February is Heart Health month, and what better way to take care of our hearts than with the food we eat? Take the advice of Dr. Kim Williams, the former president of the American College of Cardiology, and choose a plant-based diet free from meat, eggs, and dairy. Dr. Williams went vegan after a routine blood test showed his LDL levels were dangerously high, even though he thought he was eating a healthy diet with low-fat milk and skinless chicken. After conducting extensive research, he realized that animal products are not healthy foods to consume, particularly for those at risk of heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure can take a toll on our hearts. The good news is that these degenerative conditions are largely reversible through diet, physical activity, and stress management.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a cardiologist at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, is one of the pioneers in the therapeutic use of a plant-based diet to treat and reverse cardiovascular disease. He has been recommending a plant-based diet to patients with heart disease for decades. According to Dr. Esselstyn,
"My program is a nutrition-based therapy that has been scientifically-proven to reverse heart disease. Coronary angiograms (X-Rays) of the patients in my study show an actual reversal of the disease. To experience these benefits, my patients must stick to my plant-based diet program strictly, but the effects are more than worth the effort. For those that are very sick, it is the most effective treatment option–far less dangerous and more effective than invasive surgical procedures such as stents and bypass (except in acute emergencies), and much more effective than drugs alone. Traditional cardiology has relied on technology to ease the symptoms of heart disease, but has not addressed its causes. My approach is not another stop-gap solution, it prevents heart disease from occurring in those who don’t yet have the disease, and it heals the body and reverses the disease when symptoms are present."While making this switch may seem like a dramatic change, compared to open-heart surgery and a lifetime of medication and related side effects, more and more people are choosing this less-invasive alternative. What they're discovering is that it's not only easier than they thought, but delicious, too!
Heart healthy foods are loaded with fiber which helps cleanse fat from arteries and the digestive tract. The anti-oxidants present in plant-based foods reduce inflammation, repair cell damage, and aid in new cell growth. Synergistically, these foods work together to boost the immune system and restore healthy gut bacteria that aids in digestion. You'll want to make these superfoods part of your daily eating routine.
Greens - dark leafy greens such as kale, collard, spinach, Swiss chard, plus cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli
Beans & Legumes - loaded with fiber and protein - black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, as well as hummus
Garlic - a natural antioxidant that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
Mushrooms - lower cholesterol and boost immune system, shiitake is among the best
Berries - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, goji berries
Probiotics - aid in digestion and boost the immune system - fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, apple cider vinegar
Nuts & Seeds - lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss - almonds, pistachios, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
Herbs & Spices - incredibly concentrated antioxidants - turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, Holy Basil (tulsi), green tea