Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Global health experts agree that the number one thing people can do to live happier, healthier lives is to eat more plants. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans support nutrient-dense, plant-forward eating patterns, including vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, and oils (including nuts) to help reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. Here are five ways plant-forward eating can benefit your health:

  1. Long-Term and Overall Health: Living Longer

Enjoying a plant-forward eating pattern, including consumption of fruits and vegetables at recommended levels as well as a higher intake of nuts, has been associated with a reduced risk of all causes of mortality. [i] [ii] [iii] [iv]

  1. Heart Health: Lowering Risk

Research has shown that eating a plant-forward diet may reduce the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 16 and 31%, respectively. In addition, replacing refined grains and added sugars with nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and oils (such as olive oil) can help lower the risk of heart disease. [v] [vi] [vii] [viii] [ix][x] Walnuts have long been recognized as a heart-healthy food*, with decades of scientific research showing how eating walnuts affects various factors related to heart health such as cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation and blood vessel function.

  1. Weight Management: Losing Weight and Reducing Obesity Risk

Small studies have indicated that overweight adults who followed a plant-forward diet can lose weight more effectively than those not following this type of eating style. One factor is likely the role of antioxidants and fiber in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which can promote satiety or feelings of fullness. [xi] [xii] [xiii]

  1. Cancer: Reducing Risk

Significant evidence has illustrated how eating more plants can help reduce the risk of cancer. The research highlights the role of cancer-protective nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are abundant in vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. [xiv] [xv]

  1. Immunity with Gut Health: Creating Happier Guts

Eating more plants may also help improve gut health, which is the starting place for many other benefits, such as a healthy immune system and overall health. This improvement in gut health can be mostly attributed to the fiber and other plant components associated with plant-forward diets. Those nutrients increase the growth of beneficial bacteria that reduce inflammation and chronic disease risk. Overall, a plant-forward diet contributes to healthful microbiome diversity and supports optimal gut health.[xvi] Emerging research on the gut microbiome suggests plant-forward foods, such as walnuts, may be food to consider for gut health due to their prebiotic potential and possible role in providing a variety of associated health benefits. [xvii]

Do your body a favor and make a commitment to eat more plants this year.

* Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts offers 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid – the plant-based omega-3.


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[ii] Wang, X. et al. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 349(jul29 3), g4490–g4490. https:// doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4490
[iii] Kim, H. et al. (2019). Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults. Journal of the American Heart Association, 8(16), e012865-e012865. https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.119.012865
[iv] Huang, J. et al. (2020). Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine, 180(9), 1173-1184. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2790
[v] Kim, H.et al. (2019). Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults. Journal of the American Heart Association, 8(16), e012865-e012865. https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.119.012865
[vi] Satija, A.et al. (2017). Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(4), 411-422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.047
[vii] Gan, Y.et al. (2015). Consumption of fruit and vegetable and risk of coronary heart disease: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 183, 129-137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.01.077
[viii] Bechthold, A.et al. (2019). Food groups and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 59(7), 1071-1090. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2 017.1392288
[ix] Tuso, P. (2015). A Plant-Based Diet, Atherogenesis, and Coronary Artery Disease Prevention. Permanente Journal, 19(1), 62-67. https://doi. org/10.7812/tpp/14-036
[x] Satija, A., & Hu, F. (2018). Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health. Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, 28(7), 437-441. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.tcm.2018.02.004
[xi] Huang, R. et al. (2015). Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine: JGIM, 31(1), 109-116. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-015-3390-7
[xii] Wright, N. et al. (2017). The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(3), e256-e256. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2017.3
[xiii] Turner-McGrievy, G. et al. (2017). A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology: JGC, 14(5), 369-374. https://doi.org/10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.002
[xiv] AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018 Shapira, N. (2017). The potential contribution of dietary factors to breast cancer prevention. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 26(5), 385-395. https://doi.org/10.1097/ CEJ.0000000000000406
[xv] McCarty, M. et al. (2018). Minimizing Membrane Arachidonic Acid Content as a Strategy for Controlling Cancer: A Review. Nutrition and Cancer, 70(6), 840-850. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635581.2018.1470657
[xvi] Tomova, A., Bukovsky, I., Rembert, E., Yonas, W., Alwarith, J., Barnard, N. D., & Kahleova, H. (2019). The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00047
[xvii] 1 Hannah D Holscher, Heather M Guetterman, Kelly S Swanson, Ruopeng An, Nirupa R Matthan, Alice H Lichtenstein, Janet A Novotny, David J Baer. Walnut Consumption Alters the Gastrointestinal Microbiota, Microbially Derived Secondary Bile Acids, and Health Markers in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxy004

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