Obesity and type 2 diabetes have been public health problems in the U.S. for some time. Although we have better access to health care, cases of obesity continue to rise and Covid-19 has further impacted weight gain. Increased weight gain leads to chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. You can prevent them by including diet and exercise into your daily life. In fact, weight gain as a young adult can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and even greater risk of heart disease. These can lead to an early death. Research shows that eating a diet centered on plant foods, especially as a young adult, can result in a healthier heart.
What you eat when you are younger has an effect on your health later in life. Eating foods high in fat and calories can lead to weight gain, causing obesity. Conditions such as obesity are associated with excess fat around the stomach area. They lead to type 2 diabetes and eventually heart disease. Yet, making lifestyle changes in young adulthood, like eating more nutritionally-rich plant-based foods, can prevent this. A diet centered on plant foods is also more sustainable for the environment. Plant foods use fewer natural resources than animal-based foods.
When planned properly, plant-centered diets can provide what you need to stay healthy and prevent chronic diseases. Plant-centered diets contain a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A plant-centered diet also allows you to eat some lean meats, low-fat dairy, fish or seafood, poultry, and eggs but mainly includes non-animal products. Studies show that significantly increasing plant foods as a young adult and/or maintaining steady consumption of plant-based foods over your lifetime lowers the risk of excessive weight gain and type 2 diabetes. That reduces your chance of getting heart disease. Your risk of getting diabetes is also lower because you are less likely to gain weight from eating more plants which are naturally low in fat and calories.
Plant-based foods contain fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties. Eating these foods have added health benefits. They improve insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and increase the feeling of fullness. That leads to less overeating. Eating a plant-centered diet also means eating less foods with saturated fat found in animal products. Less saturated fat means lower cholesterol levels and better blood glucose control.
There are many reasons to eat a plant-centered diet, many of which have been mentioned above. Less weight gain means less chances of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Plant-based foods can be fresh, frozen, or canned. Try eating more servings of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds daily for better health.
Choi, Y. et al. (2020). A Shift Towards a Plant-Centered Diet From Young to Middle Adulthood and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Weight Gain: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Diabetes Care, 43, 2796-2803.
Source: Yolanda Jackson, MS, RD, LD, Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition For more information on ways to get and stay active, contact the Meade County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.