What Makes Veganism a Heart-Healthy Diet?

And can you get all the nutrition you need?

According to recent statistics, veganism in the United States has gone up 600% in the last year alone, and 1.68 million people in Britain are either vegetarian or vegan. With this staggering increase, we can’t help but wonder, why the rapid shift to this way of eating? Is it possible to get all the nutrition you need from a strictly vegan diet? And could adopting veganism be the new “heart healthy” alternative?


Defining Vegetarian vs. Vegan

There are many meat-restrictive diets which include grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Some choose to restrict only red meat for health reasons but do eat chicken, pork, and fish; others eat only fish and seafood as far as animal protein is concerned.

Strict vegetarians don’t eat any animal flesh but do consume:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Other animal byproducts, such as honey.

A vegan diet eliminates both animal and animal by-products including meat, fish, milk, eggs, and honey. Those doing it for ethical reasons also abstain from the purchase of items such as wool, leather, and feathers as well since those products are derived from animals.

Motivation Factors for a Meatless Diet

The movement of many to this kind of eating could be attributed to the increase in information regarding the food industry itself. A growing number of documentaries have been released which show how agribusiness animals such as dairy cows, chickens raised and kept for egg production, and many animals raised for meat by large corporate entities are often kept in what some might consider inhumane environments. This tends to touch on our sense of responsibility and can be off-putting as far as consuming the products put out by these facilities.

While there is value in becoming vegan for ethical reasons, that is a purely personal decision. For the basis of this article, we will be discussing being a vegan purely in dietary terms.

Nutrition Choices

A vegan diet can be a highly nutritious choice, low in saturated fat and rich in minerals and nutrients. It can promote heart health, improve kidney function and help to aid in weight loss. However, because vegans need to consume all protein, vitamins, and minerals from non-animal sources, food choice, preparation and research are important. A diet of this kind should never be undertaken without first speaking with your doctor or a nutritionist.

This is especially important if you have other health concerns or are taking medications. Vitamins and supplements can interact with prescription drugs and medications. If you choose to take supplements to make up some of the minerals or vitamins which can be difficult to find in plant compounds, be sure to talk with your doctor.

It should not come as a surprise most doctors and nutritionists agree individuals should consume a diet high in iron-rich leafy greens and vegetables, regardless of their other dietary choices. Any time you replace health-compromising foods high in saturated fats with healthy alternatives, you are helping your heart by reducing your risk of developing high cholesterol which can lead to blockages in arteries. Most non-vegetarian/vegans looking to reduce their animal fat intake will replace the protein from red meats or processed meats with leaner fresh meats like chicken and fish. So if you choose to go vegan and take away all animal-sourced protein vehicles, how can you find the proteins vital to good health?

Protein Sources

The good news for those wanting to try a strictly plant-based diet is the enormous amount of recipes and information you can find online now.

Top plant-based protein sources include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds (especially quinoa, hemp, chia, and flax)
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Soy products
  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli

There are many ways to include these items in your daily food intake to ensure you receive your recommended daily allowance of protein as well as most vitamins. Supplements may be needed to ensure mineral intake meets minimum daily requirements.

What Makes a Diet Heart Healthy?

When it comes to finding the best “heart-healthy” diet, the real key is getting all your nutritional needs met while reducing or eliminating sources which increase cholesterol, cause weight gain and/or raise blood pressure. Since a plant-based vegan diet tends to eliminate most of these “bad” sources of nutrition (animal fats in meats and dairy products contribute to all three), it makes sense as a dietary choice if someone is looking for a way to improve their heart health.

As always, any time you are considering changing your lifestyle drastically, a chat with your physician is a good idea. They may also refer you to a nutritionist for guidance and monitoring to ensure you are meeting all your goals.

12 Responses to “What Makes Veganism a Heart-Healthy Diet?”

May 15, 2018 at 9:32 pm, rolling sky said:

Amazing article thanks for sharing.

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May 16, 2018 at 6:38 am, Jill Simmons said:

Physicians typically are not required to take nutrition courses in school. They are not the most knowledgable in what we consume and how your body responds. Recommend seeing a nutritionist or someone that is educated in various diets.

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May 16, 2018 at 6:41 am, Kristel said:

I am a vegan. I started a little over a year ago. Best choice I have ever made! I commend you on this article. This was very professionally written and the view point was great! Thank you for this!

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May 16, 2018 at 6:43 am, Kristel said:

This is a great article! Very professionally written and informational. Not one sided but with an open minded sense about it. Thank you! I am a vegan and it was the best choice I ever made.

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May 16, 2018 at 7:05 am, Kari said:

Great open minded/informational article! It’s refreshing to see something on the topic that hasn’t been paid for by the Dairy industry or the USDA.

Remember, not every vegan diet is healthy. It’s important to make sure your diet is mainly comprised of plant-based whole foods – as opposed to highly processed foods. Faux meats and cheeses made of soy or other ingredients are good once in a while, but should not be the basis of your vegan diet.

I’ve been vegetarian for about six months (still eating eggs and honey), and I feel better than ever. I feel empowered to succeed with recipes from Forks Over Knives, Vegan in the Freezer, etc.

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May 16, 2018 at 7:12 am, Mandy said:

If you’re looking for a medical provider who can support you in a plant based diet, https://www.plantbaseddoctors.org/ is a great resource!

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May 16, 2018 at 7:25 am, Steven Horwitz said:

Oh my! Very disappointing article from AED Superstore. Animal fats in meats are not the problem with regard to cholesterol! http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/15/1111

Soy is not a wise choice. https://www.westonaprice.org/podcast/130-soy-what/

If you choose a vegan diet, then do not guess. Get regular blood work to determine possible nutrient deficiencies and correct them. http://blog.insidetracker.com/affect-of-vegan-diet?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=30259101&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–KQ-hVWSJ_50lzmCiYa81GMiiVYFpxwZXYaOkGWYUNYY-8xUS71RIIj1QF19jPk01eDKpgijOD0Ho3eM6HU-LJxosVpg&_hsmi=30259101#

Read this article for vegan diet guidelines:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5598028/

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May 16, 2018 at 7:42 am, AED Superstore said:

Hi Steven,

Thank you for commenting. We appreciate you providing additional information.

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May 16, 2018 at 9:14 am, Scott said:

Steven it’s ok settle down. Overall the article is great and is very neutral and just summarizes the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. There are settle things in this article (mostly verbiage) that I would like to see changed but hats off to AED Super Store for this article and showing the growing trend. I have seen multiple sources saying how the paradigm is shifting. I am currently in transition myself. Thanks AED S.S.!!!!!!!

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May 16, 2018 at 8:37 am, Lee Crosby, RD said:

Actually, a whole-food vegan diet supplemented with vitamin B12 is powerful for health. Vegans consistently have:
-Healthier weight: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671114/
-Healthier blood pressure: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3443300/

Compared to meat-eaters, vegans also have less:
-Type 2 diabetes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671114/
-Heart disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364007
-Certain cancers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26853923

In fact, a very-low-fat (~10% calories) plant-based diet can actually help reverse heart disease for some: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9863851

For more info, please read the Position of the Academy of Nutrition and
Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704

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May 16, 2018 at 9:30 am, Kati said:

Thanks for this article! I’m not fully vegan, although I’m interested in eating more that way, so this was helpful.

I have been vegetarian for 11 years. I LOVE it and would never go back to eating meat (unless extreme circumstances forced it, I guess.) I don’t miss meat or even perceive it as food anymore. Whenever I donate blood, my iron levels are very healthy. I rarely get stomach aches anymore, and I did all the time when I ate meat. I discovered so many new types of delicious food too.

If anyone wants to give it a shot, here are the guidelines that helped me make it a habit and a positive change, rather than experiencing it as deprivation and drudgery:

1. Read up on the different reasons to go vegetarian or vegan. Think about which ones matter most to you. Learn more about them and think about how they fit into your goals and values. For me, once I learned how bad meat production is for the environment, and just how badly animals suffer in the industry, that meant enough to me that I wanted to change my involvement.

The health benefits were important too. If it was likely to hurt my health, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But it’s honestly not hard to get the proper nutrients as a vegetarian. Once I learned all that, it made me excited to try a meatless life.

2. Don’t hold yourself to perfection. If you want to cheat every now and then, don’t beat yourself up. Just keep trying even if you’re not “perfect.” (Eventually you probably won’t be tempted to anyway.)

3. Similarly, if you decide to stop after giving it a fair shot, don’t beat yourself up. That makes you less likely to try it again. It paints the whole experience as negative and yourself as a failure.

4. Think about it strategically for a few days or weeks. At restaurants, note what you would order. Look around the grocery store. Read about common substitutions and transitional diets. Maybe even have one “Last Supper” of your favorite meat items. I did that and it made me feel ready to give it a shot. Even my favorite items, I thought, “Okay, that *is* good, but I can live without it just fine.”

5. Enjoy! Explore new foods and try making vegetarian versions of old ones.

Good luck!

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May 21, 2018 at 8:35 am, Health Room said:

Sadly, the information that saturated fat and cholesterol-containing foods are “bad” for heart health are propalgated by people, including physicians, who have heard this dogma for years. the scientific data that started this national practice of low-fat diet for health benefits was a biased study by Ancel Keys in the 1950’s that triggered the government’s decision to create a food pyramid that was heavy on the carbohydrates. I have no problem with veganism as long as people know that saturated fats are not the demon they have been cast as.

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