Your heart loves a plant-based diet. Here’s why!
A plant‐based diet emphasizes a higher intake of plant foods and includes no animal foods, including dairy items. Traditionally thought of as wholesome food, animal products have been linked to most of the top 20 causes of early death. Diseases such as sinusitis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and infertility are some of the most common diseases contracted by humans with sources tracing back to animal products.
A plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. The main cause behind heart diseases is the blockage of arteries which happens due to the presence of saturated and trans-fats as well as excess cholesterol circulating in the body. Unsurprisingly, dairy is high in saturated and trans fats while eggs are the most concentrated form of cholesterol that we consume. Substituting just one daily serving of a lean protein source for red meat increases the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer. All these diseases are linked to the consumption of animal fat.
Cardiovascular disease happens when the blood vessels become blocked or narrow. Fatty deposits build up in the arteries (atherosclerosis), and there is a general increase in the risk of blood clots. In turn, this can lead to many medical complications related to the heart.
By avoiding meat and dairy, we effortlessly cut out a lot of saturated fats. It is effective in reducing LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. A study has shown that coronary heart disease can be reversed in one year by adopting a vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise, stress management and other healthy habits. Yet another study revealed that coronary artery disease patients, who followed a vegan diet, significantly reduced their inflammation.
“Vegans are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure than meat-eaters.”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Plants do not contain dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol comes from animal products (i.e. meat, dairy, eggs etc). Plants are considered cholesterol free because they contain a form of cholesterol (called phytosterols) that the human body does not absorb. The body makes its own ‘essential’ cholesterol out of plants.
Having your cholesterol levels in check is a crucial part of supporting heart health. The great news is that sticking to an all plant-based diet can actually do some pretty awesome things for your cholesterol levels. Plant‐based diets in time have even shown a reversal in cholesterol issues.
“Groundbreaking research shows that a plant-based diet doesn’t just prevent heart disease but that it can manage and sometimes even reverse it.”
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Dr Ornish, the developer of The Ornish Diet, is a physician, researcher, and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. His landmark study tested the effects of a plant-based diet on participants with moderate to severe heart disease. There were no surgeries or stents—just simple diet and lifestyle changes. Within weeks, 90% of chest pain diminished. Within a month, blood flow to the heart improved. After a year, even severely blocked arteries had reopened. At the Cleveland Clinic, Dr Esselstyn tested the same approach on patients with severe heart disease and published similar results. Thirty years later, all of the complainant patients are still thriving.
“While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other types of cardiovascular disease,”
Lead researcher AIRC Study
Another important part of supporting heart health is maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Studies have found that eating a plant-based diet can help lower blood pressure. This is linked to the fact that plant-based foods are rich in potassium. This important mineral is known to decrease blood pressure, and is helpful against hypertension as well.
Potassium is found abundantly in a healthy vegan diet in foods such as avocado, sweet potato, banana, spinach and black beans. Plant-based diets are also naturally high in anti-inflammatories, which is excellent news for heart health since inflammation is part of heart disease.
Healthy plant‐based diets, which are higher in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, tea, and coffee are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all‐cause mortality. High plant-based food consumers are 25% less likely to die from any ailment and have a 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular condition.
Plant-based diets are high in fibre, devoid of cholesterol, contain an abundance of supportive nutrients, and are brimming with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. On the other hand, animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy contain large amounts of cholesterol, saturated fats, which can lead to clogging the arteries with plaque, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease.
It’s pretty clear which diet your heart is beating for, but the question is, are you listening?