April 8, 2024

Reducing inequity with fruits and vegetables

Black Americans experience worse health outcomes compared to other populations. Adopting plant-based diets can go a long way in reducing those inequitable outcomes.

Plant-based foods are nutritious and can taste just as delicious as meals that include meat.

“For many of my patients, it has been a lifesaver,” said Columbus Batiste, MD, regional chief of cardiology for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. No, he’s not speaking of a new heart medication or strenuous exercise routine — he’s talking about cutting meat out of your diet and increasing your intake of fiber-rich plant-based foods.

“A plant-based diet is nutritious, and it can be just as tasty as a diet that includes meat,” said Dr. Batiste.

Dr. Batiste’s recommendation to switch to a plant-based diet applies to all populations, but, during Minority Health Month in April, we acknowledge health disparities and recommit to reducing inequities and improving health outcomes. In the United States, studies have shown that the intake of vegetables, whole grains, milk, dietary fiber, and other nutrients is lower among Black people than white people. In addition, Black people continue to face inequities that contribute to high levels of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain cancers. However, growing research suggests that adopting a plant-based diet could greatly improve health outcomes for Black Americans.

A diet backed by science

It’s widely known that diets lacking essential nutrition contribute to a host of health issues. Research shows that unhealthy diets containing too much salt and too few whole grains and fruits cause more deaths than tobacco smoking, highlighting a desperate need for change.

Dr. Batiste highlights research that shows plant-based diets are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease in people of all ages, sexes, and races, including Black Americans. Studies that specifically focus on Black Americans show that a whole-food, plant-based program can help participants lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.

Sticking to the diet as closely as possible is important, said Dr. Batiste, who added, “Individuals who closely adhere to the diet demonstrate a 16% lower risk of death as well as a reduced susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes compared to those who don’t stick to the diet as closely.”

Plant-based diets: lifestyle or lifesaver?

Some surveys report that Black Americans are choosing vegan or vegetarian diets at higher rates than the broader population. By opting for plant-based diets, Black Americans can make significant strides toward achieving better health and overall well-being, to potentially reduce health inequities.

Learn more about the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.