Twenty years ago, the vegan diet was regarded by many people as little more than another diet fad popular with West Coast hippies and Hollywood types and the cool kids of Brooklyn and Greenwich Village in NYC. Today the diet is taken much more seriously as the rest of the U.S. learned from numerous studies that vegan and vegetarian diets host a number of health benefits, including protecting your heart.
What’s a Vegan Diet?
Today the more popular term for vegan and vegetarian diets is plant-based diet. Vegans abstain from all animal products including eggs and dairy while vegetarians don’t eat meat and some by-products of animal slaughter.
The Benefits of a Plant-based Diet
In an interview with Everyday Health, renowned cardiologist Kim Williams, MD, shared that he decided to switch to a vegan diet after he learned he had high cholesterol. He chose to follow the vegan diet after witnessing a dramatic positive change in a patient’s heart health in a matter of mere months after they made the switch. Dr. Williams stated that a vegan diet decreases plaque in blood vessels, as well as lowers the risk of diabetes or a stroke.
How a Plant-based Diet Lowers Your Heart Disease Risk
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need meat in your daily diet to thrive. Actually, eating fewer meats lowers your risk of diabetes or stroke. In fact, you can cut fatty meats from your diet completely because your body produces enough cholesterol on its own.
Speaking of fats, plants are known to have less saturated fats, which increase cholesterol in the body, than other food sources adding another health benefit. Plants are also high in fiber, which helps circulate bad cholesterol out of your system.
Bad cholesterol isn’t the only heart-stopper a plant-based diet removes from your body. Fruits and veggies are also known to lower blood pressure, and plant-based foods like pumpkin seeds, canola oil, flaxseed, and soybeans are full of Omega-3s. Plants are also rich in nutrients like antioxidants, potassium, and phytochemicals.
Good News for Meat Lovers
If you can’t imagine completely giving up red meat, or any meat for that matter, there’s good news. Experts say that greatly reducing, rather than eliminating, the amount of meat you eat can still improve your heart health and reduce risks. Taking smaller steps like participating in Meatless Monday or incorporating the DASH diet, which allows no more than 5 ounces of protein a day is the most successful method for eliminating or greatly reducing meat from your daily diet.
As always, you should consult your medical provider before making changes to your diet. A great time to discuss your diet and changes you should make to improve your health is at your annual physical exam and check-up. To schedule this year’s annual check-up appointment with EliteCare, dial 662-34-3342.