Why a Plant-based Diet Can Help the Heart

Research has repeatedly shown that plant-based diets can aid heart health. The great news from the American Heart Association (AHA) that they announced in the fall was that you didn’t have to cut all meat to benefit from shifting your diet toward more plants.
While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely,” said researcher Dr. Casey Rebholz. “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.”
That study was based on data from 10,000 people gathered over 29 years. The people who ate the most fruits were 25 percent less likely to die throughout the study, 30 percent less likely to die from a heart problem and 15 percent less likely to have a heart problem like a heart attack or stroke.
The people in the study who stuck most closely to vegetarianism were physically active white women with high school degrees. They were also less likely to smoke, be overweight or suffer from blood pressure or blood sugar problems.
A new article in Men’s Health speculated about why plant-based diets, and specifically a vegan diet, might be linked to better heart health. Written by a Registered Dietician, it suggested that that people who are vegan or stick primarily to vegetables are eating fewer calories. Fruits, veggies, legumes and grains tend to be much higher in fiber than animal proteins — be it meat, dairy or eggs. Eating more fiber may help people cut down on the amount of food they eat without even trying. Additionally, people who are vegan or vegetarian frequently lean toward eating less processed food, as processed foods may contain animal products. Processed snacks often have more calories than a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.
If eating fewer calories leads to weight loss, that might explain the heart benefits, separate from what any other component of the food is doing. The AHA did see that the people who ate a lot of starches and vegetarian junk food didn’t experience the same level of good heart health as the people who ate a healthier vegetarian diet. So, another thought is that people who are vegan or follow a healthy vegetarian diet may be eating more whole foods than processed substances.
We can all agree that fruits and vegetables are essential and can play an active role in our health, but as the study and report show, it’s more nuanced than merely plants being good and meat being bad. Aiming for a healthy diet that emphasizes more whole foods and less meat is an excellent way to work toward your health goals. Fruits and veggies, being lower in calories and higher in fiber can help you achieve your plan!
January 10, 2020

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