21 Feb Do Vegetables Reduce Heart Disease Risk?
You may have seen in the news this week reports of a new study claiming that vegetables may not be as protective against heart disease as previously believed.
While these these findings don’t fit with our current understanding of diet and heart disease, we can’t immediately dismiss them. Vegetable intake alone may not be the panacea when it comes to reducing cardiovascular disease risk. However, eating vegetables is still important for many aspects of our health and diet does play a key role in reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Studies on dietary habits and disease risk can be challenging to run. You tend to find that if someone has a higher vegetable intake, for example, they may also be more likely to implement other healthy habits like exercising regularly, eating less sugar, and so on. Therefore, it can be difficult to say for sure which of the habits is contributing to the reduced risk of disease.
DIET, METABOLIC SYNDROME AND HEART DISEASE
Metabolic syndrome is the understood to be the biggest predictor of cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weight gain around the middle and elevated blood lipids (cholesterol and/or triglycerides). Eating a healthy, nutrient dense diet and minimising intake of ultra processed foods is one of the best ways to prevent and reverse metabolic syndrome. This, in turn, will reduce your risk of heart disease. Our clinic specialises in weight loss and metabolic health optimisation. We see a lot of clients with metabolic syndrome which can often be reversed through diet and lifestyle improvements.
WHAT WE DO KNOW
Vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals and fibre and are still an integral part of our diet. The findings of this new study should not discourage us from getting our (minimum) five a day. The more vegetables we will our plates with, the less room there is for refined, nutrient devoid carbohydrates and highly processed foods. We encourage our clients to eat a variety of different vegetables. Preferably seasonal and organic. We recommend aiming for three portions at lunch and dinner as a minimum. The more you fill your plate with vegetables, the less room there is for processed foods and refined, starchy carbohydrates. Doing this will support your attempts to lose or maintain your weight, as well as provide a range of essential nutrients, beneficial to many aspects of health.
HOW TO GET MORE VEG INTO YOUR DIET
One of the best ways to eat more veg is to find ways to make them taste good. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get excited about plain steamed greens. Try flavoursome Mediterranean dishes like ratatouille and caponata. Stews and curries with plenty of veg in are warming in the winter. You can even add vegetables to your breakfast smoothie. It sounds weird but you can’t taste them!
If you’re aware you could benefit from getting more vegetables into your diet, here’s a challenge for you. Each day for the next week, at every lunch and dinnertime, ask yourself this: how can I get one more portion of vegetables into this meal? If you’re eating out, order a vegetable side dish. Packing lunch to take to work? Chop up some veg crudités. If you’re heating up soup, throw in a handful of spinach leaves. No doubt you’ll be able to come up with some great ideas of your own. Aim to do this for just a week and see how you get on. You may well come up with some ideas that stick for good…
THE BOTTOM LINE
What we do know is this: a diet high in processed food and being overweight is strongly correlated with an increased risk of heart disease. On the other hand, a whole food diet and good metabolic health, which includes a healthy waist circumference, will help protect you from a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
5 TIPS FOR PREVENTING CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
- Consume a whole food diet. Ultra processed foods are detrimental to health in a wide variety of ways. Cook from scratch using whole foods as much as possible
- Take steps to reduce stress. Meditation and mindfulness practices, journaling, yoga, deep-breathing exercises and spending time in nature can all help.
- Get active. Sedentary lifestyles are not supportive to cardiovascular health. A daily walk is great but resistance exercise and elevating your heart rate regularly are also important.
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke. Keep an eye on your units and aim to keep under the recommended 14 units per week. If you smoke, do what you can to quit.
- Know your numbers. Blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are all important numbers to be aware of. If these are elevated, take measures to reduce them naturally.