For heart health reasons, I'm considering becoming a vegetarian. If I just eliminate meat from my 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 being a vegetarian, 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 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) diet. 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 diet 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.