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There’s a reason why “you are what you eat” is one of the most well-known idioms in the English language. No matter who we are, the food that we eat regularly has an effect on our health. Many of us grew up on a diet heavy on processed foods. And due to the Western obsession with protein, men typically consume more than 50 percent the recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein and women’s consumption is also well above the recommendation. Because of this processed meats like deli slices, bacon, and more are a regular component of the standard American diet. While no one can deny that protein is important for health, on average, Americans are eating more than what is actually needed and getting it from sources that have other negative health implications. Unfortunately, all that extra protein may not do your body good, according to a new study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland — especially if that protein happens to come from an animal.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found where we get our protein may play an important role in the development of type 2 diabetes. The study is a follow-up to earlier research, which spanned from 1984-1989. Researchers at the university analyzed the diets of 2,332 men between age 42 to 60 who did not have type 2 diabetes. During a follow-up, 19 years later, more than 400 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The study concluded that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for men with a higher intake of grain-based plant protein, combined with healthy lifestyle habits, was 35 percent less than those with the lowest intake of plant protein. Using the data and computational model, researchers were able to estimate that replacing as little as five grams of animal protein with plant protein daily could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by approximately 18 percent.

Conversely, they found that those with a high intake of meat in general (red meat, white meat, and others) were associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it was concluded it is not animal protein that causes a higher risk, but possibly other compounds found in meat. Researchers also found that a diet higher in plant-based protein was associated with lower blood sugar levels, which may explain the lower risk of diabetes.

Given that the study analyzed the diets of men who ate more plant-based sources of protein such as grains, vegetables, and potatoes, we can conclude that a diet high in whole, plant-based foods may be better for our overall health. If you’re ready to start adding more plant-based foods to your diet, check out the Food Monster App (available for both iPhone and Android). The Food Monster App features over 8,000 vegan recipes ( over new 10 recipes are added daily) along with special diet categories such as whole foods, gluten-free, soy-free, and more. But, as always, before making any changes to your diet, consult a health professional.

Image source: Chamille White/Shutterstock