow peas

1/2 cup grated carrot (standard grate, not fine) or store-bought shredded carrot

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped green onion (green portion)

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Fit Father Tip of the Day: Natural Baby Foods

Fit Father Chris Anderson has two simple but very important health tips for your baby. The first is to use frozen fruit chunks in place of ice cubes in your water bottle to hydrate them with minerals and vitamins all day. Secondly, please skip the processed Gerber. Simply puree real fruit in your Vitamix for your kids from day one and they will love eating them for life. Truth!

Lettuce Wraps Recipe

Makes 6 lettuce wraps

This quick dish can be served as a snack, or a meal when adding brown rice into the filling.

  • 3 1/2 ounces dried, flavored tofu
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound bean sprouts
  • 1 large carrot cut into fine strips
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1/2 lemon keep juice
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Healthy Food Choices: Average Starter or All-Pro?

healthy-food-choices-average-starter-or-all-pro

By

Whether you love football or not, there is a connection between this popular sport, your health and longevity. One of the many things that go hand in hand with football is delicious food. Did you know that if you sit down to watch a game while eating pizza you could be amazingly healthy? And did you know that if you are watching the same game while eating kale salad you could be very unhealthy? In fact, both of these scenarios can be true. How you might ask? Well, it’s simple, let’s look at some statistics. [Read more…]

Healthy International Recipes: Indian Chickpeas with Gravy (Chole)

chickpeas-31

By The Physicians Committee

2 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup (150 grams) chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves
1 cup (240 grams) fresh tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) turmeric powder
1 teaspoon (2 grams) red pepper powder
2 teaspoons (5 grams) coriander powder
2 teaspoons (5 grams) cinnamon powder
2 teaspoons (5 grams) garam masala or substitute chole masala)
2.5 cups (625 milliliters) water
Salt to taste

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Sweet Potato Lentil Chili

sweet-potato-lentil-chili

By The Physicians Committee

Red lentils work nicely to thicken this chili, while the sweet potato gives a mellow, smooth contrast to the spices.

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