Small increase in plant protein makes big impact on life span and heart disease

High-protein diets are all the rage right now. But a lot of people who go on these diets rely mostly on animal products like meat, dairy and eggs to pump up their protein intake when eating more plant-based protein could do their health some good. Why should you pick plant protein more often?

Because science keeps showing that it’s fantastic for your health…

  • A 2019 study from researchers at Harvard found that swapping out protein from red meat for plant-based protein sources reduced risk factors for heart disease.
  • A 2016 study found that plant-based protein sources like beans and peas keep you full longer than animal-based protein sources like veal and pork.
  • And another 2016 study found that people who got their protein from a lot of meat, eggs or dairy were more likely to die prematurely than those who got their protein from breads, cereals, pasta, beans, nuts and legumes.

Now, a brand-new study shows yet again that picking plant-based protein a little more often can lead to a longer, healthier life…

A little more plant-based protein goes a long way

A recent study from researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute found that older people who eat more plant-based protein tend to live longer.

In the study, researchers looked at data from 237,036 men and 179,068 women who were between 50 and 71 years old. After crunching all the numbers, they found that men and women who consumed higher than average amounts of plant-based protein had a 5 percent lower mortality rate over a 16-year period.

Researchers also found that the more plant-based protein a person ate, the longer they tended to live. And it wasn’t an all or nothing deal…

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In other words, people didn’t have to give up all animal protein to experience longevity benefits. Merely swapping out 3 percent of the animal protein in their diet for plant-based protein resulted in a 10 percent lower risk of mortality.

Giving up some animal protein for plant-based protein also had an impact on cardiovascular disease risk. People who changed just 3 percent of their protein intake from animal sources to plant sources experienced an 11 to 12 percent decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

What’s behind the health benefits of plant-based protein? When you get your protein from plant sources, you’re not just getting protein. You’re getting loads of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are fabulous for your health. That could be why plant protein provides a little health and longevity boost. But the truth is, the researchers don’t know the exact reason quite yet.

Put more plant-based protein on your plate

So, if you get most of your protein from animal sources like meat, dairy and eggs, you may want to shake things up a bit. That doesn’t mean you need to become a vegetarian or vegan. Just turn to plant-based protein a little more often. Here are the best sources of protein in the plant kingdom:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Spirulina
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Beans and rice
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Green peas
  • Amaranth
  • Oats
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts

Sources:

  1. Study shows plant protein consumption can boost human lifespan — MedicalXpress.
  2. Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality — JAMA Internal Medicine.
  3. Substituting healthy plant proteins for red meat lowers risk for heart disease — EurekAlert!
  4. Meals based on vegetable protein sources (beans and peas) are more satiating than meals based on animal protein sources (veal and pork) – a randomized cross-over meal test study — Food & Nutrition Research.
  5. Top 15 sources of plant-based protein — Medical News Today.
  6. The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians — Healthline.
  7. Nutritional Benefits of Plant Proteins Taking Root with Consumers — Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.