Research Supports a Plant Protein Diet is Better for Health
The revolution of nutrition repeats as we go back to Plant Protein Diet. The reason lies on cure, prevention, innovation, and satisfaction.
Published March 3, 2019 - 10 Min Read
You've probably heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' This quote best summarizes why Americans and others around the globe are turning to a plant-based diet for health. According to medical research, there is a correlation with the high consumption of animal protein from meat and dairy with the top 10 diseases that we suffer from like heart disease and cancer. This publicized research is one of the primary reasons why people are seeking out more ‘green leafy veggies’ and following a plant protein diet to reduce the amount of animals products consumed to lower their risk of chronic disease.
To provide an overview of the diseases linked to the high consumption of animal protein, let's take a look at three of the most illnesses linked to poor dietary choices.
- Heart Disease
One of the most common types of heart diseases is CAD or Coronary Artery Disease. This occurs when fat clogs the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. One of the reasons for such disease is too much intake of animal protein that increases LDL or bad cholesterol. Due to this, the University of Oxford led by Francesca Crowe suggested shifting to a healthier plant protein diet.
Stroke is an interrupted supply of blood to the brain due to a blocked artery or leaking blood vessels. Since meat is one of the causes of blood vessel blockage, it can be one of the main culprits to blame. Decreasing risk of stroke is another factor why more people are seeking out plant-based diets.
Based on WHO or World Health Organization, cancer-risk foods include bacon, burgers, steak, and processed meat. While some may argue that the reason for increases in cancer rates is due to other factors, the data supporting the notion that the rise in consumption industrialized meat sources has at least some part to do with this is pretty convincing. Even healthier choices like grass-fed beef can have problems when you consider the charred nature of cooking which increases the intake of harmful carcinogens. Given these alarming statistics, it's no wonder that more women today are adopting a vegan diet to avoid breast cancer.
Over consumption of meat has brought numerous diseases; and, the aforementioned are just a few of them. Others like obesity, acne, erectile dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, and shorter lifespan all should be reasons to consider a diet rich in natural plant protein and reduced consumption of animal meat.
The Role of Protein for Bodily Function
Protein is not a newly coined term. Its etymology rooted from the Greek word ‘Proteios’, which means primary importance. When we consider the USDA dietary guidelines, there are multiple foods from the food pyramid to acquire this essential body nutrient. We understand that protein is important, but it's not always clear as to the role of protein in the body, especially with maintaining a healthy heart. Before debating about plant protein vs animal protein, let us first learn how protein helps the body and discover whether it is really a necessity or an over-hyped marketing tactic.
The following lists the primary functions of protein in our body:
- Valuable Energy Supplier and Booster
As we all know, the human body requires energy to perform a multitude of bodily functions and support daily activity. The diet is the primary fuel source for energy with protein as one of the most essential macronutrients for survival. Although protein has the same number of calories per gram as carbohydrates, protein is an essential macronutrient whereas carbohydrates are not. Unlike protein, it's not essential to consume carbohydrates because the body can switch to a state of ketosis, using fat and some protein for energy when carb intake is restricted. Without protein, however, we can't survive very long.
" We can live a whole lifetime (after infancy) without eating any carbohydrate, and we can live for 6 months or more without eating any fat, depending on how much fat we have on our bodies to begin with. However, we have no way to store proteins and can only live for a maximum of 70 days without eating any protein. "
- Tissue Enhancer, Grower, and Maintenance
The tissues in our body break down when we indulge in extensive workouts, periods of illnesses, accidents and the like. Thus, our body calls for more protein to repair all damaged tissues. Since the body is constantly broken down through a process called autophagy, it is vital to consume protein consistently to replenish and repair the muscles and tissue. Without enough protein in the diet, it is possible to enter a nitrogen deficit, meaning there is more catabolism than the body can keep up with. In order to survive, the body will take protein from muscle fibers when not provided with enough through the diet.
- Heart Disease Blocker
In a recently published study, the Cleveland Clinic reported that to decrease the chances of getting heart disease, we need to reconsider our consumption of plant and animal proteins. The American Heart Association conducted a similar study and found that Americans are at higher risk of heart disease than other populations around the world due to the high consumption of animal protein from meat. Therefore, to lower the risk of heart disease one should limit the consumption of animal proteins and consume more plant protein.
The majority of people generally understand the first two functions of protein. However, the ways in which protein can lower our risk of disease requires further explanation. So, how does plant-based protein become beneficial to the heart?
The Proof: Plant Protein vs animal Protein for a Healthy Heart
Both plants and animals have protein, but several studies reveal that plant-based protein works best when it comes to the heart.
One study examined the differences between the two protein sources to determine if there was a difference in how the body treated the different protein sources. Through their research, the researches found that there is an elevated risk of heart disease and death stemming from higher consumption of animal protein. In contrast, researchers found that taking in plant protein from nuts and seeds reduces it.
Below is a brief overview of just a few of the landmark studies demonstrating the benefits of plant protein vs animal protein. The consensus is that plant reigns supreme in protecting your heart.
- The Cleveland Clinic – After thorough research, suggested to replace high-fat meats with healthy plant protein sources like beans, nuts, seeds and more to maintain a healthy heart.
- Journal Circulation – The study found out that taking in animal proteins, especially from red meat, increase vulnerability to coronary heart illnesses. Moreover, the researchers suggested shifting to alternative proteins from plants.
- Harvard School of Public Health – Their research study focused on the danger of eating meat, specifically processed meat. According to them, too much consumption of processed animal meats leads to increased sodium intake and is linked to cardiovascular disease.
- American Heart Association – Reports the crucial protein intake of Americans due to high protein from animals or meat. They suggested taking in less protein from animals in exchange for plant sources.
These research studies are just a few highlights included in a mounting body of evidence that favors plant-based diets for health. The research elucidates that plant and animal proteins have different health implications for our hearts. Although these studies are from well-respected credible sources, they haven't been without controversy. The meat and dairy industries are proactively campaigning to invalidated the research to protect their cash cow of profit generations. The evidence in support of reduced animal consumption is pretty clear, but you may still be wondering why plant protein so heart-friendly. Let's explain.
The Reasons: Plant Protein vs Animal Protein
The human heart is an essential organ of the body. It functions in many ways: supplies oxygen, pumps blood, supply nutrients, and removes wastes like carbon dioxide. Because of the many functions of the heart, plant protein helps support normal function, but how?
Plant proteins are…
- Capable of reducing cholesterol
- Rich in fat-binding fibers
- Full of heart-healthy nutrients like fiber, plant sterols, potassium, vitamin E, and polyphenols
- Nuts and seeds are sources of cardio-protective proteins
- Promote a healthy weight
Looking at the research and understanding these heart-friendly benefits helps settle the debate of plant protein vs animal protein. Plant proteins are the clear winner in terms of cardioprotective benefits and overall health!
How Plant Protein Contributes to a Healthier Diet
If you're planning to shift to a plant-based diet, it's important to understand the advantages. Rather than just follow the latest trends, it's important to invest time in educating yourself about health and nutrition. When you learn why a plant-based diet is vital to health, you'll be more empowered to inspire and educate others and more likely to stick to this new way of living and eating.
Top Reasons to Follow a Plant Protein Diet
- Plant protein has friendly fibers. Fiber helps improve digestive system function and keep it running smoothly.
- Plant protein is a great way of controlling calories. You don’t need to deprive yourself of eating too many veggies. Due to the nutrient density of plant-based foods, it's more challenging to eat more than is necessary when you follow a plant-based diet than it is on the standard American diet which is calorically rich but nutrient poor. Many plant-based dieters enjoy how much the can eat when taking a plant-based approach and often rave about how full and satisfied they feel after each meal.
- Plant protein allows you to meet the daily protein your body needs without overdoing it.
- Plant protein lowers your risk of heart failure, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.
- Plant protein intake helps the environment as well, not only your body. Plant protein has a lower carbon footprint and is more sustainable than animal protein. It takes significantly less water and other resources to produce a pound of plant protein than animal protein. Less waste and carbon emissions are released into the environment from plants than with animals.
Further studies related to the benefits of a plant protein diet are still on progress, but the existing research clearly supports the benefits of a plant protein diet versus one rich in animal proteins. Today, it's easier than ever to follow a plant-based diet. An increasing number of restaurants are exploring options to integrate vegan and vegetarian options into the menu. With more consumers seeking out healthier plant-based options, the growing demand is pushing businesses to change.
The Tasty Side of Natural Plant Protein
The health reasons for adopting a plant-based diet started are many but what consumers really want is taste and convenience. Let's face it, no matter how healthy something is for us, the majority won't stick to it if it isn't easy and doesn't taste good. Let's consider the brighter and playful side of plants when it comes to preparing meals and exploring new culinary creations. While improved health is certainly a driving factor for change, going plant-based is more than just the diseases we can avoid.
For many, the flavor in food determines what they eat. It's important that food is both nutritious and delicious. Plants provide a wide variety of tasty recipes you can explore to satisfy any craving and make healthy swaps for your favorite dishes. After all, there are only so many ways to cook a steak but the number of combinations that one can create using a variety of plant protein sources is infinite.
To get started with adding plant protein healthierrecipes, give these recipes a try:
- Macro-Bowl with Hummus
- Dark Chocolate Hemp Energy Bites
- No Bake Vegan Protein Bars
- Curried Potatoes and Lentil Soup
- Veggie Stir-Fry
- Spaghetti Squash
These recipes take approximately 15-20 minutes. Whether you're eating for one or feeding a family, you'll be amazed at how quick and easy healthy meals are to prepare. Getting started on a vegan or plant-based diet allows you to experience a diversity of flavors and explore a wide range of taste combinations that will appeal to even the pickiest eaters. After all, the majority of flavor in food comes from plants.
Call to Action – Start plant protein diet now
Animal protein is competitive when it comes to protein quantity because animal proteins tend to have more protein than plant sources. However, recent studies clarify that our body does not need an excessive amount of protein to be healthy. In fact, too much protein can lead to decreased health-span and increase the risk of disease. It's easy to meet your individual protein needs using a plant- support your personal health and wellness goals while providing the essential building blocks the body needs to thrive. Here are a few actionable tips to implement right away to get immediate results.
To start, one must:
- Reduce consumption of animal-based products such as beef, fish, pork, and dairy.
- Avoid artificial foods and industrialized processed meats altogether.
- Eliminate processed foods.
- Avoid consumption of low-quality animal fats and refined oils.
- Reduce sugar intake.
- Eat real whole foods such as grains, seeds, nuts, and some fruit.
- Explore new plant-based recipes for happy taste buds.
- Cook your own plant-based meals to control what's on your plate.
- Practice eating a wide range of plant-based protein sources.
- Be consistent with your behaviors and habits.
These are just a few simple tips to go plant-based. Remember, you don't have to go vegan to obtain the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Simply reducing your consumption of animal meats and dairy can have a profound impact on your health and the environment. A key reason people fail when trying something new is that they haven't fully established the WHY behind their motivation to change. Take some time to establish your goals and give thought to why it's important to you to consider your consumption choices. Start your plant-based journey today by enrolling in the LYFE TRANSFORMATION program. It's free to join and provides everything you need to make a plant-based diet a permanent lifestyle choice.
Fuel Up with Premium Plant-Based Nutrition
Getting started on a whole food plant-based diet is now easier than ever with LYFE FUEL's free nutrition course. The LYFE TRANSFORMATION program was created to help you make healthy and sustainable changes to amplify your health and empower you to live your fullest everyday. The 21-day program distills years of nutritional research and personal experimentation into an easy-to-follow program that will guide you along your journey toward better health & happiness.
Read Next: How to choose the right plant-based diet for your health.
Written by Chris Manderino
Co-Founder of LYFE FUEL in Newport Beach, CA. Chris was an NFL fullback for the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs before embarking on a journey to pursue his passion for health & nutrition. Chris is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and earned a completion certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Course in Plant-Based Nutrition.