Now that we’ve defined what a heart-healthy diet is, it’s probably easy to see how the benefits of a plant-based approach might just go way beyond your heart. And I’m not just talking about overall wellness, although of course it’s good for that, too.
Turns out, when you eat in a way that helps lower cholesterol and improve overall heart health, you're also helping lower risks associated with cancer, dementia, arthritis and other diseases. (If you're a regular reader of this blog you already know how passionate I am about the connection between diet and healthy longevity...because lowering your chances of getting a life-threatening disease plays a huge role in extending lifespan!)
And here are some of the specific ways a whole food, plant based heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, helps prevent other diseases:
- It’s anti-inflammatory. Simply put, inflammation causes pain. So, when you control your body’s inflammatory response, you can control the discomfort of chronic diseases such as arthritis. Inflammation can also cause more subtle damage: It can impair arteries, metabolic organs and the brain. And that can have negative repercussions on a whole host of health issues, including blood vessel disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- It promotes weight loss. Not everyone needs to lose weight, of course, but obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can contribute to a lower chance of developing cancer.
- It helps keep blood pressure in check. Because an unprocessed plant-based diet is naturally low in sodium, following this eating plan means you’re less likely to become hypertensive. A recent survey of studies found a higher risk of kidney, colorectal and breast cancer in people with hypertension, although it’s not clear if the link is causal.
- It reduces exposure to various toxins. Avoiding preservatives and compounds from smoked, cured and processed meats (a natural consequence of a plant-based diet) limits risks associated with developing stomach and colorectal cancers.
- It helps reduce intake of added sugars. The relationship between diabetes and diet is a complex one, but scientists, doctors and dietitians agree that a few simple guidelines help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. And guess what half of a healthy plate should be filled with for anyone worried about diabetes? Yep, non-starchy vegetables.
The bottom line? If you’ve been eating a heart-healthy, plant-based diet (that means you, Step One Foods customers!), pat yourself on the back. You’re doing much more for your health than you may have realized.