Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States, and elevated cholesterol appears to be a primary cause. A plant-based diet is free of cholesterol and saturated animal fats; a convergence of evidence suggests that a plant-based diet may protect against and help manage and even reverse heart disease. Heart disease has been found to be almost non-existent in populations eating a diet centered around whole plant foods. The arteries of plant-based eaters may have less atherosclerotic plaque than runners and people who follow a low-carb diet.
Unfortunately, with the lack of nutrition education in medical schools and the “sick population” concept that leads nutrition studies to underestimate the role of diet in disease, many doctors may be unaware of the power of nutrition to prevent and treat heart disease. Doctors’ ignorance is an important factor in the lack of information that heart patients receive on dietary interventions. This is changing, however. More doctors than ever before are informing their patients of the cardiovascular benefits of a plant-based diet.
Medicare now reimburses providers for programs that treat heart disease through diet and lifestyle changes. The American Heart Association endorses seven lifestyle goals to combat heart disease. Unfortunately, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are not as strong as they could be about heart-healthy eating, and the U.S. has yet to follow the lead of other countries that have successfully combatted heart disease.
- Beans, including soy beans
- Ceylon cinnamon
- Dark chocolate
- Dried apples
- Flax seeds
- Golden raisins and currants
- Greens such as kale
- Indian gooseberries
- Nuts, including peanut butter
- Spices such as turmeric
- Tea, especially hibiscus and green tea
- Whole grains, including red rice
While vitamin C supplements and multivitamins may be of little use against heart disease, some supplements, including vitamin A, E, and beta-carotene, may actually introduce risk. Foods and chemicals associated with adverse cardiac consequences include:
- Coconut milk
- Coconut oil
- Dark fish
- High fat meals (including those prepared with olive oil)
- BPA in plastics
Topic summary contributed by Linda.