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Protecting Your Heart with Plant-Based Diets

Protect your most vital organ: your heart! Keep it beating steady with heart-healthy, plant-based, organic, whole foods!

When you eat heart-healthy, plant-based, organic, whole foods, you nourish health-promoting bacteria in your digestive tract that emit by-products that lower inflammation, neutralize toxins, and nourish your cells and tissues. Conversely, when you consume heart-harming foods laden with chemicals, toxins, pesticides, sugars, processed salts, and animal protein, your bacteria emit poisons and toxins. One of these is called endotoxin, and the immune system treats it as a poison. When this toxin gets into your bloodstream, your level of inflammation goes up.

Certain foods are highly medicinal for your blood vessels. Healthy blood vessels are flexible and widen to accommodate increased blood flow. Organic, whole fruits and vegetables, such as pomegranates, grapes, green, leafy vegetables, beets, cacao; omega-rich oils, teas, and non-GMO, organic soy products all help your arteries to relax, driving down your blood pressure and making it easier for your heart to pump more blood. By consuming more of the right foods—raw, unprocessed, organic, plant-based foods—and minimizing or eliminating your consumption of highly processed, chemical-laden, high-fat animal products or artificial foods, you can protect your heart and greatly minimize your chance of coronary disease.

The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing heart disease. People who ate eight or more servings were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who consumed one and a half servings or fewer. What’s more, the symptoms of heart disease can even be reversed with a plant-based diet and holistic lifestyle.

Is Oil-Free the Only Way to Go?

The oil-free, vegan diet craze has been all the rage for the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. When you reduce the total amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. However, making a blanket statement that ALL oils and fats are dangerous for your heart is a bit extreme, in my opinion. Not all oils and fats are created equal. And I strongly believe that the quality of the oil you consume is just as important as the overall quantity. Partially hydrogenated, trans-fatty-acid-laden, genetically modified cooking oils have a drastically different effect on your body and heart health than raw, cold-pressed, organic, extra-virgin oils made from coconut, chia, flax, hemp, or olive. In moderate amounts, healthy fats are absolutely essential for nourishing your brain (which, as we learned, is mostly composed of fat) and regulating your hormone cascade.

I don’t recommend a completely oil-free or fat-free diet except for truly high-risk individuals who need to drastically cut their fat intake to stave off the acceleration of diseases. For those of us in good overall health with no current heart issues or history of heart disease, a mild to moderate intake of high-quality, unprocessed, organic, raw, plant-based oils and fats can be a tremendous way to supplement your healthy lifestyle and add essential nutrients such as omega fatty acids into your diet.

Now, if you want to quit cooking with oil completely, I suggest you use low-sodium, organic vegetable broth or filtered water as a substitute when sautéing. For salad dressings, you can use apple cider vinegar, citrus juices, and spices, or even cannellini beans to add extra creaminess and body without the additional oil.

Dr. Dean Ornish is a pioneer in the medical industry who successfully reversed atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (CAD), and other chronic diseases in his patients. His approach features a plant-based diet, quitting smoking, moderate exercise, and stress-management techniques.

In short, the absolute best approach to creating and maintaining long-term heart health is through active and conscientious prevention. Through your dietary choices, you are creating a healthy internal bioterrain in which your heart can efficiently do its job by getting blood to vital organs, cells, and tissues. Combine this with healthy lifestyle practices, and you’ve got a powerful prescription for lifelong heart health!

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