How a whole food, plant-based diet can help prevent heart disease

 

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the US. Everyday, almost 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease. That is an average of one death occurring every 40 seconds. Those are shocking statistics, aren’t they?

 

What is perhaps even more shocking is that if the average person centered their diet on whole, plant-based foods, these figures could be drastically reduced. Heart disease was found to be almost non-existent in populations with diets that are primarily based on whole plant foods. On the occasion of World Heart Day, let’s examine just a few reasons why whole food, plant-based nutrition is the healthiest heart choice out there.

 

1- Eliminate cholesterol from your diet altogether: Cholesterol, specifically the bad form of cholesterol, called LDL, builds up plaque in your arteries, causing them to block and harden, which leads to heart attacks and strokes. While our bodies do need a small amount of cholesterol to function, the natural fats we get from our diets suffice for the body to produce cholesterol on its own. What is detrimental to our health is excess cholesterol, which is only found in animal products.

 

2- Increase fiber in your diet: Fiber is often linked with a healthy digestive system, but research demonstrates it can do a lot more than just keep you regular. A whole food, plant-based diet will inevitably increase the amount of soluble fiber you consume, which actually serves to move cholesterol particles out of your body before they are even absorbed.  Soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, lentils, carrots, kale, and nuts.

 

3- Increase nitric oxide production naturally: Plant foods, particularly beets and leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, arugula, and spinach, are rich in dietary nitrates and nitrites. These compounds stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the body, which is responsible for destroying the harmful build-up of plaque in your arteries, and dilating your blood vessels.

 

4-Enrich your diet with Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that greatly benefit the cardiovascular system. But our bodies cannot make them on their own. Thankfully, there is a range of plant-based foods out there that are great sources of Omega-3s, including flaxseeds and chia seeds.

 

5-Reap the benefits of heart-protective nutrients: Whole food, plant-based nutrition ensures that the food you are consuming is inherently heart-protective, because it is jam-packed with nutrients such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, and potassium.