By Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, MS, RDN (Contributor Marisol Ortiz, Nutrition Intern)
Plant-Based Diets and CVD
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality, accounting for
1 in 4 deaths worldwide. Research suggests that almost one-half of cardiometabolic
deaths in the U.S. might be prevented through proper nutrition. There
is growing evidence supporting plant-based diets as an effective strategy
for improving nutrient intake. Evidence indicates that a high consumption
of predominantly plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts
and seeds, whole grains, beans, peas and lentils, and limiting consumption
of meats and processed foods, is associated with a significantly lower
risk of CVD. Moreover, plant-based diets are associated with decreased
all-cause mortality and decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and
other chronic diseases. The protective effects of these foods are likely
mediated through their multiple beneficial nutrients, including mono-
and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins,
minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and plant protein.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Limit processed meats.
A good place to start is reducing or eliminating processed meats like sausage,
bacon, hotdogs and other high-fat deli meats from your diet. Try replacing
a grilled burger with marinated grilled portobello mushrooms or veggie burgers.
Eat more of the plant-based foods you already eat.
Do you eat PB&J sandwiches or oatmeal with nuts and fruit? Start by
expanding these foods and meals. Adding more fruits, vegetables and grains
and reducing the portion of animal foods will slowly make your meals more
Find recipes and cookbooks that you like and create time to cook.
Search the internet for vegetarian and vegan recipes that are most similar
to your cooking style. If you love the flavors and spices of your favorite
beef chili, keep those same spices but substitute vegetables and grains—such
as butternut squash and barley—for the ground beef.
Stock your kitchen with healthy, plant-based whole foods.
There are many plant-based foods in mainstream retail markets. Preplan
to fill your pantry and refrigerator with a variety of plant-based selections,
for example: frozen vegetables or riced cauliflower, premade noodles,
fresh pre-cut vegetables, dried or canned beans (don’t forget to
rinse your canned beans!), nuts and seeds, and grains. When you are busy
and pressed for time, a healthy meal will be just steps away!
What about protein?
Can I get enough from plant-based sources?
LEGUMES, also known as beans, are not only an excellent, affordable source of
plant protein, but are also a rich source of soluble fibers (aid in reduction
of cholesterol and blood glucose), naturally low in fat, cholesterol-
free, and high in vitamins and minerals. The improvement in blood lipid
levels can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
SOY products are associated with reduced LDL cholesterol levels, contain soluble
fiber which improves blood glucose levels, and provides soy isoflavones
which may reduce inflammation related to heart disease.
OTHER PLANT-PROTEIN FOODS
American Heart Association. Available at:
heart.org/HEARTORG. Accessed January, 22, 2018.
Kahleova H, Levin S, Barnard N. Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based
Diets. Nutrients. 2017;9; 9(8).
Patel H, Chandra S, Alexander S, Soble J, Williams KA Sr. An Essential
Component of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Management.
Curt Cardiol Rep. 2017;8; 19(10):104.
The Heart Foundation. Available at:
theheartfoundation.org. Accessed January 22, 2018.
Vegetarian Nutrition a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics. Available at:
vndpg.org/docs/rd-resources/Eat-More-Plant-Based-Meals-Consumer.pdf. Accessed January 22, 2018.