A hundred years ago, we were more likely to die from an infectious disease than heart problems. Today, however, the opposite is true, and heart illness, a mostly avoidable disorder, is now the leading cause of death. Risk factors that cause heart disease are obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, all of these are severely affected by diet and lifestyle factors. Diets high in sugar, processed grains, and animal products and low in plant foods promote inflammation in our body that in turn causes damaged tissues and blood vessels. In response to this damage, plaques form over the damaged areas of arteries ultimately leads to blockages and threatening the feasibility of the heart. However, studies have shown that a plant-based diet can be good for your heart.
What is plant-based diet?
If you’re not sure what is a plant-based diet, you’re not alone. A plant-based diet is a diet created on foods developed from plants, containing vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits, but with few or no animal products. There are different types of plant-based diets, the three most common ones are:
- Vegan: No animal products such as meat, eggs, or dairy products
- Lacto-vegetarian: No meat or eggs, but dairy products are fine
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: No meat, but dairy products and eggs are fine
Furthermore, some people describe themselves as flexitarians or semi-vegetarians, meaning that they sometimes eat meat, poultry, pork, or fish. You may also hear the term pescatarian, that means they eat a plant-based diet plus fish.
Plant-based diet and heart disease
Heart failure is linked to high rates of illness and death and is a burden to the healthcare system. There is an increasing appreciation for the role diet may play in the progress and treatment of heart failure. The studies recommend that a plant-based diet helps clean out blockages in the arteries, helps with repair to the artery wall, increases HDL (or good) cholesterol, and decreases blood pressure oxidation and inflammation, all of these are helpful in preventing heart disease.
The heart-healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet includes whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. It will assist you to maintain a healthy weight in combination with regular exercise and lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. Following are the plant-based diet that can protect your heart from disease:
Fruits and vegetables
Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables helps to protect your heart. The nutrients present in fruits and vegetables, such as dietary fiber, folate, potassium, flavonoids, and antioxidant vitamins help to keep blood pressure in check and protect the heart.
Eating saturated fats increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood, that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Include healthy fats that help to lessen your risk of heart disease by cutting bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterol levels. Good sources of healthy fats are a nut, seeds, avocado, and olives.
Proteins help to build muscles, organs and other tissues, including the heart muscle and blood vessels. It is recommended to consume a moderate amount of protein from plant-based sources such as beans, lentils, whole grains, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
A plant-based diet should also increase the amount of fiber you get. Fiber interacts with the bad cholesterol in your digestive tract and helps eliminate it more rapidly from your body. This reduces the overall amount of bad cholesterol absorbed in your body. Sources of fiber are beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and it can also lower your cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are not built in the body; therefore, the only way to get them is through your diet. Some of the omega-3s, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna. DHA and EPA are converted into usable omega-3s more quickly than is the plant-based alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Therefore, many dietary plans that recommend reducing the amount of meat and poultry are increasing including the regular consumption of fish. But, ALA is found in many plant-based foods, such as pumpkin seeds, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
Don’t forget lifestyle factors
Although a healthy diet is essential for heart health, other factors play an equally important role such as:
- Stress management
- Quit smoking
Disclaimer: All material on Hidoc.co is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.