Heart Healthy, Plant-Based Diets | Torrance Memorial

Published on February 27, 2018

Heart Healthy, Plant-Based Diets

plant-based nutrition

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 plant-based.

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.