How does a trim waist, sharp mind, healthy heart, and smooth skin sound?
Believe it or not, researchers have found that we can reap these benefits, and more, by following a simple rule: Eat more plants.
In fact, many of the top diets of 2016, according to the latest US News diet rankings report, are plant-based, meaning they focus on pairing modest amounts of lean protein, like from poultry and fish, with loads of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Read on to learn about the many science-backed benefits of this healthy habit of eating.
Plenty of research suggests that vegetarians tend to consume fewer calories, and thus weigh less and have lower body mass indexes than non-vegetarians.
While following a plant-based diet doesn't necessarily mean going full-blown vegetarian, opting largely for fibre-packed fruits, veggies, and whole grains in lieu of meat will likely leave you feeling fuller on fewer calories.
Too many diets leave us hungry at the end of the day. But a plant-based diet means chowing down on loads of fruits and veggies that are packed with fibre, which keeps us feeling full.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that women get at least 21 grams of fibre a day while men should shoot for at least 30 grams. A single cup of raspberries will gain you 8 grams of fibre while a cup of lentils gets you 15.6 grams.
Be sure to increase your fibre intake gradually (otherwise you might suffer bowel irritation) and drink lots of water, which your body needs for fibre to function properly.
Many of the vitamins, pigments, and phytochemicals (some of which are responsible for colour, like the deep purple of blueberries) in fruits and veggies contribute to healthy skin.
Harvard researchers tracked the health habits of about 110,000 people for 14 years, and found that the higher folks intakes of fruits and vegetables, the lower their chances of developing heart disease.
Specifically, people who averaged 8 or more servings of fruits and veggies a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to those who had less than 1.5 daily servings.
The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes will grow to become the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. Luckily, type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable, and you can ward off this metabolic disease, in part, by eating right, according to Harvard's School of Public Health.
For a large 2007 study, researchers followed more than 160,000 women for 18 years and found that those who ate 2-3 servings of whole grains a day were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains.
Lots of research, including some from the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests a diet loaded with fruits and veggies can lower blood pressure.
About 1 in 3 American adults suffers from high blood pressure, meaning they're at higher risk for heart disease and stroke -- two leading causes of death in the United States.
As you may know, the beta-carotene in carrots helps our bodies produce Vitamin A, which helps our eyes and brain work together to see under low-lit conditions.
Your eyes might also thank you for a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, corn, squash, kiwi, and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments in these foods are thought to help prevent cataract and macular degeneration, according to the American Optometric Association.
A growing body of research suggests that there are some foods that are especially good for your brain; some studies even suggest they may help stave-off mental diseases like Alzheimer's.
These foods fall into 10 categories that are all part of plant-based diets. Some categories include: green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, fish, beans, whole grains, and olive oil.
One 2015 study that investigated 3 different diets among a group of 923 participants aged from 58-98 suggested that one type of plant-based diet, called the MIND diet, helped reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by 54%. It's important to note, however, that the study was observational, so it demonstrated a link between the diet and the disease but not necessarily a causative effect.
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