Posted on Jun 18, 2020, 3 p.m.
According to recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine higher compliance with a plant based meal plan such as the Mediterranean diet can significantly decrease the risk for heart disease by up to 21%, this may come as good news to the nearly 30 million Americans that are diagnosed with heart disease every year.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts report that those who followed the Mediterranean diet, Greek and Italian cuisine based fight and plant based meal plans, or other whole food plant based diets had a 14-21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease which was dependent on adherence to the meal plan; higher compliance was linked to a 10-20% reduced risk of heart diseases.
“We found that following a variety of healthy eating patterns confers significant health benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," Dr. Frank B. Hu, the study author, professor, and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public School.
“These heart-healthy diets share common characteristics such as higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and lower consumption of red and processed meats and added sugar," added Hu.
In this study heart health was tracked from 165,794 women and 43,338 men without a history of any heart disease for close to 32 years. The effects of 4 different dietary approaches on heart disease were evaluated using several measures of adherence including The Healthy Eating Index, The Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score, The Healthful Plant Based Diet Index, and The Alternate Healthy Eating Index.
During the study period a total of 23,366 cases of heart diseases were reported of those 5,700 were strokes and 18,000 were congestive heart diseases. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet experienced a 17% reduction in their risk for heart disease. Those scoring high on The Healthful Plant Based Diet Index experiences a 14% decrease in the risk of heart disease. Those scoring high on The Healthy Eating Index experienced 17% reductions in the risk for heart disease. Those scoring high on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index experienced a 21% reduction in their risk for heart disease.
While there is no magic bullet to diet, health, and longevity the researchers recommend consuming a variety of healthy foods in flexible ways and following a healthy eating pattern according to each person’s health needs, food preferences as well as cultural traditions.
An easy rule of thumb would be to eat the rainbow to follow this suggestion. “Eat the rainbow” reminds one that including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet will help you to get all of the vitamins and minerals that the body requires by highlighting keeping your diet colorful and challenge yourself to try different foods and mix it up to promote heart health and subsequently better overall health and well being.
A whole food plant based diet is not the same as being vegan, nor is it necessarily the same as being vegetarian as this meal plan is less strict. This diet plan started off as being animal product free, but now one can be primarily plant based, think of it as being flexitarian, as in being flexible. This meal plan limits added sugars and sodium, and avoids processed foods, while primarily sticking to plant based whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and can include animal products in moderation. Plant based whole food diets are full of fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, while being low in additives, cholesterol, calories, and saturated fats to promote overall better health and well being that is backed by science.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.