10 Health Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet, According To A Nutritionist

By Sinead Berry, Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT, rCNHC)

By Sinead Berry, Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT, rCNHC)

There’s no single best way to eat, but eating more plants has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits (1). It can improve your personal health, help society and limit our impact on the environment. Unlike fad diets, adopting a plant-based way of eating doesn’t demand an all-or-nothing approach. The term ‘plant-based’ means prioritising plant foods (fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds). That might mean vegan (no animal products), but it can also encompass vegetarian (no meat or fish), flexitarian (small amounts of meat), pescatarian (no meat but includes fish) or Mediterranean (small amounts of meat, dairy and fish) diets.  The flexibility of simply eating more plants means that this approach can be tailored to fit your individual circumstances and lifestyle; and Deliciously Ella's huge library of plant-based recipes is the perfect place to start!

So what exactly is the health impact of loading our plates with plants? Here are the top 10 health benefits of a plant-based diet.

1. May reduce the risk of heart disease

A plant-based diet is typically lower in saturated fat compared to those higher in animal fats. Excess saturated fat can increase levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol) in the blood. It may also impact levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol), which helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. Plant foods are high in fibre, which binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, reducing the amount of cholesterol that’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Evidence shows that plant-based diets may be effective at reducing LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease (2). 

2. Supports a healthy weight

Research has found a link between plant-based diets and a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) (3). Fibre plays an essential role in weight management. High fibre meals help to keep you feeling fuller for longer as they tend to be digested more slowly, making you less likely to overeat. Many people fall short of the recommended 30g of fibre per day (4) (on average we’re eating around 20g per day), but the good news is that plant-based diets are naturally high in fibre. Fibre also supports a healthy gut microbiome by nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut, and a healthy gut microbiome has been linked to better weight management and a lower risk of obesity (5). 

3. May reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes

Plant-based diets rich in high-quality plant foods have been found to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 34% (6). Another study found that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 2.9% in vegans, compared to 7.6% of regular meat-eaters (7). The reason? A higher intake of fibre (combined with high levels of antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, and micronutrients; and low saturated fat) helps to stabilise blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion and absorption of sugars from food, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

4. May improve digestive health

Eating a variety of wholefoods has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial microbes in your gut (8), which plays a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and inflammation regulation. Plants provide prebiotic fibres that feed beneficial gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive, which contributes to a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. A diet full of fibre is also linked with frequency of bowel movements (9), which is crucial for waste removal, prevention of digestive disorders, maintenance of gut health, absorption of nutrients, and overall health.

5. May reduce inflammation

Plant-based diets have been linked with lower inflammation (10), reducing the risk of developing chronic disease. Many plant foods are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids. These antioxidants help protect against chronic diseases by neutralising free radicals — unstable molecules that can damage cells, tissues, organs and may lead to oxidative stress and inflammation. Research has shown the benefits of a plant-based diet on reducing inflammation in osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, where symptoms of joint pain, swelling and stiffness improved, although larger long-term studies are needed (11).

6. May support your immune system

Around 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, so looking after our digestive health may be key to supporting a healthy immune response and protecting against infections and chronic diseases. As we’ve said, a plant-based diet is naturally high in fibre, which supports the beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping to produce short-chain fatty acids that are essential to the functioning of the immune system. A diverse gut microbiome also helps support gut barrier function, which is essential for preventing the entry of harmful pathogens and toxins into the bloodstream, which can trigger inflammatory immune responses.

7. May reduce your risk of some types of cancer

While there’s no single food or diet that can prevent cancer, there’s evidence to show that eating more plant foods rich in cancer-protective nutrients, including fibre and phytochemicals, while limiting the amount of processed meats in our diet, may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer (12). A recent large study found that the risk of developing any type of cancer was 14% lower in vegetarians (compared to regular meat eaters), vegetarian women had an 18% lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer (potentially due to a having a lower BMI); and men had a 31% lower risk of prostate cancer (13).

8. May improve your mental health & reduce the risk of cognitive decline

Plants are rich in polyphenols, which may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by reversing cognitive decline (14). While reports of the link between vegetarian or vegan diets and depression and anxiety are conflicting (15), it appears that any increased risk may be due to an inadequately planned diet that doesn’t meet nutrient requirements. Recent research has linked high quality diets that include more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains, and reduced ultra-processed, refined and sugary foods, with lower depressive symptoms (16).

9. May support skin health

Plant-based foods are packed with beneficial plant compounds and key skin-supporting nutrients such as vitamins C and E, which may have a positive impact on conditions including acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (17). These nutrients, as well as others including lysine and beta-carotene, may also help with preventing cellular damage and support the production of collagen, a key protein that plays a crucial role in maintaining the structure, elasticity and hydration of the skin.

10. May help you to live longer

With all of these benefits, it stands to reason that the ultimate advantage of plant-based diets is increasing your lifespan. Research reports lower mortality rates in adults adhering to this way of eating (18), with one study suggesting that vegetarians and vegans may benefit from a 12% lower risk of death, compared with people who eat meat (19). However, there remains a lack of evidence from large, high quality human studies to provide definitive insight into the ways in which plant-based diets impact longevity. While diets loaded with plant foods may reduce the risk of chronic disease and therefore help people to live a longer, happier life, it’s also important to remember that this only refers to robust, well-planned plant-based diets. A diet that relies on processed foods may be lacking in nutrients; one study suggests that a healthy plant-based diet may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 25%, whereas a less healthy plant-based diet increased that risk by 32% (20). So if you’re looking to maximise the benefits of a plant-based diet, try to prioritise whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.

Sinéad Berry

Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT, rCNHC)




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5. Hjorth, M.F., Blædel, T., Bendtsen, L.Q. et al. Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio predicts body weight and fat loss success on 24-week diets varying in macronutrient composition and dietary fiber: results from a post-hoc analysis. Int J Obes. 2019;43:149–157.

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7. Papier, K., Appleby, P.N., Fensom, G.K. et al. Vegetarian diets and risk of hospitalisation or death with diabetes in British adults: results from the EPIC-Oxford study. Nutr. Diabetes. 2019;9(7).

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11. Wagenaar CA, Toonstra A, Walrabenstein W, van Schaardenburg D, van Nassau F. How the Plants for Joints multidisciplinary lifestyle intervention achieved its effects: a mixed methods process evaluation. BMC Public Health. 2024 Apr 13;24(1):1034.

12. Kane-Diallo, A., Srour, B., Sellem, L., Deschasaux, M., Latino-Martel, P., Hercberg, S., Galan, P., Fassier, P., Guéraud, F., Pierre, F.H., Kesse-Guyot, E., Allès, B. and Touvier, M. Association between a pro plant-based dietary score and cancer risk in the prospective NutriNet-santé cohort. Int. J. Cancer. 2018;143:2168-2176. 

13. Watling, C.Z., Schmidt, J.A., Dunneram, Y. et al. Risk of cancer in regular and low meat-eaters, fish-eaters, and vegetarians: a prospective analysis of UK Biobank participants. BMC Med. 2022;20(73).

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16. Walsh H, Lee M, Best T. The Association between Vegan, Vegetarian, and Omnivore Diet Quality and Depressive Symptoms in Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Feb 13;20(4):3258.

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20. Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Spiegelman D, Chiuve SE, Manson JE, Willett W, Rexrode KM, Rimm EB, Hu FB. Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Jul 25;70(4):411-422.

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