Think that because you gave up steak a long time ago, your heart is automatically as healthy as can be? While that might be the case, it might not be, as eating heart-healthy isn’t always so simple. Despite being generally preventable, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Vegan diets have proven to be overwhelming healthy for cardiovascular health, and in our post about Heart Meds vs. a Plant-Based Diet, eating vegan certainly came out on top. So, continue reading to discover five ways to keep your heart pumping strong using your plant-based diet…you’re probably already off to a great start.
1. Don’t become a junk-food vegan
Just because you’re a vegan, that doesn’t mean your diet is healthy, unfortunately. Sure, chips and french fries can be vegan, but that doesn’t make them good for you. The reality is that if you’re not prepared for a day out, these might be the only foods available to you without popping into a grocery store, and, as PETA has pointed out, the list of “accidentally vegan” junk food products is a long one. It is important, however, to not fall back on the fast food options available to us non-meat eaters.
Aside from the preservatives, bad fats, and white grains found in processed food, a diet high in junk food is also high in sugar. Sugar, as the Cleveland Health Clinic has warned, as been found to stress heart. Based on this research done by the Journal of the American Heart Association, they recommend that those with high blood pressure and cholesterol could benefit from less sugar, in order to avoid less stress on the heart. In terms of fats and cholesterol, the Harvard School of Public Health warns against the bad fats found in processed foods. Therefore, the first, and probably most important tip on this list, is to avoid excess sugar and packaged junk foods in the quest to be cruelty free. To keep your heart going strong, read our advice on how to make the switch to whole foods.
2. Eat a variety of foods
Different foods have different nutritional benefits, of course. Notably, different fruits and veggies contain different vitamins and minerals depending on their color, many of which can be useful in preventing heart disease. For every part of health, getting a variety in is important in terms of meeting all vitamin and mineral requirements, and helping meet antioxidant levels. In terms of your heart, getting a variety of colored and dark green veggies is important; bright red ones, such as beets, help lower blood pressure, and bright orange and yellow ones lower heart attack risk (for more info, continue reading this source’s graph on the benefits of colored produce). Our recommendations for a variety of produce? Lots of salads, and maybe try juicing or a smoothie.
3. Get your daily fiber
In 2002, it was found that a diet high in fiber was associated with a 30 percent less risk of heart disease, compared to a diet low in fiber. The National Fiber Council recommends that one third of daily fiber intake be from soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water, and acts in the body by trapping sugars, fats and cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, green vegetables, and oranges.
Whole grains are generally considered an excellent source of dietary fiber; rice, wheat, oats, etc. Careful though; once they have been refined, they no longer are a good source of fiber (white rice or flour, for example). Considered an important part of a healthy diet, fiber has also been linked to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Read our posts about how a high fiber diets prevents against cardiovascular disease and the general importance of fiber.
4. Eat nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds help to reduce blood cholesterol and are great sources of fiber, as per the post above. Not to mention, they are a great source of vegan protein. Certain nuts, like walnuts, also contain alpha-linolenic fatty acids which are healthy foods to reduce blood clots, and therefore the risk of heart attacks. Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy are also recommended for heart-health. Looking for a way to get more nuts and seeds in your diet? Check out our energy bars as a great vegan snack.
5. Treat yourself to a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate
Need a break from your all-healthy all the time regimen? Look no further than these classics; the combination of red wine and dark chocolate. Research shows that consumption of red wine in moderation helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Another bonus? It’s also a powerful antioxidant. If you want to know how these things work in more scientific terms, read the evidence from the Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research. A four ounce glass is the perfect serving size, and, if looking for maximum benefits, go for a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Something else to consider, always in moderation, is red wine’s best friend: dark chocolate, preferably of at least 70 percent. The sugar-loaded lower percentages are not as beneficial, and of course, are not usually vegan. Dark chocolate in modest quantities is actually super healthy, as it contains fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, dark chocolate may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, as it prevents cholesterol from lodging in the arteries.
Image Source: Raw Dark Chocolate Cherry Cream Cups