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Consuming a Plant-Based Diet for Your Health

A plant-based diet involves eating mainly foods from plants, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Consuming a plant-based diet does not mean that you are vegetarian or vegan or that you never eat meat or dairy, but that you choose to eat primarily foods from plant sources. For example, the Mediterranean diet is plant-based but also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Plant-based diets include all of the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals; however, vegans may need to take additional supplements, such as vitamin B12.

Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, depression, diabetes, some cancers (e.g., colon, breast and prostate), and hypertension. There are several ways in which a plant-based diet can help lower blood pressure. First it eliminates or reduces the consumption of red meats and processed meats which have been shown to be associated with hypertension. Second, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes have been shown to 1) improve vasodilation (or widening of the blood vessels), 2) increase antioxidant (e.g., vitamins C and E) and anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation) content, and 3) improve blood flow, all of which can result in lower blood pressure. Third, plant-based proteins such as those found in nuts and beans have been found to lower blood pressure. Here are some examples of plant-based foods that can help naturally lower blood pressure: dark leafy greens, berries, red beets, oatmeal, bananas, seeds, pomegranates, and pistachios.

Tips for Getting Started with a Plant-Based Diet:

  • Eat lots of vegetables at meals and snacks

  • Have smaller amounts of meat at meals and avoid red meat or processed meats