The term “plant-based diet” is attributed to Cornell University nutritional biochemist Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who presented his diet research at the US National Institute of Health in 1980.
Dr. Campbell’s research about a plant-based diet extended from the China project, a decade-long study of dietary practices in rural China, giving evidence that a diet low in animal protein and fat and high in plant foods could reduce the risk of several diseases.
In 2005, Dr. Campbell and his son published “The China Study,” a best-selling book emphasizing the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet. Dr. Campbell also used the plant-based concept to educate consumers about how eating meat has significant environmental consequences.
In 2021, the World Health Organization stated that plant-based diets constitute a diverse range of dietary patterns that emphasize food derived from plant sources coupled with lower consumption or exclusion of animal products.
Vegetarian diets form a subset of plant-based diets, which may exclude consuming some or all animal foods.
A plant-based diet helps maintain a healthy weight. Staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk for cancer.
When it comes to cancer, the only thing more important than maintaining a healthy weight is not smoking. This is because excess weight causes inflammation and hormonal imbalance.
If you are overweight or obese, your risk is higher for 12 different types of cancer, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast, uterine, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic cancers.
If you eat mostly plants, you remove many of the foods that lead to weight gain. Add an exercise program, and you’re on a path toward weight loss.
Plants are high in fiber, present in all unprocessed plant foods. It is what makes up the structure of the plant, and if you eat more of it, you will access a whole host of benefits.
Eating a plant-based diet improves the health of your gut, so you’re better able to absorb the nutrients from food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Fiber can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, and it’s great for good bowel management.
Fiber is important for reducing your cancer risk. It is especially true for your risk for the third most common cancer, colorectal. A plant-based diet reduces your risk for other diseases, too. The benefits of eating mostly plants are not limited to reducing your cancer risk.
Current studies have explored the relationship between plant-based dietary patterns, like vegetarian, vegan or Mediterranean-style diets. Theyhave shown them to be linked with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes when compared to less healthy dietary patterns.
Scientific research also indicates that healthy plant-based diets can lower blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol, and promote a healthy body weight. Plant based diets tend to be higher in many foods that are important to our diets, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses.
As a result, these diets tend to provide higher amounts of dietary fiber, lower saturated fat and free sugars than any other dietary patterns. This may underline many of the health benefits observed. But we also know that people who adopt such diets are often more health conscious and adopt other healthier lifestyle factors.
For instance, they are likely to be more physically active, less likely to smoke, consume less alcohol and are more likely to have a higher income and education. This may also explain some of the observed health benefits.
Food-based dietary guidelines recommend that plant foods, for example, fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as oats, whole meal bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta, should make up a large part of what we eat.
We should also include sources of healthy fats in our diets, such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, unsaturated oils and spreads made from them, and protein from beans, peas and lentils.
Disclaimer: I do not encourage or discourage the Plant-Based Diet. I do encourage anyone interested in the Plant-Based Diet to decide if this way of eating is best for them.
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