Some plant-based diets are better than others when it comes to lowering the risk of developing heart disease, but this is not always the case.
There is no denying the link between eating a diet that is predominantly composed of plant-based foods and a reduced likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. However, do all diets based on plants provide the same results? And in order to protect your heart, is it absolutely necessary for you to give up eating meat?
According to Dr. Ambika Satija, who works in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods for the protection of your heart health, and it is possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet.”
There is a wide variety of plant-based diets, but the common denominator among them is an emphasis on foods that have been shown to be beneficial to heart health. These foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil. Diets such as the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet are examples of those whose effects on cardiovascular health have been the subject of most research. These diets are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all of which help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, reducing the likelihood of developing diabetes, and assisting with the maintenance of healthy body weight.
However, the kinds of plant foods and the places where they come from are also quite essential. For instance, white rice and white bread are examples of plant-based foods. Therefore one may assume that they are healthy to consume. They are also high in glycemic index, which means they can cause a surge in blood sugar levels and increase appetite, both of which can lead to unhealthy overeating. On the other hand, they are highly processed, so they are devoid of many nutrients that are good for the heart.
Consuming 100% fruit juice is not the same as eating the full fruit due to the fact that juices can be heavy in sugar and, during the juicing process, can extract vital fiber and vitamins. Additionally, many canned plant meals have additional chemicals in addition to salt and sugar.
A nutritious lunch based on plants should include enough servings of vegetables, fruits, grains that are whole, healthy sources of protein, and healthy oils. What does this look like? A group of nutrition specialists from the Harvard School of Public Health and editors from Harvard Health Publishing collaborated to develop a useful visual guide called the Harvard Health Eating Plate.
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The second inquiry concerns a man's propensity for consuming foods derived from animals. When it comes to your heart, do you avoid eating any meals that include animal products? If you make judicious decisions on your options, perhaps not.
Over the course of twenty years, research that Dr. Satija directed and that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on July 25, 2017, analyzed the dietary habits of around 209,000 people, 43,000 of whom were male participants. The researchers compared these three types of plant-based diets in terms of the risk of developing cardiovascular disease:
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but the researchers discovered that the persons who followed the heart-healthy plant-based diet (the second group) had the lowest risk for heart disease, and they also had a higher activity level and lost more weight. People who maintained an unhealthy plant-based diet, on the other hand, made up the third group, and they had a significantly increased chance of developing heart disease.
According to the findings of the research, decreasing the consumption of animal foods does not necessarily result in a diet that is better or that provides higher protection for the heart, particularly if the resultant diet is based on less healthful plant foods.
Although this study did not investigate specific animal foods, notably meat, could have an effect on cardiovascular health, previous research has indicated that just as with plant foods, the kind of food and the amount eaten is the most important factors to consider.
For instance, research that was published in the January 2017 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that consuming 3 ounces of unprocessed red meat three times per week did not result in an increase in total cholesterol levels or blood pressure.
A study that was conducted in 2014 by the American Heart Association found that men who consumed 75 grams or more per day of processed red meat such as cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs had a risk of heart failure that was 28% higher than the risk of heart failure that was seen in men who consumed less than 25 grams of processed red meat.
Do you really need any more encouragement to start your day with a satisfying meal that's also good for you? According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on October 10, 2017, doing so may reduce the likelihood that you may develop atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque deposits cause the arteries to become stiff and narrow.
More than 4,000 adults who were free from cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease were divided into three groups: those who consumed less than 5% of their total energy intake in the morning (they either skipped breakfast or had only coffee or juice); those who consumed more than 20% of their total energy intake in the morning (high-energy-breakfast consumers who ate complete meals with more whole grains and fruit); and those who consumed between 5% and 20% of their total energy intake in the morning (low-energy-breakfast consumers who had meals like toast or pastries and coffee).
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About 28% of people consumed a breakfast that was rich in energy, whereas roughly 70% consumed a meal that was low in energy, and 3% did not have breakfast at all. Compared with those who ate a high-energy breakfast, people who skipped breakfast had a risk of atherosclerosis ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 times higher. In contrast, people who ate a low-energy meal had a risk that was around 1.15 times higher.
What type of plant-based diet might work best for you? It is not necessary to abstain from all animal products, including eggs and dairy, in order to get the full benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet for the health of your heart. Eat more of the proper kinds of vegetables, stay away from the wrong kinds, cut out harmful foods, and reduce your consumption of healthy animal products as much as you can. This should be the focus of your diet.
A diet that is good for your heart doesn't have to be complicated, either. According to Dr. Satija, "For many guys, this may be as simple as swapping out the meals they are currently eating." For instance, instead of eating white rice, you should eat brown rice or another whole grain; instead of white bread, you should eat whole-grain bread. You should substitute oatmeal for processed cereal and replace juice drinks with water.
If the idea of adopting a diet consisting solely of plant foods seems overwhelming, you should start slowly. According to Dr. Satija, a relatively minor adjustment to one's diet, such as decreasing the amount of animal food consumed by one to two servings per day and replacing it with legumes or nuts as one's primary source of protein, can have a significant and long-lasting impact on one's state of health.