The Internet has introduced many modern dieters to the virtues of the vegan diet. However, given the diet's emphasis on being 100% animal free, many people wonder how healthy it is, in general, to follow this eating plan. In particular, people worry that a plant-based diet won't provide enough B12 to keep a vegan's heart healthy. But a vegan diet can be very healthy—and very good for the heart—if these steps are followed.
Get Enough B12
The body needs B12 for nerve function, healthy blood, and cardiovascular wellness. However, many people erroneously believe that B12 only comes from animal sources—this, fortunately, isn't the case. Foods such as seaweeds and tempeh (and some organic produce) have the vitamin in them, according to VeganHealth.org. True enough, many vegans do not get enough of this vitamin and must supplement. The trick is to find a supplement without added gelatin. Then it remains vegan. A dose of 10 to 25 micrograms per day should do most people.
Eat Real Foods
The advice to take a B12 supplement notwithstanding, your best bet for nutrition is whole foods. Vegans should avoid processed foods like white bread and other starchy foods as much as possible. Fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains should account for most of the vegan's diet.
Go With Healthy Fats
It goes without saying that trans fats should have no place in a heart-healthy diet. Although most of these come from animal by-products, even some plant-based foods, if they've been processed, can contain them. On a different, but related note, vegans should also make sure they get enough omega-3 oils. As with B12, many people believe that these vital oils can only come from animal sources like fish. However, plenty of plant-based foods can provide this as well. A supplement a couple of times a week should also do the trick.
Watch the Salt Shaker
According to a specialist from ICE, Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence, a heart-healthy diet should be low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and salt. Too much salt is hard on the heart, causing high blood pressure and other undesirable effects. While it's understandable to reach for the salt shaker; after all, bland food makes it hard to adhere to a diet. However, other flavorful alternative to salt exist that allow the flavors of the food to come out without damaging the heart. Roasted garlic, basil, and other herbs and spices give food extra flavor, without adding a burden to the rest of the system.
Plant-based diets have been shown to promote better blood sugar levels, lower the blood pressure, and are believed by many reduce the risks of diseases like cancer. However, some people who are considering a vegan diet worry that it may not be heart-healthy enough, despite the evidence. While understandable, these fears are unfounded. Vegans who supplement their diets with B12 and omega-3 oils and who eat whole foods embrace a lifestyle that their hearts will appreciate.