One of the heart-specific diets, called DASH, had the biggest impact on blood pressure, reducing levels by 8.74/6.05 mmHg compared to the normal diet. This drop would translate into a 14 percent reduction in strokes and a 9 percent fall in heart attacks.
It doesn't mean you have to go vegetarian or vegan, say researchers from the University of Warwick. Your diet can still include meat and dairy, but it's important that plants take up a bigger share of the plate.
The researchers looked at the impact on blood pressure levels of seven different plant-based diets, including DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nordic and high fiber and high fruit and vegetables.
An unhealthy diet of processed foods and drink is responsible for more deaths than smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use and unsafe sex combined, the researchers say. A plant-dominant diet could save up to 4.9 million lives a year.
The seven heart-healthy diets:
- Healthy Nordic diet -- Higher content of plant foods, fish, egg, and vegetable fat, and lower content of meat products, dairy products, sweets, desserts, and alcoholic beverages
- High-fruit and vegetable diet -- Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. To further increase the polyphenolic load, some studies included regular dark chocolate content
- High-fiber diet -- Fiber is found in varying levels in all plant foods and is most prevalent in whole grains and legumes. For this reason, most high-fiber diets focus on increasing wholegrain and legume consumption
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet -- Defined as those that exclude the consumption of all meat, poultry, and fish but still include the consumption of dairy and eggs. The main components include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds
- DASH diet -- Encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy products and limits the intake of sweets, saturated fat, and sodium
- Mediterranean diet -- The main components are daily consumption of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, olive oil, weekly consumption of legumes, nuts, fish, dairy, and eggs, and limited intake of meat
- Vegan diet -- Consists of plant foods exclusively. No animal flesh or other animal-derived products (including dairy and eggs) are included. It is mostly low-fat and focuses on the consumption of whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds
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