VegFest Oahu. Celebrate. Learn. Taste.

by Sabra Rebo, R.D., Down to Earth Community Outreach Team Leader

This month we will celebrate Oahu’s first VegFest, which will bring our community together to experience the many benefits of plant-based living.  VegFest will be held at the Honolulu Hale from 1:00pm to 6:30 pm. It’s going to be an exciting day, with all kinds of family activities.

There are so many reasons to embrace a plant-centered lifestyle this month as well as every month. Aside from health, a plant-based diet is humane and good for the environment. As a Registered Dietitian, my expertise is in nutrition, therefore we’ll focus on the health aspects of a plant-based diet. Research shows a well-balanced vegetarian diet may decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers1.

In Hawaii the rate of type 2 diabetes is 9.8% -- higher than the United States average of 9.3%2. Studies have shown that meat and processed meat intake is an important risk factor for diabetes3. The traditional Hawaiian diet used to include plants foods like taro and greens and was lower in animal proteins. Now processed meats are commonly consumed and vegetables don’t make it to the table on a regular basis. Making the switch to a plant-based diet and consuming a diet that is rich in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and better blood sugar control for with diabetes4.

Unfortunately, the risk for heart disease is multiplied 4-fold for people with diabetes. A plant-based approach to nutrition is ideal for individuals living with diabetes. A vegetarian diet leads to a lower risk of death from heart disease5. This can be explained by several factors. Vegetarians tend to have a lower Body Mass Index, BMI, (a measure of body fat) than non-vegetarians6. In addition to a lower BMI, vegetarians also tend to have lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol that contributes to plaque that can clog arteries7. Vegetarians also have a lower rate of hypertension (high blood pressure) than non-vegetarians8. There are several key nutrients in a vegetarian diet that help lower blood pressure. These nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables as they are high in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber9. All plant foods have antioxidants and fiber; legumes, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are good sources of magnesium; fruits such as oranges, bananas, avocados are high in potassium.

Vegetarians also tend to have a lower rate of cancer than the overall population10. Part of this is due to the lower BMI of vegetarians. Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer. A plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables is also strongly associated with a reduced risk of some cancers11. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that have cancer-protective properties.12

It should come as no surprise that many health organizations promote the benefits of a plant-based diet. “Lifestyle therapy begins with nutrition counseling and education,” according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) and the American College of Endocrinology (ACE)— which updated their 2016 guidelines for diabetes care. All patients, they said, should strive to attain and maintain an optimal weight through a primarily plant-based diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, with limited intake of saturated fatty acids and avoidance of trans fats.”13

Take into account the numerous benefits of a plant-based diet towards decreasing the incidence of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer—and add in the positive effects on our planet and the animals we share it with—and we have lots to celebrate. 

Down to Earth is one of the sponsors for VegFest Oahu and we look forward to celebrating it with you. Come and visit our booth and try some of the delicious vegetarian dishes we have to offer.

We hope to see you there. As always, “Love Life! Eat Healthy, Be Happy!”

Footnotes: 
  1. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1266. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  2. The State of Obesity. http://stateofobesity.org/states/hi/. 14 August 2016.
  3. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1273. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  4. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1273. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  5. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1272. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  6. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1272. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016
  7. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1272. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016
  8. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1273. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  9. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1273. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  10. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1274. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  11. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1274. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  12. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 1274. https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(03)00294-3/abstract. 14 August 2016.
  13. AACE/ACE Consensus Paper. https://www.aace.com/sites/all/files/diabetes-algorithm-executive-summar.... 14 August 2016.