Not All Plant-based Diets Are Heart Healthy

We have read multiple studies touting the benefits of plant-based and vegetarian diets. In addition to being great for the environment, diets that focus mostly on fruits and vegetables instead of animal protein or grain can be incredibly beneficial. But not all diets are created equal.

In the past, research has shown that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of death from heart problems by 32 percent and were 25 percent less likely to die from any cause. Becoming a vegetarian can reduce heart disease and heart failure by 40 percent. And, beyond their mortality risk, people on a plant-based diet were also 16 percent less likely to have a heart problem in the first place.

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 type of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Casey Rebholz, the lead researcher and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

But, having said that, not all plants work out for the best, “For example, French fries or cauliflower pizza with cheese are plant-based but are low in nutritional value and are loaded with sodium. Unprocessed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains, are good choices,” Dr. Mariell Jessup of the American Heart Association explained.

Some research has suggested that a vegetarian or vegan diet may be able to reverse heart disease. We are highly skeptical of this study. It consisted of 198 people going on a highly restrictive vegan diet — no oils, added salt, processed food, sugar, refined carbs, juice, nuts or avocados. The 177 people who stuck to the diet saw fewer symptoms, and 22 had a lab-confirmed reversal of the disease. A diet that restrictive may have unknown health impacts. While some of the things it outlaws are good to avoid, we’re against anything that tells us we have to remove a category of food entirely from our diet. Following a diet like that is something you need to discuss with your doctor because there are many different factors in health, and that diet may be all wrong for you.

A different study had 16,608 participants for almost nine years. They saw that people who ate mainly fruits, veggies and fish were 41 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart failure. But people who were on plant-based diets that comprised primarily of grain didn’t do anywhere near as well. So, while a plant-heavy diet is far better than eating a lot of animal protein, you have to pick the right plants to see the results!
November 04, 2019
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