Coronary artery disease has become a widespread epidemic across North America, affecting 1 in 2 Americans today. But could eating a plant-based diet, be the new “heart attack proof diet”? Not only do we have access to high fat foods, but we have become dependent on a sedentary lifestyle, leaving our arteries clogged and hearts out of shape.
Much of heart disease happens in your arteries – the little pipes that feed nutrients and toxins to each and every organ – rather than in the heart itself. This is where “healthy” or HDL, and “unhealthy” or LDL cholesterol form – your arteries. The smooth lining of your arteries is made weaker by a poor diet, our environment and bad habits like smoking. When the lining of your arteries becomes weaker, your body sends LDL cholesterol to those damaged areas in a dire attempt to heal the wounds.
These wounds then become inflamed (a natural immune system response), while the HDL cholesterol works to clear the LDL cholesterol out of the area. The low-grade inflammation in your arteries then causes your immune system to release little cells called macrophages, which eat the LDL cholesterol, become plump with fat, attach to your arterial walls and form an arterial plaque. As this plaque grows and grows, nutrient-rich blood in the arteries starts to decline, and the plump macrophages stuffed with fat start to crack and eventually explode, closing off the artery and triggering a heart attack.
Consuming animal foods is the only way in which you can really increase your cholesterol levels. Becoming a plant-based eater makes it nearly impossible to have high cholesterol levels. In North America, we have access to foods that are rich in fat, sugar and loaded with toxins. In fact, heart disease is rarely seen in the world’s poorer nations, which subsist on a primarily plant-based diet.
Dr. Esselstyn states that “the single biggest step toward adopting [an offensive] strategy [to reduce heart disease] would be to have United States dietary guidelines support a plant-based diet.”
People put a lot of trust into their government, and it isn’t helping that these food guidelines are pushing people into a situation that will end up having them become dependent on doctors and pharmaceuticals to cure their heart (and other health) problems.
Dr. Esselstyn’s 20-year Longitudinal Study
Patients in Dr. Esselstyn’s 20-year longitudinal study had advanced coronary artery disease, 17 of them having had over 49 cardiac events in the years leading up to the study. They had undergone multiple bypass operations, and some of them were even told that they had less than a year to live.
After one month of following Dr. Esselstyn’s program, their cholesterol levels, angina symptoms, and blood flow dramatically improved. Just 5 years after following Dr. Esselstyn’s plant-based diet, the average total cholesterol levels of his research group dropped from 246 mg/dL to 137 mg/dL (a major drop – and for those wondering, anything over 240 mg/dL is considered “high risk,” and anything below 150 mg/dL is “low to no risk”). Drops in cholesterol this large have never been documented in medical literature.
Angiograms taken of the participants in the study proved that their coronary arteries had widened and opened up to allow blood to flow freely once again – thus confirming a reversal of coronary artery disease.
Plant-Based Low-Fat Diet: a Recipe For Success
Consuming a plant-based, low-fat diet (where less than 10-15% of your calories come from fat) is the recipe for success, when trying to combat disease and illness in the body. Preventing and even reversing heart disease by eating this way will not only save you money, but it will save you the agony and pain of going through surgery, multiple rounds of drugs, and dying at a less than optimal age.
HOW TO GET STARTED:
Transitioning off meat, eggs, and dairy might be hard at first, but it IS do-able and YOU CAN do it! Good transition foods like fermented soy products (aka. tempeh. *note: avoid non-fermented soy products as they are not good for you. Most soy products are not fermented.) make a great meat substitution and things like almond milk and hemp milk make going off dairy a breeze. Have you tried Daiya cheese before? It tastes pretty much just like the real thing and is 100% gluten and soy-free!
Soup, smoothies and juices are also a great way to pack in nutrition. There are numerous soup recipes out there that do not involve animal products, and they taste pretty amazing! Smoothies are fast, and can be prepared in the morning for an easy breakfast that will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the day. Juices are also wonderful, especially for maximizing nutrient absorption and to help clear your arteries and lymphatic system from toxic build-up and mucus coatings (from dairy and gluten).
When you are transitioning, it is important to not transition to “healthier” junk-food alternatives which are still essentially junk food. Treating and viewing your body as a temple, instead of a waste land is the best way to start to change your perspective on how you wish to live and feed your body.
Raw Till 4
If you are interested in boosting your energy levels, as well as help clean out your veins and arteries, going on a high raw plant-based diet will do you even more wonders than a cooked plant-based diet. Of course, eating cooked plant-based is still far better than the Standard American Diet (SAD), which started this heart disease epidemic in the first place.
Eating raw until dinner time is an incredibly easy way to get lots of raw produce into your body. Most people find it easiest to drink a large morning smoothie, a couple fresh green juices throughout the day, and mono-fruit meals before dinner. Dinner time is associated with comfort and relaxation, and sometimes a warm meal is something that can be greatly looked forward to. Supper is the one meal that most people put a lot of thought into, so being able to have this level of flexibility, while still eating raw throughout the day, will help give your body the energy it requires when most active.
If you “fall off the wagon” one day – don’t give up! If you want to start seeing major changes in your body, and make not only your heart stronger, but your liver, kidneys, lungs, thyroid, adrenals, lymphatic system, GI tract and nervous system stronger, then stick to this plan! Whether you did something wrong one day, doesn’t mean that you can’t just pick up where you left off the next day. Believe in yourself, and you will get the results you need and deserve.