Plant-Based Foods Boost Heart Health

Eating more plant-based foods may be linked to better heart health: Study

Eating more plant-based foods may be linked to better heart health: Study

The American Heart Association has published a new study that found diets primarily composed of plant-based foods may protect heart health and reduce the risk of early death caused by stroke and heart attack. In contrast, these diets often totally eliminate animal products or keep them limited to fish, eggs, and dairy.

The study is one of the first to examine the proportion of plant-based versus animal-based dietary patterns in the general population, according to Rebholz.

People who didn't eat a lot of plant-based meals were also 16% more likely to develop heart failure or have non-fatal heart attacks or strokes than the participants who ate the most plants. Overall, participants who ate more plant-based diets had better heart health, and they were at a reduced risk of having some kind of cardiac episode. It's also unclear from the results whether there is an ideal amount of plant or animal foods for optimal heart health or for longevity, the authors note.

The study involved data on 12,168 middle-aged adults in the United States, which came from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. "There might be some variability in terms of individual foods but to reduce cardiovascular disease risk people should eat more vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, legumes and fewer animal-based foods".

"They strongly suggest that in a general U.S. population who don't necessarily identify as vegetarian, the higher the proportion of plant foods in the diet, the lower the risk of cardiovascular events and death from any cause", McMacken said, adding that plant-based diets can promote heart health by multiple mechanisms.

The new study's findings are "important", said Dr. Michelle McMacken, director of the plant-based lifestyle medicine program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in NY, who was not involved in the study.

"The American Heart Association recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet, provided the foods you choose are rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium (salt), cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats", said Mariell Jessup, the chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association.

For example, Jessup explained, "French fries or cauliflower pizza with cheese are plant-based but are low in nutritional value and are loaded with sodium".

People who followed one of the three healthier diets in the study consumed an average of 4.1 to 4.8 servings of fruits and vegetables and less than one serving of red or processed meat a day.

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