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In The News: Best Foods for Heart Health

8/24/2011 2:26:18 PM

Tags: In The News, Heart Health, Heart Disease, Heart Attack, Study, Research, Vegan Diet, Tips, Medicine Cabinet

J.PattonResearchers may have found a heart attack-proof diet. Sound impossible? Read on.

According to general surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., heart disease is a “foodborne illness” that may be prevented by those who follow this new diet. Esselstyn recommends avoiding meat, eggs, dairy and added oils—essentially a plant-based, vegan diet. Esselstyn found this new diet can stop heart disease in its tracks and reduce the blockage in blood vessels. Turns out, there’s nothing “new” about it.

Esselstyn isn’t the only one who has witnessed the benefits of a vegan diet. Former president Bill Clinton recently alleviated his heart problems by switching up his eating habits. Since going vegan, he has lost 20 pounds and reports feeling healthier and more energetic than ever before.

If you think about it, it makes sense why this diet would be effective in preventing heart attacks. A heart attack is caused by plaque buildup in blood vessels, and this buildup is made up mainly of cholesterol. And where does that cholesterol come from? You guessed it—dairy products, eggs and meat. The saturated fat in these foods raises total and LDL-cholesterol levels, thus increasing the odds of a heart attack.

8-24-11-stir-fry 
Eating vegan dishes that are low in saturated fat, like this vegetable stir fry,
will keep your chances for heart disease low.
Photo by Martin Cathrae/Courtesy Flickr
 

So, if you can’t eat meat, eggs or dairy products, what can you eat? A vegan diet is composed of fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and legumes. All of these foods are cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat, so it makes it easy to follow recommendations to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

Common vegan foods include oatmeal, stir-fried vegetables, apples, macaroni, fruit smoothies, popcorn, spaghetti, guacamole (yum!), hummus and veggie burgers. For more information on foods that are part of a healthy vegan diet, click here.

If a vegan diet sounds too restricting to you, don’t despair. Here are 24 more heart-healthy foods that you might find appealing from the folks at WebMD:

1. Fresh herbs, like rosemary, sage, oregano and tyme
2. Black beans
3. Red wine
4. Salmon
5. Tuna
6. Extra virgin olive oil
7. Walnuts
8. Almonds
9. Edamame
10. Tofu
11. Sweet potatoes
12. Oranges
13. Swiss chard
14. Carrots
15. Barley
16. Oatmeal
17. Flaxseed
18. Low-fat yogurt
19. Foods fortified with sterols
20. Coffee
21. Cayenne chili pepper
22. Kosher salt
23. Cherries
24. Blueberries



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