Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources. What is the evidence that plant-based eating patterns are healthy? Much nutrition research has examined plant-based eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often. The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer, depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function. Vegetarian diets have also been shown to support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity. Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. However, some vegans may need to add a supplement specifically vitamin B 12 to ensure they receive all the nutrients required.
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But why is it so hot right now? Is it the same thing as being vegetarian or vegan? Or does this diet just mean you make an effort to pack more veggies into your meals? Technically, all of the above interpretations are correct. The main idea is to make plant-based foods the central part of your meals. From there, more restrictions could be put in place depending on how strict you want to be. For example, the Mediterranean diet is a version of a plant-based diet because even though it incorporates fish and poultry, the emphasis is on plant-based foods, Manaker says. Vegetarian and vegan diets are also plant-based. Most people who adopt this way of eating do it for the potential health benefits. For Black Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by many chronic diseases, following a plant-based diet may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and potentially cancer, according to one review published in December in Nutrients.