As part of our continuing focus on American Heart Month, the questions has been raised around proper diet: Are all plants equal?
We recently reported that the American Heart Association offers “Lunch Ideas for Work: Heart-Healthy Options,” suggesting that “while at work it can be tempting to reach for a sweet snack around lunchtime, there are plenty of easy lunch alternatives that can benefit your heart.”
We also know Michael Pollan’s call to action: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.”
To answer the question of “which plants,” a study last year “sought to examine associations between plant-based diet indices and [coronary heart disease] incidence.”
Differences Among Plants
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and is titled “Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults.” And it provides important lessons for the diet guidance that can be part of a well-run workplace wellness program.
According to the New York Times: “The study, by a team from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examined the relationship between plant-based diets of varying quality and the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) among more than 200,000 health professionals. The participants, who started the study free of chronic disease, were followed for more than two decades, submitting their dietary patterns to the researchers every two years.”
The results: Which plants you eat matters.
The study concludes: “Higher intake of a plant-based diet index rich in healthier plant foods is associated with substantially lower CHD risk, whereas a plant-based diet index that emphasizes less-healthy plant foods is associated with higher CHD risk.”
The NYT continued: “Healthful plant foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, as well as vegetable oils, coffee and tea, received a positive score, while less-healthful plant foods like juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and fries, and sweets along with animal foods were assigned a negative rating.”