A plant-based diet is often lauded as one the most clearly healthy dietary patterns you can follow. Who can’t stand to benefit from adding more fruit and vegetables into their diet? Well, researchers have found the benefits that follow from a plant-based diet are a little more complicated.
It turns out just eating plant-based itself might not be enough to offset the risk of cardiovascular disease. As the world becomes more open to plant-based diets and eating this way becomes more accessible through a wider selection of plant-based food options, we might also face an obstacle to reaping the health rewards of eating plant-based.
Researches tracked the dietary behavior of 2,000 Greeks over ten years by having them complete detailed food surveys at various times throughout the study — at enrollment, five years later, and then at the end of the study at ten years. What did they find? The health benefit of a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk was not solely distributed based on the distinction of plant-based or not. What that plant-based diet comprises matters quite a bit.
The participants’ diets were categorized as either healthful (higher fruit and vegetable intake, whole grains, etc.) or unhealthful (sweetened drinks, refined grains, etc.), and those who eat a healthful plant-based diet saw more benefits that those on the unhealthful plant-based diet. That might not be surprising, but for all of us who’ve bargained with ourselves about eating a sweet snack with the logic that “well, it’s vegan,” we’ve been found out.
If your plant-based diet is sufficiently unhealthy, you likely will face the same cardiovascular disease risk as a non-plant-based eater. The study’s lead author, Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD., spoke about the results saying:
“These findings highlight that even a small reduction in the daily consumption of animal-based products — principally the less healthy foods, such as processed meat products — accompanied by an increase in healthy plant-based foods may contribute to better cardiovascular health.”
In better news, the study also might’ve found a justification for your snacking habit, but naturally, there’s a catch. Researchers found that snacking could actually be beneficial, but only if you snack on healthy foods. The reverse is true if your snacks are less than healthy.