Your Heart Wants You to Go Vegan
Can a low-fat vegan diet reverse heart disease?
For over 20 years, science has been asking this question. To answer the age-old question, let’s travel back to the 1980s— the year of discovery. That year revealed the first indication of a link between plant-based diets and the heart.
Researchers performed a study on a small scale involving 22 people. The researchers witnessed the reversal of artery disease in four people in the group who strictly followed a plant-based diet. However, more studies need to be performed with a larger group for a longer duration to confirm if a plant-based diet can reverse heart disease.
This is not to say that no studies on the link between going vegan and reversal of heart disease have been performed after that. In 2014, researchers conducted a study with 198 participants to further investigate if heart disease could be reversed if people followed a strictly plant-based diet.
They discovered that majority of the participants experienced a decrease in symptoms, whereas test results reported a reversal in heart disease in 22% of the participants. The study did not just restrict them from eating animal products, but also from processed food, added oils, refined carbs, sugar, fruit juice, excess salt, nuts, and avocado. The researchers also instructed them to continue taking their prescribed medication and encouraged them to partake in physical activity.
Does this encourage you to go vegan?
Hearing about the study conducted in the 1980s sure encouraged the participants in the 2014 study to follow a vegan lifestyle. Although it’s a big change, one you can’t make overnight, we can do our part to encourage you to make the change, one step a time, by providing you with a list of benefits your heart will receive:
Plants Lower Cholesterol
Saturated fats found in animal products such as lamb, beef, cheese, butter, and high-fat dairy products, including cocoa butter, coconut oil, and palm oil can increase your cholesterol level. High cholesterol levels in your blood can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Your diet should only consist of 13 grams of saturated fat each day or none at all if you switch to eating fruits and vegetables.
Plants Increase Fiber Intake
Plant-based diets increase your fiber intake. Increased fiber intake can reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol in your body. Fiber removes bad cholesterol from your body. Without sufficient fiber, your body absorbs most of the bad cholesterol, which then increases your risk of developing heart disease. You’ll find fiber in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Plants Lower Obesity and Diabetes Risk
Eating meat can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. If you develop type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing heart disease and stroke doubles. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) supports this statement, stating that diabetes does increase your risk of developing a stroke or heart disease at a younger age.
Switching to plant-based meals can help you lose weight while lowering your risk of getting diagnosed with a medical condition. Fruits and vegetables will keep you feeling full for longer, as they contain water.
Plants Lower Blood Pressure
A high intake of sodium can shoot up your blood pressure, resulting in hypertension. You need to eat more vegetables and fruits to keep your sodium intake low. Increasing your potassium intake through a plant-based diet can lower your blood pressure.
Several studies have demonstrated that a diet high in potassium can lower blood pressure regardless of your sodium intake. Your body uses sodium to maintain potassium levels in your blood, which is crucial for heart, muscle, and nerve health.
High potassium levels cause your kidneys to excrete more water and salt and this in return, increases the excretion of potassium. However, Western diets are high in sodium and low in potassium. You can increase your potassium intake from plant-based sources. You can eat mushrooms, peas, bananas, raisins, dates, prunes, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, and more to increase your potassium intake.
Plants Increase Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids Intake
You need to enrich your diet with omega-3 fatty acids to lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high sugar levels. Your body can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, which means that you need to get them through fruits and vegetables.
Your body needs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Since the first two, EPA and DHA come from cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as a vegan, that’s off the menu. Is there another way to increase your EPA and DHA intake? Yes. You can take vegan supplements to deliver EPA and DHA to your body.
Your body easily and quickly converts EPA and DHA into usable omega-3 fatty acids than it does ALA, which you get from plant-based food. This doesn’t mean you forget about increasing your ALA intake. You still should through soybeans, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and more. If you have heart disease, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can slow the disease’s progress and prevent healthy people from developing it.
Plants Add Beneficial Nutrients
Your heart requires numerous nutrients to function optimally, and only a vegan diet can provide your heart with all the nutrients it needs. Fruits and vegetables contain plant sterols, antioxidants, potassium, and phytochemicals— all nutrients that can lower the risk of heart disease.
Going vegan adds beneficial nutrients to your diet and subtracts the harmful ones from it. From meat, saturated fats, and cholesterol aren’t the only ones you need to fear, but also heme iron, which is inches you closer to experiencing a heart attack.
Heme iron comes from the meat’s blood and products reactive oxygen, one of the primary causes of a heart attack. Heme iron can increase your risk of heart disease by 57%, whereas plant-based sources with nonheme iron received the green light.
Plant-based diets don’t create a toxic environment in your body as a diet heavily reliant on meat does. Red meat, high-fat dairy products, and eggs contain the compound L-carnitine. Your body converts L-carnitine into the metabolite trimethylamine N-oxide in your gut. The metabolite transports cholesterol to your arteries, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Without meat, how will I get my daily protein intake?
It doesn’t surprise us that you’re asking this question, as that’s the concern of most people when thinking of switching to a vegan diet.
Here’s our answer:
Vegans receive around 10% to 12% of calories from protein, whereas vegetarians receive 14% to 18% of calories from protein. Therefore, this clearly shows that plant-based diets are lower in protein intake. Now, you’d be surprised to know that a diet low in protein isn’t bad. In fact, it’s good!
A diet high in protein only increases your risk of heart disease, according to the following study.
Let’s take a look:
In 1984, 2,441 middle-aged men partook in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, which ran for 22 years. The study tracked each participant’s protein intake. The researchers analyzed their animal, plant, and dairy protein intake. They divided them into different groups. For instance, they examined the risk of a heart attack for the 25% who ate more animal protein and compared their results those who ate the least animal protein.
They discovered that a protein-rich diet massively increase the risk of a heart attack. Most participants who experienced heart failure during the study’s duration had a high dairy and animal protein intake. The researchers concluded that people should adopt a plant-based diet made up of vegetables, nuts, and beans to lower the risk of heart disease.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Dairy Protein– 49% and higher
- Animal Protein– 43%
- All Protein– 33%
- Plant Protein– 17%
Okay, but I still want my protein.
And you can! You can increase your vegan protein intake by drinking vegan protein shakes, bars, and snacks. You can live a healthy life as a vegan by increasing your intake of every essential nutrient your body needs to function optimally.
You don’t have to make the switch quickly, but gradually you can change your eating habits and leave non-vegan resources out of your plate. You can start by eating a meatless meal one time each week. You can incorporate vegan shakes and bars into your diet to fill you up.
You’ll find yourself looking slimmer and healthier. With time, you can bid farewell to meat for good. Even if you don’t have heart disease or a history of it, switching to a diet filled with fruits and vegetables will be better for your overall health. Your heart will thank you for making the change. Do it for your heart!