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The Many Benefits of Plant-Based Eating

Summer is here, and healthy, fresh greens, veggies and fruits are plentiful. If ever there was an ideal time to try a plant-based diet, it’s right now. The benefits of plant-based eating are abundant –
particularly when it comes to heart health. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, eating a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 16 percent and reduce the risk of death by approximately 31 percent.

A Plant-Based Diet Can Reduce Cardiovascular Risks

In addition, research has found that eating a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and many cancers while also lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol level and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Other studies conducted at Loma Linda University Health suggest plant-based eating could help you live longer, and the extra nutrients you’re likely to take in may help your immune system function at its best.

While some worry that eliminating animal products may deprive your body of certain nutrients, experts have proven that plant-based diets offer all the necessary nutrients our bodies need. Many are surprised to learn you can get all the protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals needed from plant sources. In fact, a healthy plant-based diet is often higher in fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals (which help protect against pathogens that cause illness/disease), and are low in saturated fat, calories, and free of cholesterol.

In some circumstances, supplementation of Vitamin B12 may be recommended for those eating a plant-based diet since B12 is mostly found in animal products.

“Being a vegetarian isn’t for everyone, but there are so many benefits to eating a diet that incorporates more plant-based foods,” explains cardiologist Padma Hari, MD.

When talking to my patients about diet, I encourage them to consider moving more toward a plant-based diet. This will vary based on an individual’s needs and desires, but it could mean eliminating animal foods from certain meals each day or week, eating only fish, or going fully vegetarian or vegan. While there’s no ‘right’ answer, incorporating as many natural, plant-based foods as possible is always a healthy choice.”

What is Plant-Based Eating?

Plant-based eating emphasizes consuming foods from plants, while reducing your intake of all animal-food sources. A healthy plant-based diet is one that adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Eat plenty of heart-healthy, plant-based foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil and avocado oil.
  • Reduce amounts of less healthy plant-based foods such as refined grains and cereals, sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened desserts, and processed plant-based foods.
  • Limit or avoid animal foods, including:
    • poultry, fish, beef, and pork
    • dairy; milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and cream
    • foods that contain animal products such as fats or lards

Learn More About WakeMed Heart & Vascular

For decades, the WakeMed Heart Center has been the top destination in the region for heart surgery. To learn more, take a virtual tourrequest an appointment with a surgeon – or read more about our heart & vascular physicians.