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Diet

Here’s Why Vegetarians and Vegans are Healthier Than Meat-Eaters

Plant-based eating has more positive health impacts than we knew.

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Apparently, transforming your health and body requires less effort than you think. “Just start building meals around whole plant foods already in your pantry,” suggests Michael Greger, M.D., author of mega-sellers How Not to Die (Buy on Amazon, $17.01) and How Not to Diet (Buy on Amazon, $13.26). He’s talking about options like whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, brown rice, beans, tomato sauce, nuts, frozen fruit and veggies.

Research suggests that plant-based eating can trigger substantial weight loss. A 2015 study showed that of the roughly 50,000 study participants with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of ≥ 27 kg/m2 was significantly lower among those following a vegetarian diet (10.9%) as compared to those following a non-vegetarian diet (15.4%). It also found that the risk of obesity decreased by 7% for every year participants remained on a vegan diet. “You can also eat as much as you want — no portion control!” That means satisfying serving sizes along with improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and mood. Says Dr. Greger, “The best diet for weight loss happens to be easy-peasy and the best diet for the longest, happiest, healthiest life.”

You won’t count calories eating Dr. Greger’s way, but they’re still a surprise factor. It turns out that when your menus are made with whole plants, “you can take in roughly double your normal volume of food while only consuming about half your usual calories,” he explains.

Then there’s the matter of super-nutrients. Plant foods are not only better for you than processed junk, “they have, on average, 64 times more antioxidant power than meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs,” says Dr. Greger. That means 64 times more power to block oxidative stress, a cell-damaging reaction inside us “thought to be why we get wrinkles, why we lose memory and why our organ systems break down as we get older.”

A flood of antioxidants from plants works fast too. When volunteers tested a plant-based approach similar to Dr. Greger’s, it took them just one week to slash blood pressure by up to 49 points, bad cholesterol by up to 50 points and even reverse prediabetes. Your mood gets an instant lift too: “Studies show that the more fruit and vegetables we eat, the happier, calmer and more energetic we feel that day and the next!”

The Ultimate Diet Shortcut

Dr. Greger says going plant-based is the ultimate diet shortcut since you don’t have to learn complicated rules or slave over a food log. Just eat whole plants until you’re satisfied. That’s it. Want to make it easier still? The internet is buzzing with ideas that make plant-based eating ultra convenient . For example, “I make big pots of steel-cut oats with cinnamon to reheat and enjoy with apple slices all week,” says Dr. Greger devotee Rondi Neuven, a 50-year-old grandmother in Alberta, Canada.

You can also “batch cook” ingredients like baked potatoes, beans and brown rice to have on hand for throw-together meals. Bean-based pasta tastes great and cooks faster than regular pasta—just top with sauce and add a side salad. Smoothies and dark chocolate are quick, tasty desserts. “The possibilities are literally endless,” says the doc. “And the results are often quite extraordinary.”

The Plant-Based Diet Plan From Dr. Michael Greger

Dr. Greger encourages you to simply make your meals and snacks from whole plant foods. “The closer foods look to when they’re harvested, the better,” he says. For best results, avoid oil, all versions of which are processed. At each sitting, eat until you feel satisfied. Drink plenty of water; Dr. Greger says unsweetened tea and coffee are also good choices. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.

Breakfast — Cook a big pot of steel-cut oats and enjoy reheated through the week topped with your choices of fruit (fresh or frozen), nuts, cocoa nibs and/or coconut milk.

Lunch — Blitz 2 cups soaked cashews with 1 cup broth and seasoning to taste. Use as sauce over spiralized veggies or whole-grain pasta. Enjoy with a side salad.

Snack — Toss a rinsed/drained can of chickpeas with 1 Tbs. lemon juice and your favorite seasonings. Bake on lined sheet at 400ºF for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

Dinner — Cook a big pot of baby potatoes and enjoy reheated and topped with roasted veggies, vinegar, herbs/spices, avocado cubes and nuts/seeds.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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