Many people are now convinced about the health benefits of following a plant-based diet. Therefore, more and more people are switching to whole food plant-based diets these days. Studies show that plant-based diets can lower the risk of heart diseases. But, do all plant-based recipes have the same effect on the health of your heart? Not necessarily. To ensure the health of your heart, you need to focus on the quality of the plant-based meal that you eat. So how to select plant-based foods that can be beneficial for you? Read ahead to know.
Make Better Choices
There are different varieties of plant-based foods for you to choose from and foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, etc can be beneficial for your heart. The diets like the DASH diet, MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet have been studied to find their impact on heart health. As these diets are rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals that help to reduce blood pressure and the levels of bad cholesterol in your body, these diets can be beneficial for your heart. Apart from this, these diets can help maintain healthy body weight and mitigates the risk of diabetes.
The type of plant food that you choose and their sources is also important in ensuring the health of your heart. White bread and rice are plant-based foods, but these are highly processed food items and does not have many nutrients. Moreover, they have a very high glycemic index, meaning that these food items can spike your blood sugar levels and increase your appetite, leading to overeating. Likewise, drinking fruit juice is not the same as eating fruits. This is because fruit juices can have very high amounts of sugar and may have additives like sodium.
Meat And Plant Diets
When considering your heart health, do you need to avoid all animal products? You need not if you are smart enough. A study was conducted in 2017 to find the heart disease risk posed by three categories of plant-based diets.
- The first category included an overall plant-based diet that focused on having healthy plant foods while cutting down the consumption of animal foods and food items that contain animal products like mayonnaise, pizza, and soups.
- The second category focused on having only healthy plant-based foods like fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils, at the same time, reducing the consumption of animal foods and less healthy plant-based foods.
- The third category was an unhealthful plant-based diet focusing on less healthy plant foods like refined grains, potatoes, fruit juices, and sweetened beverages while reducing the consumption of animal foods and healthy plant foods.
The researchers found that the second group had the least risk of heart diseases. Moreover, the participants of this group were leaner and more active. Conversely, the third group that followed the unhealthful plant diet had an increased risk of heart diseases. The study found that avoiding animal foods does not necessarily result in a healthier diet or improved heart health if the diet focuses on less healthy plant-based foods.
While this study did not look at the animal foods that could impact heart health, another study found that like in the case of plant foods, the amount and type of animal foods also matter, when heart health is taken into account. As per the study, eating 3 ounces of unprocessed red meat, thrice a week does not increase cholesterol levels or blood pressure. However, another study that was conducted in 2014 found that men in the age group 45 to 79 who consumed 75 gms or more processed red meat per day has a 28% more chance of heart failure when compared to men who consumed less than 25 gms of meat per day.
Making The Transition
So what is the right plant-based diet to ensure heart health? You need not go full vegan or vegetarian to ensure the best benefits for your heart. What you need to focus on is to have the right plant-based foods, avoid unhealthy food items, and controlling the consumption of healthy animal foods. This means that changing to a heart-healthy plant-based diet need not be a daunting task. You may just need to switch your current food items to make them more heart-healthy. For example, you may have to replace white rice with brown rice or whole grains. In addition, you can choose oatmeal in place of processed cereal and replace sweetened beverages with water.
You can start small if going fully plant-based feels intimidating. You can make moderate changes like decreasing the animal food intake by a few servings per day and replacing it with protein-rich plant sources like nuts and legumes. Always remember that changing to a plant-based diet will have a positive impact on your heart health.