What Plant-Based Foods are Healthiest for Your Heart?

What Plant-Based Foods are Healthiest for Your Heart?

By Maria Duca, MD, Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology

Will eating an apple a day really keep the doctor away? If you combine that apple with a diet rich in other plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, it very well may.

Research published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association and JAMA Internal Medicine found that diets high in plant-based foods can decrease your risk of dying of heart attack, stroke or heart failure by 32 percent and developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.

Harvest the right diet

Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are your best choices for a heart-healthy diet.

But it’s important to know that not all foods that come from plants are good for you: 

  • White rice and white bread: Highly processed and depleted of most of their heart-healthy nutrients, they have a high glycemic index, which can cause blood sugar spikes and increase hunger.
  • French fries and cauliflower pizza with cheese: Loaded with sodium and low in nutritional value.
  • Fruit juice: Beverages labeled “100 percent juice” are not the same as fresh fruit. Juices are often high in sugar and squeezed of valuable vitamins and fiber.

How to get started

Starting a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be daunting. Begin by swapping a sandwich for a salad with low-fat dressing for lunch, and having brown rice instead of white rice with dinner. Grab a handful of nuts for snack instead of a candy bar.

You also don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to be healthy. The Mediterranean diet, for example, includes fish, poultry, soy and low-fat dairy products. Lean red meat is allowed on occasion, but bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats should be avoided.

Virtua offers the Eat Well. Be Well. Plant-Based Wellness Program, taught by a Virtua cardiologist and registered dietitian. This six-week program helps to educate, motivate and support you on your plant-based journey with cooking demonstrations and food tastings, and it also provides resources to reinforce your plant-based goals. Register online or call 888-847-8823 for more information. 

Comprehensive cardiac care is just a heartbeat away

To make an appointment with a Virtua heart specialist, call 888-847-8823.

And, sign up for our Good Vibes newsletter to receive the latest heart health news and class announcements. 

Updated January 14, 2022

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