Heart disease poses a significant risk to many Americans—in fact, one person in the United States dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). But sometimes your heart health can seem a little unknowable, especially if you aren't regularly seeing your doctor (like so few of us did in 2020). The good news is that there are quite a few simple ways to support your heart, even if you feel like you don't know where to start. And the American Heart Association just added another one to the list.
We already knew that centering plant-based food in your diet had lots of benefits, like helping you manage your diabetes and upping the amount of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins you consume each day. Now, there's more evidence that eating a plant-based diet makes a difference when it comes to your heart health.
A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating a plant-centered diet in young and middle adulthood—that's between the ages 18 and 30—results in a lower risk for cardiovascular disease over time. (For folks who aren't quite ready to dive head first into a totally vegan diet, this is pretty great news, as a plant-centered diet doesn't necessarily cut all meat or animal products out of the picture.) Of the nearly 5,000 study participants, just 289 developed cardiovascular disease, and those who improved their diet by eating fewer animal products between the ages of 25 and 50 were 61% less likely to develop heart disease.
A second study in the same journal also found that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women. Women who participated in the study followed the "portfolio diet," which focuses on lowering "bad" cholesterol (aka low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol) by including lots of plant proteins, soluble fiber like TK and TK and plant sterols. Those who followed the portfolio diet closely saw an 11% decrease in their risk for cardiovascular disease, and they were 17% less likely to develop heart failure.
If you find yourself wanting to ease into a plant-based diet for a taste of those appealing health benefits, try starting with this Flexitarian Meal Plan for Beginners. The plan includes mostly vegetarian meals, and even some options for meal-prepping. You could also try out these flexitarian dinners that give you a boost of protein at the end of the day, or this flexitarian plan that's perfect for families. And if you ever decide to try a vegan diet, don't worry—we've got plenty of recipe ideas for you.