When it comes to maintaining a healthy heart, what you eat matters. The foods you choose to eat have a direct impact on your cardiovascular health and are always either helping or harming it.
While there is no one-size-fits-all diet, one thing we know is that a diet that’s primarily made up of plant-based whole foods can help improve overall health. It can also reduce the risk of including heart disease, diabetes, and many other serious health conditions.1 Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of a primarily plant-based whole foods diet for cardiovascular health.
What is a Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet?
Our standard Western diet is typically one that involves a lot of processed foods, unhealthy fats, empty calories, and refined carbohydrates. Unfortunately, all of these, when eaten regularly, can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and many other serious health issues.
Eating a predominately plant-based whole foods diet means that the majority of the food you eat include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Foods in their natural state, like those listed above, are the most nutritious, containing high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial properties per calorie. These foods also have large amounts of fiber which is also critical for maintaining good heart health.
What about Meat?
Meat isn’t bad, and it’s not necessary to go on a strictly plant-based whole foods diet (unless that’s your own personal preference). In fact, meat contains high amounts of protein and iron, both of which are important for your heart health. As a good rule of thumb, you simply want to generally choose lean cuts, eat red meat in moderation, and avoid eating the fat.
What are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet?
The benefits of eating a more natural, plant-based whole foods diet are wide-ranging. And because the food we eat impacts our cardiovascular health at large, this should come as no surprise. Let’s explore some of the benefits of eating this type of diet:
Lower Cholesterol Levels
One of the primary benefits of eating a primarily plant-based whole foods diet is its capacity to lower cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in the blood are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.2 Because plant-based whole foods are naturally low in cholesterol and saturated fat, they can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to any injury or infection. However, when that inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to the development of other chronic diseases, including heart disease. Thankfully, plant-based whole foods are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals. So, eating these foods can help reduce inflammation throughout your body.1
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is another major risk factor for heart disease. Eating a predominately plant-based whole foods diet has been shown to lower blood pressure. This is particularly the case with systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading).3 This may be due to the high fiber content of plant-based whole foods, which can help lower blood pressure by promoting healthy blood flow and reducing inflammation.
Promote Weight Loss
Excess weight is yet another risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Because plant-based whole foods are typically lower in calories and higher in fiber compared to processed foods and animal products, they can help with weight loss and weight management.
Improve Blood Sugar Control
High blood sugar is a risk factor for heart disease, and a plant-based whole foods diet can help improve blood sugar control.4 Plant-based whole foods are generally lower in refined carbohydrates and higher in fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of eating a predominately plant-based whole foods diet for cardiovascular health stretch far beyond this list. And we’re happy to say that choosing to start eating more healthily doesn’t have to be hard or self-sacrificing. In fact, there are so many delicious meals and snacks you can create with these foods. And we’re also proponents of enjoying yourself and indulging from time to time as well. (Afterall, everything in moderation.) But like with any habit, it starts with a choice and a commitment.
Using Cardiogram to Monitor Effects of Diet
One thing that can help in not only making a healthy choice, but then sticking to it, is having data to show that your decision is making a positive impact. And thankfully, you have Cardiogram!
Also be sure to Create a Tag anytime you do indulge in an unhealthier food and see if you notice any patterns in your heart activity. And, for best results, use Share with My Doctor so they can help you track your progress even further.
Bon appétit, Cardiogram Fam!