It’s not for everyone, admits cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD, of New York City-based Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care, but the patients with or at-risk for heart disease whom he’s put on a whole food plant-based diet have seen miraculous results in lowering high blood pressure.
Yes, you read correctly, plant-based, as in no meat. Nada. Zip. “Ideally, you eat no animal products,” says Dr. Ostfeld, who is not laughing.
“It’s a diet rich in nutrients and minerals, high in fiber, and extremely good for blood vessels, treating and preventing heart disease, and lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol,” he adds. This green approach to eating involves cutting out butter, meats, fish, even all dairy. In their stead, you eat heaps of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
The results have been impressive. Among 70 patients who started the diet under a wellness program launched at Montefiore in May 2012, some have dropped LDL (bad) cholesterol 60, up to 70, points. Some have also shed up to 40 pounds. One patient with heart disease reversed his angina (chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart). “It takes 30 to 60 days for patients to adjust to this new way of eating. Once they do, they feel so much better, the plan sells itself,” says Dr. Ostfeld.
If you’re not ready to go whole-hog (as in giving up the hog), try replacing unhealthy foods in your diet with these high blood-pressure-lowering options.
Avocados: rich in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals including potassium.
Bananas: good source of fiber and potassium.
Dark Chocolate: high in flavonol antioxidants, which increase nitric oxide production and relax blood vessels.
Legumes (including soybeans and all beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas): low in sodium, high in potassium and antioxidants.
Nuts and Seeds: high in fiber, minerals, and vitamin E.
Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Leafy Green Veggies: among the richest sources of minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which synergistically help maintain healthy blood pressure. Kale and collards are also calcium-rich.
If you’d consider this eating style to bolster heart health, ask your doctor whether it is appropriate for you.
Dr. Ostfeld also suggests these resources on heart-healthy eating:
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.
- The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan, by Rip Esselstyn
- The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
You can also call the Montefiore wellness center for free information on what a whole food plant-based diet looks like at 718-920-5197. Tell them Dr. Ostfeld, and Healthagy, sent you (big smile).
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Would You consider a whole food plant-based diet?