Eat More Plant Proteins for Longevity
New research shows that including plant proteins on your plate more often may help you live a longer life, so eat more of them to improve longevity.
We all know that protein is an essential aspect for a well-balanced diet, and it provides us with nutrients our bodies need to function properly. Although protein is a necessary component for a healthy diet, it’s important to take into consideration that some proteins are better for your health than others. I’m sure you’ve read numerous sources about the negative impacts that result from a diet high in animal-based proteins, in particular red and processed meats, and that this eating pattern can impact longevity.
Over the past few decades, researchers have discovered that eating a diet rich in plant-powered proteins may be an important factor in living a longer, healthier life. Plant-based proteins include foods such as pulses (dried beans, lentils, peas), soyfoods, nuts, and seeds. In addition, whole grains and vegetables can contribute good sources of plant protein. Eating these nutrient-dense protein options provides both health and environmental benefits, which is the reason why many people are trading out animal proteins for plant proteins today.
The quality of protein in food, the nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, fat, and phytochemicals, that comes along with that food, and the long-term health impact of that choice are important factors in determining the type of protein you choose. So, it’s a good idea to eat more of your protein choices from plants vs animals on a day-to-day basis to achieve optimal health.
A recent study found that eating more plant-based proteins may reduce disease risks associated with mortality. The strategy suggested by researchers includes developing better habits, such as swapping out red meats and eggs for tofu and beans. In comparison to plant protein, animal protein generally contains higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and other nutrients that may be detrimental to your health. This study provided quantitative and qualitative data on the relationship between the consumption of plant-based protein and longevity. The results showed that every 3% of an individual’s daily energy intake that is derived from plant-based protein rather than animal-based protein resulted in a reduction of premature death by 10%. The researchers concluded that the substitution of 10 grams of plant protein for animal protein based on 1,000 calories led to a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women. These overall findings provide more data that allows us to understand the repercussions that may result from a high consumption of animal proteins. Additionally, it provides supporting evidence that a diet rich in plant proteins, with the combination of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, plays a big role in enhancing longevity.
The recent conversations about plant-based diets have been increasing over the years, and awareness is spreading over the importance of a diet based on more whole plant foods. This research article is just one of the many scientifically-supported studies that provides evidence on the positive outcomes and quality of life benefits when you include more plant proteins to replace animal proteins. One of the most important concepts to keep in mind is that life is all about balance; therefore, you do not have to completely avoid eating meat, dairy, and eggs, if it’s not your personal choice. Just remember to enjoy those foods in moderation and increase your intake of whole plants foods, as well. It’s important that you prioritize your health so that you can reduce potential risks associated with diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, which can shorten lifespan. It’s good news that researchers have found plant-based proteins are nutrient-dense sources that may help you achieve optimal health. Since plant-based proteins are beneficial for both you and the environment, I suggest trying to obtain more of your daily protein intake from plant-powered sources, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, nut butters, and seeds. This gradual substitution for plant proteins on a daily basis will eventually become a good habit!
Written by Savanna Malki, Dietetic Intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Images by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Main image: Beluga Lentil Power Bowl, from Sharon’s upcoming book in 2021.
For other science-based blogs on the health benefits of plant-based diets, check out the following: