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The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
image of peppers, broccoli, sweet potaoe, avocado, kale, and asparagus

As plant-based diets continue to increase in popularity, many clients ask us about moving towards more plant-basted eating patterns. There are a wide variety of reasons why people choose to eat more plant-based, examples include; health benefits, environmental reasons, animal rights, religious beliefs, etc. A plant-based diet can consist of a wide range of healthy nutritious foods, but what an individual eats depends on the type of diet they are following. The following are diets that fall under a “plant-based diet”:

Lacto-vegetarian: excludes meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter

Ovo-vegetarian: excludes meat, fish, and dairy products, but consumes eggs

Lacto-ovo vegetarian: excludes meat, and fish, but allows dairy and eggs

Pescatarian: excludes meat but consumes fish and seafood

Vegan: excludes all animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products and, for some, even honey!

Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Vegetarians often consume greater amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and soy products. A diet rich in these foods provides our bodies with high amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and dietary fiber which can all help to improve health and overall reduce risk of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes . Many studies have shown that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has been inversely associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as type 2 diabetes. Plant-based diets have also been linked to lower blood pressure, healthier hearts, and better blood sugar levels.

Vegetarian diets are often low in saturated fat with increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids which in turn can decrease one’s blood concentration of LDL levels and total cholesterol as well as increase HDL cholesterol (the type of “healthy” cholesterol that is protective against cardiovascular disease). A vegetarian diet may also be high in soy proteins (tofu, edamame, tempeh) and different trials have shown that a diet that includes soy protein is associated with a significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. An overall healthier lipid level can contribute to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart diseases.

Nutrients to be aware of

While following any type of plant-based diet comes with its health benefits, it is also important to consider nutrients to be aware of if you are excluding certain animal products. Nutrients that are most likely to be deficient in an unbalanced plant-based diet are iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.

Working with one of our Registered Dietitians can help you make sure your plant-based diet is balanced and includes all of the nutrition that your body needs, click here to make an appointment with one of our team today!

The recommended intake for these nutrients

Recommended Daily Intake for Adults 19 years and Older for Male (M), and Female (F)

Fortified breakfast cereals, nuts (cashew, pistachio), beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, spinach, eggs

Red star nutritional yeast, cereals, and soy products. Eggs and dairy products

15 mcg (M/F), 20 mcg (70 years and older)

Fortified milk, milk alternatives (soy, oat, almond), cereals, and certain brands of orange juice and margarine

1,000 mg (M/F), 1,2000 mg (F, 50 years and older)

Yogurt, milk, cheese, fortified orange juice, soy milk, and tofu. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, bok choy, almonds, sesame seeds

Eggs, dairy products, nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains, and fortified cereals

Nuts and seeds (flaxseed, chia, walnuts), plant oils, fish and seafood (if consuming)

There are no DRI’s for protein, but try and include a protein source at every meal and snack!

Tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, beans, lentils, nutritional yeast, greek yogurt, barley, quinoa, soy milk, oatmeal, nuts, nut butters, and seeds

Although following a vegetarian diet can lead to a healthier diet, this is not guaranteed, it depends on the individual’s food choices and overall lifestyle. For example, often foods that are labelled as “vegetarian” or “vegan” can still be high in nutrients of concern, such as salt/sodium and sugar. If you follow this type of diet make sure to get your nutrients from a variety of foods to ensure you are fueling your body and providing it with the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs.

Working with one of our Registered Dietitians can help you make sure your plant-based diet is balanced and includes all of the nutrition that your body needs, click here to make an appointment with one of our team today!

Work cited:

Craig, W. J. (2010). Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25(6), 613-620. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21139125/#:~:text=The%20nutrients%20of%20concern%20in,a%20useful%20shield%20against%20deficiency.

Dinu, M., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., Casini, A., & Sofi, F. (2017). Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(17), 3640-3649. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2016.1138447?journalCode=bfsn20

Institute Strengthening knowledge and understanding of Dietary Supplements. Updated (Sep 28 2022). Available from:






McEvoy, C. T., Temple, N., & Woodside, J. V. (2012). Vegetarian diets, low-m,eat diets and health: a review. Public health nutrition, 15(12), 2287-2294. Available from:


Wang, F., Zheng, J., Yang, B., Jiang, J., Fu, Y., & Li, D. (2015). Effects of vegetarian diets on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Heart Association, 4(10), e002408. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4845138/