Eating more plant foods can lower heart disease risk by 52%, says study

Eating a plant-based diet can make you 52% likely to get heart disease or hypertension, says new study

Plant-based diet
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The plant-based diet is healthy for a whole multitude of reasons, providing you're sensible with your food choices. Cutting out red meat, especially highly processed meats, eliminates a lot of sodium and saturated fat from your diet. Processed meats have long been considered carcinogenic, and could contribute to several different kinds of cancer. 

However, there's another reason to dip into our selection of the best vegan cookbooks: the plant-based diet has been found to lower heart disease risk in young adults and older women, according to a new study. 

Published by the American Heart Association, researchers from the University of Minnesota cross-referenced diet and heart disease risk in a study of almost 5,000 people. These were young adults enrolled in the study Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, or CARDIA, in the late 1980s. 

Followed across 30 years, it was found those on a plant-based diet were much less likely to get heart disease in later life. 

Healthy breakfast: Opt for porridge with some fresh or frozen fruit instead of eggs and bacon, says new study

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Those in the top 20% on the long-term diet quality score, which the study used to calculate their diet, taking into account nutritionally rich plant food, health-detrimental "adverse" foods, animal products and more) were 52% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Top scorers tended to choose a "nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet", although not all were vegetarians – some also ate dairy and high-quality meat.

University of Minnesota's Yuni Choi, Ph.D., lead author of the young adult study, said: "A nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. A plant-centered diet is not necessarily vegetarian. People can choose among plant foods that are as close to natural as possible, not highly processed.

"We think that individuals can include animal products in moderation from time to time, such as non-fried poultry, non-fried fish, eggs and low-fat dairy."

These animal products should be cooked in a healthy way too. Try the best air fryer, or best health grill, rather than dousing your chicken or beef with vegetable oil and roasting or frying.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.