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Fall in love this month with a plant-based diet!

Why your heart will love a plant-based diet! Whether your love story with plants starts slowly as friends-first, bumps along through a playing-hard-to-get phase, or is simply love-at-first-sight, the end result is what counts: enjoying that relationship. Now whether you decide to be exclusive (i.e. vegan) or simply continue to strengthen your commitment to eating more of a plant-based diet is up to you. Either way, choosing to fill your plate with more plants can deliver dramatic results. That’s right. Plants are a partner you can trust for a lifetime. They will be good to your heart, guaranteed. We’ve got the science to prove it. From lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 30% , eating a more plant-based diet can literally strengthen and protect your heart. How’s that for a perfect match! Let’s ask our dietitian to help explain these Powerful Plant Laws of Attraction: Fruits & Veggies: THE LOVE = Green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens), cruciferous vegetables (i.e. cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts), and citrus fruits (i.e. oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) have shown to have especially significant benefits in reducing inflammation, improving circulation and strengthening blood vessels. THE LOGIC = The higher the average daily intake of whole fruits and vegetables, the lower the risk of heart disease. That’s because they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, potassium, and phytochemicals (plant-based compounds that have antioxidant activity), which helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Legumes: Dry soy THE LOVE = Beans, split peas, and lentils all fall into the legume family. Lentils are a top performer across multiple categories, with just one cup of cooked lentils delivering over 25% of your daily recommended intake of, fiber, iron, and protein, just to name a few. THE LOGIC = A high intake of legumes can lower the chances of developing heart disease, as they are an excellent source of fiber, which helps reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess weight around the abdomen, high levels of triglycerides, and low levels of good HDL cholesterol). Whole Grains: THE LOVE = Whole (not refined) grains due to the fiber, B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, Vitamin E, and numerous phytochemicals that occur naturally in the entire grain seed (bran, germ, and endosperm). Refining grains removes the bran and germ, which drastically reduces or removes those key nutrients. THE LOGIC = 2-3 servings of whole grains can help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels, resulting in a reduced risk for developing heart disease. Nuts & Seeds: THE LOVE = Walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds are some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Among tree nuts, almonds are the highest in fiber, and pistachios are the highest in potassium, a mineral that can help reduce high blood pressure. THE LOGIC = Eating nuts and seeds several times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol, raising good cholesterol, and improving blood flow. These benefits are due to their rich sources of healthy, unsaturated fats, fiber, Vitamin E, and natural plant sterols. So what’s not to love? This month, give your heart what it really wants: more plant-based meals. Bon Appetit!

Kristy Del Coro, MS, RD, is a Senior Culinary Nutritionist at SPE Certified and Guest Expert with The Heart’s Kitchen.

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