Heart disease is the #1 killer in the US, and elevated cholesterol levels is thought to be a primary cause. This may explain why a plant-based diet, which is free of cholesterol and saturated animal fats, has been so successful in preventing and treating the disease (see here, here, here, here, and here). The evidence overwhelmingly shows that a plant-based diet may be protective against and even reverse heart disease. Plant foods are the only source of heart-healthy fiber , while animal-products are the only significant source of cholesterol (especially eggs and brains). Unfortunately, due to a lack of nutrition education in medical schools, many doctors may be unaware of the power of nutrition to stop our number one killer (see here, here). Instead, the most common treatment is the prescription of cholesterol-lowering drugs (see also here, here). In terms of target cholesterol level, it appears to be best to get as low as possible (see also here, here, here, here). Erectile dysfunction and other vascular insufficiency symptoms may be an early warning sign for heart disease. On a positive note, Medicare now reimburses reversing heart disease through diet (see also here, here). Unfortunately, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have yet to follow the lead of other countries that have successfully combatted this scourge.
Eating just one egg a day may exceed the safe limit of cholesterol and has been linked to a shortened lifespan (see also here). Meat also seems to increase heart disease mortality. Even fish may not be not be as heart-healthy as once thought, due to contamination with mercury and industrial pollutants (see here, here). Dairy may increase heart disease risk because dairy products are the #1 source of saturated fat in the American diet.
There are certain plant foods which may be especially protective against heart disease, especially foods high in nitrates and antioxidants. These include greens such as kale, soy and other beans (see also here), nuts (including peanut butter), tea (especially green tea), flax seeds, whole grains, red rice, Ceylon cinnamon, coffee, cocoa (not chocolate), dried apples, Indian gooseberries (see also here), and golden raisins and currants. For additional benefits, look to cooking some vegetables (see also here), exercising 1 hour each day, and sleeping 7 hours each night.
While vitamin C supplements may be useless but harmless, most should avoid vitamin A, E, and beta-carotene supplements. Also associated with adverse cardiac consequences: coconut oil and coconut milk, dark fish, Premarin, salt, BPA in plastics, and smoking. Alcohol appears to possibly be protective against heart disease but is not recommended.
See also the related blog post: Heart disease: there is a cure
Topic summary contributed by Eitan.
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