Way back in May, we wrote about research that found vegetarians have better cholesterol levels than meat-eaters. We always want more than a few studies to find information to back up a theory. If we’re going to make significant changes to our lives, we need to have a wealth of knowledge. After all, meat is an integral part of most people’s diets. Becoming a vegetarian or cutting back on meat is a big commitment. Now two more studies have strengthened the claim.
One of the studies tracked almost 5,000 people for 32 years. It’s impossible to ignore the results of such a massive study. Out of the group, nearly 300 people had developed heart disease in the 32 years. The people who ate the most plants and least meat were 52 percent less likely to develop a heart problem.
People who improved their diet over time were 61 percent less likely to develop heart disease than people whose diets become worse. That really underscores two things for our team. The first is that it’s never too late to change your diet for the better. You can always make improvements that have an impact. The second is that it’s essential to stick with healthy habits. There’s no point where you can “let yourself go.” Healthy habits matter for a lifetime.
“A nutritionally rich plant-centered diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. A plant-centered diet is not necessarily vegetarian,” says Dr. Yuni Choi, one of the researchers. “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.”
The second study tracked postmenopausal women for approximately 20 years. The researchers wanted to see how a diet rich in plants like legumes, beans and berries impacted heart health. The specific regimen they were following was called the Portfolio diet. They found that the closer the women stuck to it, the better their heart health was. Women who followed it were 11 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, 14 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 17 percent less likely to have heart failure.
What is really interesting to note is that the researchers in that study found that it worked when people slowly built up their diet. We find that really heartening. We’re not good at rapid changes. We think it makes you far more likely to give up. Their results show that women saw growing benefits as they changed their diets, results improving over time. That’s a goal we can work toward.
“We also found a dose response in our study, meaning that you can start small, adding one component of the Portfolio diet at a time, and gain more heart health benefits as you add more components,” said Andrea Glenn, the lead researcher.
When trying to change your ways, one fantastic tip is to swap your main and side foods. You make your side vegetables into the main portion serving size and your meat into a small side portion. It’s one step toward increasing your vegetable intake while reducing how much meat you eat. You don’t have to change the foods you like, just the ratio.