Expert talks about plant-based diets and why they are beneficial for us

Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Kirtika KatiraUpdated: Aug 04, 2022, 11:36 AM IST
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In an exclusive conversation with WION, fitness and diet specialist Dr Pankaj Kumar opened up about plant-based diets and why it is beneficial for you.

A plant-based diet demands careful preparation, careful label reading, and a strong sense of self-control. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, including legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains as well as avoiding or restricting animal products and added fats or oils are some of the recommendations for patients who desire to follow a plant-based diet.

These diets help reduce the number of medications patients need to treat various chronic conditions, lower body weight, lower cancer risk, and lessen ischemic heart disease death risk for those who adopt them.

If you wish to switch to a plant-based diet, fruits and vegetables should be the primary focus of your meals. And, you must avoid eating animal products such as milk and eggs.

Our diet should be geared at improving our overall well-being and a plant-based diet certainly does that.

Why should we eat a plant-based diet?

It's recommended that we consume a plant-based diet because of the numerous health benefits it provides. Let's read more about it!

1.    Obesity

In 2006, Berkow and Barnard13 stated in Nutrition Reviews that a vegan or vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss after examining data from 87 published researches. They also discovered that vegetarian populations had lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

In addition, their review reveals that vegans lose weight at a rate of about 1 pound per week without the need for exercise. After a meal, vegans burn more calories than non-vegans, however, non-vegans may not burn as many calories since the food they eat is stored as fat.

2.    Diabetes

Plant-based diets may be superior to non-plant-based diets in terms of diabetes prevention and treatment. According to Adventist Health Studies, vegetarians have a lower risk of getting type-2 diabetes than non-vegetarians. In a study conducted over a 17-year period, Vang et al found that non-vegetarians had a 74% higher risk of developing diabetes than vegetarians.

People who are vegan had a lower risk of diabetes than those who are not, according to a 2009 study that involved more than 65,000 people. To prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, it is possible to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance by a low-fat plant-based diet with little or no meat consumption.

Plant-based Diet

Researchers Barnard and his colleagues conducted a randomised clinical experiment in 2006 to compare the low-fat vegan diet to the American Diabetes Association guidelines. As compared to those on the American Diabetes Association diet, low-fat vegans saw their HbA1C levels fall by 1.23 points.

A low-fat vegan diet reduced medication use by 43%, but the American Diabetes Association diet only reduced medication use by 26%.

3.    Inflammation of the heart

Patients with heart disease who participated in the Lifestyle Heart Trial, led by Dr Dean Ornish, saw atherosclerosis progress in 82% of those who participated. The reversal of even severe coronary atherosclerosis after just one year appears to be the result of a comprehensive lifestyle adjustment. Ten per cent of his calories came from fat, 15 per cent to 20 per cent from protein, 70 per cent to 75 per cent from carbohydrates, and cholesterol was limited to 5 mg per day in his plant-based diet.

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet have been linked to a lower risk of many chronic diseases, however, not all vegetarians will benefit from these benefits in the same way. The most important thing is to eat a healthy diet, not just a vegan or vegetarian diet.

4.    Blood Pressure Problems

Dietary patterns and blood pressure in adults were examined by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in 2010 as part of a review of the scientific literature conducted at that time. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were shown to be lower in vegetarians. A low salt, plant-based Japanese diet has been shown in a randomised crossover trial to dramatically lower systolic blood pressure.

5.    Mortality

Additionally, in 2010, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee conducted a literature evaluation to examine the impact of plant-based diets on stroke, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality in adulthood.

Plant-based diets were linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality when compared to non-plant-based diets, according to the study's findings. Reduced consumption of red meat may be the primary reason for the mortality advantage of plant-based diets.

Plant-based Diet

More About Plant-Based Diets


Patients on a plant-based diet are generally not at risk of protein shortage. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, including those that the body cannot make on its own, are known as essential amino acids. Meat, cheese, and eggs, as well as numerous plant meals like quinoa, all contain essential amino acids. You can also get essential amino acids from plant-based foods if you eat specific combinations of those foods. An appropriate supply of essential amino acids and protection from protein malnutrition is therefore provided by a well-balanced, plant-based diet.

As a protein source, soybeans and foods produced from them may help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein in the blood and reduce the risk of hip fractures, malignancies, and other health problems.
There was an association between lower blood pressure in vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.
Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who regularly ate soy products were 32 per cent less likely to get breast cancer and 29 per cent less likely to die from the disease. Women with a history of breast cancer should discuss soy diets with their oncologists due to concerns about their estrogenic properties.

There was a 26% reduction in prostate cancer risk after an analysis of 14 trials in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Iron is present in plant-based diets, although it is less bioavailable than iron found in animal products. Kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach and raisins are some of the plant-based foods that are high in iron. Individuals who adopt a plant-based diet and eat little or no animal products may have reduced iron reserves. The American Dietetic Association, on the other hand, asserts that iron deficiency anaemia is uncommon even among vegetarians and vegans.

B12 vitamin

Blood and cell division are dependent on the presence of vitamin B12. Macrocytic anaemia and permanent nerve injury are both possible outcomes of a vitamin B12 shortage. Bacteria, not plants or animals, create Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in those who adopt a plant-based diet that excludes animal products. Supplementation with vitamin B12 or foods fortified with vitamin B12 is recommended.

Plant-based Diet

Vitamin D and Calcium

The general public is prone to vitamin D deficiency. In a well-balanced, well-planned, plant-based diet, calcium intake can be adequate. Bone mineralization may be impeded and fractures may occur in those who do not consume a sufficient amount of calcium-rich plants. For vegans and non-vegetarians, fracture risk was found to be the same. Regardless of one's dietary preferences, proper calcium consumption appears to be the most important factor in bone health. Tofu, mustard and turnip greens, bokchoy, and kale are all excellent sources of calcium. Calcium in spinach and other plants is bonded to oxalate, making it difficult to absorb.

Fats and oils

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own, thus they must be ingested to maintain optimal health. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are the only two necessary fatty acids that have been identified. Skin, hair, and nail abnormalities might appear if essential fatty acid deficiency is present. Omega-3 fatty acids are the fatty acids that vegans are most likely to be low in (n-3 fats). Heart disease and stroke can be prevented by a diet rich in n-3 fatty acids. Foods high in n-3 fatty acids are ground flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts, and canola oil.

Inputs by Dr Pankaj Kumar, Consultant Physician and Weight Loss Specialist.