Plant-based eating has many benefits to the planet but what about our bodies? Does eating a plant-based diet really reduce your risk of heart disease?
Before answering this question, it’s important to consider what kind of plant-based diet you follow. Are you choosing whole grains and vegetables or are you more often reaching for convenience foods to please your cravings? Certain foods like french fries and cupcakes can be plant-based and still not the most heart-healthy part of a plant-based diet.
By including a variety of whole, unprocessed grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds in your diet, you are helping your heart! A balanced plant-based diet for heart disease includes nutrients proven to reduce your risk. Let’s explore these nutrients in more detail.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in many plant-based foods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Although our bodies don’t use fiber for energy, it has many benefits for heart health. For instance, soluble fiber absorbs extra cholesterol from the body, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. This reduces your risk of heart disease.
Plus, fiber fills you up! It keeps your appetite satisfied, which can prevent overeating and weight gain. As obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, eating foods that encourage a healthy weight can be beneficial for heart health.
Diets high in red meat are usually high in saturated fat, a type of fat linked to increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels in the blood. High LDL levels increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Foods that are often not included on a plant-based diet, like fatty meats and some dairy products, are high in saturated fat.
On the other hand, plant-based diets often include sources of monounsaturated fats. You can find monounsaturated fats in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. These fats are heart-healthy, as they can improve blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats such as those in flax seeds and walnuts are also lower LDL cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fat, a type of polyunsaturated fat, helps to prevent strokes and lower blood triglyceride levels. High blood triglycerides levels are also linked to increased heart disease risk.
Since plant-based diets are low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats, plant-based diets can be very heart-healthy.
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other compounds that help reduce inflammation in the body. Antioxidants search for and remove free radicals, compounds that cause damage to body tissues. Free radicals increase the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease.
Healthy plant-based diets for heart disease prevention include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that are high in antioxidants like vitamin C, E, A and selenium. Including lots of veggies and fruit in your diet, such as berries, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruit, will provide the most benefit to your heart.
Magnesium earns a special spotlight for its risk reduction properties in heart disease. Although magnesium has many roles in the body, one of its main functions is to maintain regular heart rhythm. Magnesium deficiency is linked to heart conditions such as high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, where your heart beats irregularly. Include high magnesium sources in your plant-based diet to help prevent blood pressure issues, stroke, and general heart disease. Find magnesium in such plant-based foods as nuts, beans, and green leafy vegetables.
These are a few of the important benefits of a plant-based diet for heart disease. Keep in mind that choosing whole, unprocessed foods more often than convenience products will give you the most benefits. Your heart will thank you for including unsaturated fats, and sources of antioxidants and magnesium in your plant-based diet.
Do you know of other benefits of plant-based eating for your heart health? Let us know in the comments below.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Edible IQ urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. Edible IQ advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. Edible IQ does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. Edible IQ does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by Edible IQ is solely at your own risk.