In recent years, plant-based diets have become a significant trend, with sales of plant-based foods in the USA alone jumping 27% during 2020, and the global market for these products reporting a compound annual growth rate of 10.2% by 2027. And Australians are on board with this trend too, with demand for plant-based proteins increasing by 48% by June 2020. One of the driving factors behind this trend is the refocussing of many consumers on their health – something that the pandemic accelerated – as well as the increased variety on the shelves of everyday stores and restaurants. So, is this type of diet really good for your health – and especially your heart? Can it help prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac arrest?
Different Types of Plant-Based Diet
“Plant-based” is a catch-all term for diets that are high in plant products, and this includes variations such as:
- Veganism – Vegans don’t eat animal products of any kind, including meat, eggs, or dairy. All their nutrition comes from plants and plant-based products.
- Vegetarianism – Vegetarians don’t eat any meat products, but they do eat eggs and dairy.
- Lacto-vegetarianism – This is a vegetarian diet that excludes eggs but allows dairy.
A lot of people on plant-based diets also follow something called a flexitarian diet or semi-vegetarian diet, where the vast majority of their diet is plant-based, but they will occasionally eat meat or fish.
The Good News About Plant-Based Diets
There are a lot of good reasons to choose to switch to a plant-based diet. Any diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, unsaturated oils, and seeds is generally a good choice for your health, especially if you are changing from a diet high in saturated fats, fast food, and meat.
This is especially important for your heart health, as it helps to lower cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar levels, regulate blood pressure and regulate calorie intake to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
As we’ve written about before, this kind of diet is very effective at lowering heart disease, heart attack, and SCA risks, as well as effectively managing symptoms for people who have significant heart health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and more.
It’s good for the planet too, as it helps to significantly reduce carbon emissions from agriculture and meat production. Around 23% of greenhouse gasses come from agriculture alone, putting a lot of pressure on natural ecosystems and the climate itself.
Other reasons for choosing a plant-based diet include supporting animal rights, which is a significant factor for many people around the world.
The Not-So-Good News
The not-so-good news is that a plant-based diet can still be unhealthy – it’s all about what you’re eating, and this applies to any diet. For example, Oreos are vegan, but having a box of Oreos for dinner every night isn’tgreat for your health. If you’re considering switching to a plant-based diet for your heart health, you can’t simply rely on whether something is vegan or vegetarian, but need to look at the nutritional content itself.
Important things to look at include salt and sugar content, choosing fresh and seasonal items over canned or processed foods, including variety in your diet, keeping fast food (yes, chips are vegan too!) to an occasional treat, and making sure your calorie intake is within a healthy range. When it comes to having a healthy plant-based diet for your heart, it’s all about making healthy choices!
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