In The News: Best Foods for Heart Health

| 8/24/2011 2:26:18 PM

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.

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.