Plant-based diets include a spectrum of eating styles that range from vegan and vegetarian to pescatarian and flexitarian. Even a Mediterranean diet, linked with numerous health benefits, is a plant-based diet, because it focuses on grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, with seafood as the primary animal protein. But how do various plant-based diets compare side by side?
Very few randomized dietary intervention studies have investigated the effects of vegetarian diets in omnivorous subjects. However, researchers did just that when they randomly assigned 118 overweight omnivores with a low-to-moderate cardiovascular risk profile a low-calorie lacto-ovo vegetarian diet compared with a low-calorie Mediterranean diet. The subjects followed each diet pattern for three months in a crossover design. Both diets were effective in reducing body mass index and fat mass with no significant differences between them. Both diets helped subjects achieve targets for reducing cardiovascular disease risk. The vegetarian diet was more effective in reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol, while the Mediterranean diet was better at reducing triglyceride levels. The moral of the story? Shift your eating patterns towards the plant-based diet that works best for you.
—Sharon Palmer, RDN, EN Editor