Vegetable intake recently scored another victory in the diet game. But the results don’t necessarily indicate extreme diets, like vegetarianism, are particularly better.
That’s not to say that diets high in vegetables don’t have a host of benefits. The results suggest, however, that balance is likely best.
Findings recently presented virtually at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) found that people on vegetarian diets have lower levels of disease-linked biomarkers like “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Biomarkers are little indicators that can be used to predict health. They can be both good and bad. For example, good “HDL” cholesterol is a positive biomarker.
Researchers examined the link between diet and 19 blood and urine biomarkers related to heart disease, diabetes, liver health, kidney function, and bone and joint health. After accounting for a host of factors, they determined that vegetarians had significantly lower levels of 13 biomarkers than meat-eaters,
But that doesn’t mean it’s all good. For example, meat-eaters had better levels of beneficial biomarkers like calcium, vitamin D, and better kidney health.
Further, not all vegetarian diets are created equal. While some build a diet around fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, and grains, others consume refined and highly processed foods. French fries, potato chips, and cake, after all, are plant-based.
The takeaway from this study is that plant-based foods are great, and people should aim to eat as many of them as possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a wise idea to completely eliminate valuable animal-based sources of nutrition.
Balance is the key. Including dairy and meat into your diet can provide the nutrition you need, as long as you don’t go overboard or indulge in processed meats. Eating fresh meat a few times per week can help improve some health biomarkers.
When you take a look at your plate, make your meat about a quarter or less. Fill the rest with vegetables, whole grains, or other healthful plant-based items.