Health benefits of a plant-based diet

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – According to the American Dietic Association, vegetarian diets are associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and cancer risks.

After being diagnosed with coronary artery disease, Judy Columbus’s cardiologist recommended she switch to a plant based diet, so she became a vegan and has noticed a dramatic increase in energy.

“We eat a lot of beans, legumes, rice,” Columbus said. “I’ve lost 30 pounds. Thirty pounds in 6 months!”

Columbus says the benefits are also economical, and that her grocery bill has been cut in half.

Bon Secours St. Francis Clinical Dietician Jalak Patel says she’s seen firsthand how patients have benefitted from plant-based diets.

“They’ve not only improved their lipid profile but they just had so much more energy,” Patel said.

She attributes the benefits to a lower intake of saturated fats and higher intake of fiber, vitamin c and complex carbohydrates.

“We say 75 percent of your plate or meal should be fruits vegetables, whole grains, nuts seeds and beans,” she suggested. “’Whole food’ means minimally processed.”

In response to the question, “Do vegetarians and vegans get enough protein by eliminating meat?” she says yes, if they are eating a properly balanced plant-based diet with mostly whole grains.

Patel argues that everyone could benefit from eating a mostly plant-based diet, consuming meat only 25 percent of the time.

“I think if we go 75 percent plant based is a good place to start, but it’s hard,” she said. “We are a society of all or none, right? But what if we started somewhere? If you’re a person that likes to eat sausage with breakfast, maybe we change that.”

However, she cautions vegans to watch out for this B12 and Omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies.

Patel has the following general guidelines for plant based dieting per day: at least 64 ounces of water, 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables, half a cup of beans or lentils a day and a quarter cup of nuts and seeds. She also suggests making sure that at least half of your grains are whole and minimally processed.

To submit a health question for our series, click here.

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