Should You Adopt a Heart Healthy Vegetarian Diet?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Heart Health Principles, Food and Nutrition, Q&As
Last Reviewed 03/28/2014

Should You Adopt a Heart Healthy Vegetarian Diet?

For heart health reasons, I'm considering becoming a vegetarian. If I just eliminate meat and follow a healthy vegetarian diet, will that promote a healthy heart?

I think it’s great that you’re taking positive steps to change your diet and improve your heart health. But I have to tell you that when it comes to following a vegetable-based diet, you must be careful. It’s a more complex choice than simply excluding meat, fish and fowl from your diet. In fact, your heart health can actually suffer if that’s all you do.

Generally, a healthy vegetarian diet can promote a healthy heart—but only if you're smart about finding other sources for getting certain nutrients that are plentiful in meat. For example, it’s essential that you get an adequate amount of high-quality protein and heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids from organic eggs, tofu and flax (seeds or oil). It’s been my experience that many vegetarians eat too little healthy fat and quality protein, and load up instead on carbohydrates—some good and some bad—which can have a less-than-positive impact on heart health.

I researched international cuisine for many years and came to the conclusion that the best diet for overall health—and particularly heart health—is what I call the Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) heart healthy diet plan. That’s what I eat, and I recommend it to my patients.

In short, PAM is a combination of Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, which include fish and small quantities of meat, root vegetables, and fresh local fruits and greens. What makes the PAM diet so superior is the high amount of heart-healthy essential fatty acids it contains. Specifically, the PAM heart healthy diet plan suggests eating five to six servings of healthy fats and oils per day. Get all the details on the high-quality fats included in the PAM diet.

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