5 Big Benefits of a Plant-Based Diets
By Dr. Crionna Tobin, Phd, Optimum Nutrition, Head of Nutrition & Education
Plants pack a powerful punch from both a health and environmental perspective.
Getting more plants into your day-to day eating can have wide ranging benefits from furthering your lifespan, promoting better immune protection and gut health to supporting your weight loss journey.
Plants also provide us with a super source of protein which can help hit daily protein goals and give your muscle the support in needs around training.
Finally, eating a more plant-based diet may contribute positivity to a more sustainable environment.
For more in depth knowledge on these points keep reading.
Plant-based diets are trending Globally for a multitude of health and sustainability reasons. Whether you are full on vegan or dabbling with swapping your steak for more plants, here are 5 big benefits that might make you consider plant-based foods more often.
Fibre & its many health benefits
Overall health benefit. One of the main benefits of a plant-based diet is their high fibre content. Fibre can be found in relatively high quantities in most plants. Increasing the fibre content of your diet has been linked to a reduction in many chronic diseases promoting a longer lifespan(1). You should aim to consume 30g of fibre per day. The table below sets out high fibre foods which you can chose from to achieve the 30g:
May support weight loss. Fibre and protein increase the satiety of a meal, which is essentially that feeling of fullness after eating. Increasing satiety allows you to feel fuller for longer, helping you to stick to a reduced daily caloric intake which may subsequently promote weight loss or maintenance. Making sure you hit your daily protein (1.6g/kg) and fibre (30g/day) goals will help keep you full and control your caloric intake.
Supports the immune system. Plants, such as legumes, fruit, vegetables and grains contain a large variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C which can help support your immune system.
Supports muscle mass
Studies have found that plant-based diets, along with an appropriate resistance training programme, can support muscle building similarly to animal-based diets once daily protein intakes hit 1.6g of protein per kg body weight(2). Interestingly, it can be challenging for those on a plant-based diet to hit higher protein goals as plant foods provide lower amounts of protein compared to animal foods per serving. In this case or if you are just seeking to swap out your whey protein shake for a plant option, Gold Standard 100% plant protein is the perfect choice. With a full profile of amino acids, this high-quality complete protein source will help you support your muscle goals. Check out this article to take a deeper dive into plant protein and its benefits for muscle building.
Supports gut health
Fibre is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut by feeding the good bacteria in your stomach. This has been linked to many health benefits such as improved mood, improved absorption of nutrients and an improved cholesterol ratio(3). Making sure to hit 30g per day will help maintain a healthy gut.
Better for the environment
Eating a more plant-based diets may be more sustainable for the environment due to the lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-based diets. Furthermore, plant-based diets may reduce land usage and preserve resources such as energy compared to the animal agriculture, contributing to the conservation of natural resources and the environment(4).
Flexibility and creativity
Due to the massive variety in a plant-based diet, it can be a fun and creative way to experiment with new ingredients and cooking methods. One of the biggest obstacles that come with changing any habit in nutrition is making it fun and creative. A plant-based diet can be a great opportunity to try new recipes and explore different cuisines, which can add excitement and variety to your meals.
What to tell your friends.
In conclusion, plant-based diets offer numerous health-related benefits that are well-documented and supported by scientific literature. Such diets are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and may help reduce the risk of many chronic disease and help you live a longer healthier life. Furthermore, they may be an effective weight management or loss strategy and support your training goals. Lastly, health-benefits aside, they may alco contribute positivity to a more sustainable environment. Adding more plant-based proteins to your diet is a feasible and effective strategy regardless as to whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or a flexitarian!
Chan, C.W. and Lee, P.H., 2016. Association between dietary fibre intake with cancer and all‐cause mortality among 15 740 adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 29(5), pp.633-642.
Hevia-Larraín, V., et al. 2021. High-protein plant-based diet versus a protein-matched omnivorous diet to support resistance training adaptations: a comparison between habitual vegans and omnivores. Sports Medicine, 51, pp.1317-1330.
Sidhu, Shaneerra Raajlynn Kaur, et al. 2023. “Effect of Plant-Based Diets on Gut Microbiota: A Systematic Review of Interventional Studies” Nutrients 15, no. 6: 1510.
Poore J et al., 2018. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.