People can choose from plant-based products that are as close to natural as possible.
Healthcare professionals often recommend including more fresh, whole foods in your diet. Eating natural foods rather than highly processed foods can have many health benefits.
Two new observational studies have looked at the benefits of plant-based diets. Both studies followed participants for more than a decade to track trends in health and food choices.
USDA nutrition recommendations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been setting dietary guidelines for more than 100 years. While the rules have changed over time, the USDA has long focused on eating foods that contain the nutrients needed to maintain good health.
Currently, the USDA recommends that an individual diet should consist of the following
- dairy products
Based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that people eat 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables, grains, protein foods, and 3 cups of dairy products.
This also suggests that people can vary their protein sources and eat lean meals from time to time.
Diet research at a young age
The first new study, titled “Plant-Based Diet and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Young and Middle Age,” was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The researchers in this study tracked nearly 5000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 when it began. The study lasted 32 years.
None of the participants had any heart problems when the study began. Over the years, doctors assessed the participants’ health, asked about the food they ate, and gave them a dietary score.
By the end of the study, almost 300 people had developed cardiovascular disease. What’s more, after adjusting for various factors including race, gender, and education level, the researchers also found that people with the most plant-based diets and higher diet quality scores were 52% less likely to develop heart disease than those with the least plant-based diets.
“A nutrient-rich, plant-based diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. A plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegetarian diet,” says Dr. Yuni Choi, one of the authors of the young adult study.
Dr. Choi is a researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.
“People can choose from plant-based foods that are as close to natural as possible and are not highly processed. We think that people can occasionally include animal products in moderation, such as lean poultry, lean fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy products,” says Dr. Choi.
Christine Kirkpatrick, a dietitian with a master’s degree in health management and founder of KAK Consulting, told Medical News Today about the study.
“The data presented in this study is consistent with previous research on plant-based diets, longevity, and metabolic health,” Kirkpatrick said.
“I’m not surprised by the results,” she said, “and perhaps the takeaway is that it’s never too late or too early to start a plant-based diet.