There’s a new reason to consider adopting a plant-based diet. According to a recent study completed by the University of Oxford, those who are vegetarian have a 32 percent lower risk of death or hospitalization from heart disease compared to those who eat meat and fish as part of their diet.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this study suggests that adhering to a strictly vegetarian diet may reduce risk of heart disease. The lowered risk is most likely a result of the cholesterol- and blood-pressure-lowering effects of this style of eating.

Analyzing nearly 45,000 volunteers, this was largest study ever in the UK that compared heart disease rates in vegetarians to those in non-vegetarians. The heart-health benefits of the diet held steady even when researchers accounted for factors such as age, smoking, alcohol, exercise, education, and socioeconomic background.

Vegetarians were also found to have lower BMIs and fewer cases of diabetes than meat and fish eaters as a benefit of their plant-based diets.

The researchers found that vegetarians had lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels than non-vegetarians, and that is thought to be why reduced risk of heart disease occurred.

If  you are considering a plant-based diet, be sure to regularly stock and eat protein-packed foods to help maintain muscle strength and also consider adding a few short weight-training sessions to your week. Easily slip more protein into your diet by noshing on beans, peas,  soy products (such as roasted soynuts, soy burgers, tofu, edamame, or soy milk), unsalted nuts and seeds, or try starting your day with a frothy protein-and-fruit shake.

Would You consider a vegetarian diet to improve your heart health?