Eating these foods instead of meat can add years to your life

This article was updated on August 13, 2021.

A study finds that protein found in sources like kale, peas, legumes, beans, whole wheat, and lentils can dramatically reduce one’s risk of dying from any cause.

A little while back, Ladders reported on the benefits of plant-based protein compared to sources derived from animal products. In that particular analysis, it was determined that every 10 grams of plant-for-animal protein per 1,000 calories result in a 12% lower risk of death from any cause for men and 14% for women.

Now a paper published in The BMJ journal, extends the data set, with a prospective cohort review gained from 32 independently conducted studies.

“Cardiovascular disease and cancer are two leading causes of death, contributing to 26.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016. Diet has an important role in these conditions. The optimal macronutrient composition of a diet for supporting longevity remains uncertain particularly for protein intake,” the US and Iranian researchers, wrote in the new paper A global transition towards higher protein diets has occurred in recent decades. In addition, adherence to a high protein diet has recently become popular because of its possible effects on weight loss, preservation of muscle mass, and increased strength.”

After applying random effect models to the 32 previously published studies featured in the new one, the authors revealed that participants who routinely consumed plant proteins enjoyed a 3% boost of energy a day and a 5% lower risk of death from all causes, collectively.

Although these results were even more pronounced in relation to cardiovascular disease, no notable correlation was established with respect to cancer death.

What about protein from meat?

Conversely, protein from animal products yielded no beneficial associations with cardiovascular risk or cancer risk–even if total protein intake was linked to lower instances of death from any cause.

“During the follow-up period of 3.5 to 32 years, 113 039 deaths (16 429‬ from cardiovascular disease and 22 303‬ from cancer) occurred among 715 128 participants. Intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality,” the authors continued. “Intake of plant protein was significantly associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality but not with cancer mortality. Higher intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality, and intake of plant protein was associated with a lower risk of all cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. Replacement of foods high in animal protein with plant protein sources could be associated with longevity.”

Meat may contain higher amounts of protein than plant-based-sources, but there is typically a trade-off.

Plant proteins are typically low in calories but high in other important nutrients, like fiber and iron.

“These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity,” the study authors explained in a media release.

Every macronutrient source has its place and moderation is key. If you abstain from meat for any reason here are some of the richest sources of plant-based protein according to Health Specialist, Kate Barrington:

  • Almond Butter (8g per serving)
  • Amaranth (9g per cup)
  • Black Beans (15g per cup)
  • Buckwheat (6 per cup)
  • Chia Seeds (4.5g per ounce)
  • Chickpeas (14.5g per cup)
  • Green Peas (9g per serving)
  • Hemp Seeds (9g per serving)
  • Kale (2g per cup)
  • Kidney Beans (8g per cup)
  • Lentils (18g per cup)
  • Nutritional Yeast (9g per serving)
  • Oatmeal (14g per cup)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (12g per cup)
  • Quinoa (8g per serving)
  • Spirulina (39g per serving)