Health Benefits Vegan Diet: A Talk with Dr. Neal Barnard

Health Benefits Vegan Diet: A Talk with Dr. Neal Barnard

This is the first article of a two-part series featuring an interview with Dr. Neal Barnard, President of PCRM. In this article, Dr. Barnard shares the health benefits of a vegan diet.

Physician, nutrition researcher, author, and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard is a vegetarian and a leading proponent of a plant-based diet.  His most recent book, 21- Day Weight Loss Kickstart, proposes a vegan diet for healthful nutrition and easy weight loss.

Stay tuned for more about the Kickstart Diet in Part 2 of the interview with Dr. Barnard.

In today’s interview, Dr. Barnard answers questions about plant-based nutrition and health.

Yummy Plants: How does a vegan diet offer more health gains than a vegetarian diet? Tell us about the health benefits of a vegan diet.

Dr. Barnard: There are several significant health gains for people following a 100% plant-based diet.   First, a vegan diet is heart-healthy.  Because there is no animal fat, there is no cholesterol.  A second advantage is that a vegan diet eliminates casein, the dairy protein which is found in milk.  Casein is a common trigger for rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain.  People often find that their pain disappears when they refrain from eating dairy products.  A third advantage of the vegan diet is that the food has a high fiber and vitamin content which helps people who are overweight to drop the extra pounds and lower their blood pressure.

Yummy Plants: While weight-loss may be a goal for some, is a vegan diet appropriate for people who are already slim and trim?  Can a vegan become too thin?

Dr. Barnard: There’s no need to worry.  The weight loss comes from the fat layer so people who are already thin (and lean) won’t lose more weight.  A vegan diet does not cause people to lose muscle mass or bone mass.

Yummy Plants: I’ve heard that a vegan diet slows down the aging process, how does it do this?

Dr. Barnard: Studies suggest that free radicals [toxic molecules that form in the body] contribute to aging.  A vegan diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is full of antioxidants which help protect the body from damage by free radicals.

Yummy Plants: Speaking of antioxidants,which fruits, veggies, and grains have the most nutritional value?

Dr. Barnard: I’d recommend these four:

(1)   Orange vegetables such as carrots and yams which contain high levels of beta carotene.  Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant with anti-cancer effects.

(2)   Green veggies, particularly broccoli, kale and collard greens.  These are mineral- rich with calcium and iron.

(3)   The bean group, especially high-protein chick peas and pintos.  These beans are high in soluble fiber which helps to reduce cholesterol.

(4)   Brown rice, a good source of fiber and protein.  Brown rice is easily digested and it provides healthy complex carbohydrates which give people energy without producing a huge spike in blood sugar levels.

I am so grateful to Dr. Barnard for sharing this valuable information with the Yummy Plants community!  

For more information about Dr. Neal Barnard, his research and his many books including Foods That Fight Pain, Breaking the Food Seduction, and 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health, visit: