American Heart Month tips: Add veggies to your diet

You may be struggling with risk factors for heart disease. These can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prediabetes or diabetes and controlling your weight. However, changing what you eat may dramatically improve all your cardiovascular risk factors, including genetics, according to the World Heart Federation. Why not give it a try for American Heart Month? Here’s how to do it:

Eat healthier

You could eat less fried chicken and choose low-fat milk and cheese, but it’s possible to do more to control and reverse your condition by adopting a plant-based diet. According to a study from the Journal of Family Practice, 177 people surveyed stuck to a plant-based diet, with just one patient experiencing a repeated disease event. But 13 out of the 21 patients who continued eating meat, dairy and added fat experienced repeated adverse cardiac events including deaths, strokes, stent placements and coronary artery bypass graftings.

The truth is, meat and dairy are the largest sources of fat and cholesterol in your diet and heart disease — even when treated with surgery and medication — steadily worsens unless you change your daily habits, including what you eat. Taking charge during American Heart Month is a great start.

Eat more and lose weightlentil salad

The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture “MyPlate” guidelines downgraded both meat and dairy to a small percent of your plate at each meal. They currently advise that vegetables, grains, beans and fruits make up three-quarters of your plate. The more you fill up on plant foods first, the less you’ll eat the highly processed, high-fat meat and dairy that are causing your problems.

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, overweight patients who were prescribed vegetarian diets reduced their body weight without restricting how much they ate. Eating more sounds like a dieter’s dream, right? By adding more fiber to your meals, you fill up on nutrients without adding calories and fat.

A salad per day can lower blood pressure

Another study, published in the journal Hypertension, showed those who ate a nitrate-rich meal, such as a simple bowl of lettuce, experienced a substantial drop in blood pressure within just a few hours of the meal that lasted all day long. Just like the most widely prescribed nitrate drugs, salad lowers your risk of stroke and heart attack substantially. Rich sources of nitrates include all lettuces, greens and beets.

Chop it all up and add every other kind of vegetable you have in the fridge for variety. Make this filling, disease-fighting meal at least once per day.

Beans lower cholesterol, weight and blood pressure

Several studies have shown that eating more beans improves blood sugar regulation, insulin levels, reduces cholesterol levels and aids weight loss, according to Michael Greger, M.D., author of “How Not to Die” and the website He noted that beans such as lentils or chickpeas are packed with fiber, folate and phytates, which all help reduce risk factors for heart disease when eaten daily.

So, when making chili, for example, look for vegan recipes with only beans, grains and veggies and skip the meat and cheese entirely. When making salads, add some rinsed beans for a filling protein boost instead of meats or cheese. Instead of cream-based dips and spreads, rely on hummus and spread it on a bagel or as a dip for veggies or whole grain pita, toasted and cut up into chips.

Image Credit: Morguefile

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