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Want a Healthier Heart? Veg Alone Won’t Cut It


Shoutout to vegetarians, vegans, and everyone who’s planning to increase their intake of fruit, vegetables, and plant-based foods: eating vegetables alone will not be enough to considerably lower one’s risk for heart disease.

Researchers from Oxford, the University of Bristol, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong released the results of a joint study that noted that the benefits of the recommended “five a day” intake of fruit and vegetables or even an entirely plant-based diet were often negated by other factors. These include the amount of exercise an individual does per day, cultural and location influences, as well as habits such as drinking and smoking.

The researchers based their findings on information gathered from almost 400,000 participants in the UK Biobank study regarding their diets, including the quantity of raw and cooked vegetables consumed in a day, their exercise regimen, daily activities, and other habits affecting their health.

Rethinking the Relationship Between Diet and Cardiovascular Disease

Based on the findings, the risk of cardiovascular disease was 15% lower among participants who ate the most vegetables, particularly raw and unprocessed produce, compared to those who ate relatively little in the way of plant or plant-based foods.

The study noted that the average person in the UK eats around two heaping tablespoons of raw vegetables and three heaping tablespoons’ worth of cooked veg per day, making up the recommended daily intake. Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, concurs with the findings. He stated that regular intake of fiber-rich foods like raw fruit and vegetables could lower the risk of developing heart disease.

But researchers are quick to advise that these findings were also dependent on whether the participants engaged in some form of aerobic physical activity daily and if they regularly used recreational tobacco and alcohol. In addition, those whose diets were predominantly made up of vegetables were also noted to get more exercise and were less indulgent in their habits.

Current Standards Still Apply

But the team continues to recommend that people still try to follow the standard five-a-day rule, as both fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber to ensure good health in general, keep digestive issues at bay, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The same applies with regard to the use of oils and fats in everyday cookery, noting that a decreased use of cooking fats can also help prevent heart disease by keeping bad cholesterol levels down.

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