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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Jim

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States, and elevated cholesterol levels are 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. The balance of evidence suggests that a plant-based diet may not only protect against but even reverse heart disease.

Reversing heart disease is critical, considering heart disease often starts in childhood. Heart disease was found to be almost non-existent in populations eating a diet centered on whole plant foods. The arteries of those eating a plant-based diet have less atherosclerotic plaque than runners or those on a low-carb diet.

Plant foods are the only source of heart-healthy fiber, while animal products are the only significant source of cholesterol.

How Doctors Treat Heart Disease

Unfortunately, due to a lack of nutrition education in medical schools, many doctors may be unaware of the power of nutrition to stop heart disease and improve heart health. The most common treatment for heart disease is the prescription of cholesterol-lowering drugs that may be linked to increased breast cancer risk, among other adverse side effects.

Cholesterol and Animal Products

Eating just one egg a day may exceed the safe limit of cholesterol and has been linked to a shortened lifespan. Eggs are so high in cholesterol that the egg industry cannot even legally claim that eggs are “nutritious.”

Meat and heme iron found in animal products may increase heart disease mortality, and fish and fish oil supplements may not be as heart-healthy as once thought, due to contamination by mercury and industrial pollutants. Chicken and fish consumption may have the same negative impact as red meat on cholesterol. Dairy may increase heart disease risk because dairy products are the #1 source of saturated fat in the American diet, a fact the dairy industry has tried to hide through misleading advertising campaigns.

Foods That Protect Against Heart Disease

There are certain plant foods that may be protective against heart disease, especially foods high in nitrates, antioxidants, fiber and potassium. These include greens such as kale, soy and other beans, nuts (including peanut butter), tea (especially hibiscus and green tea), flax seeds, whole grains, red rice, citrus, Ceylon cinnamon, coffee, cocoa, dark chocolate, dried apples, Indian gooseberries, golden raisins and currants, berries, tomatoes, oatmeal and some spices (such as turmeric). For additional benefits, combine a plant-based diet with one hour of exercise daily and seven hours of sleep each night.

Certain foods, drugs and lifestyle habits are associated with adverse cardiac consequences including coconut oil and coconut milk, dark fish, Premarin, salt, high fat meals, BPA and smoking. Alcohol may be protective against heart disease but is not recommended because it increases cancer risk.


Image Credit: Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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