The research team assessed the quality of plant foods that people ate and how it related to their risk of heart disease. The studies began in the 1980s and ‘90s, and participants provided detailed information about their diets every two years via questionnaire over the course of two decades. They also answered questions about their lifestyle, medical history and health behaviors. More than 8,600 participants had died of heart disease or suffered a heart attack by 2013.
To make their comparisons, the researchers divided participants into ten different groups depending on how closely they followed a plant-based diet. Then they compared those whose plant-based diets had the healthiest foods to those that did not.
The people who had the lowest risk of heart disease were those who ate healthy plant foods like vegetables and fruits, along with nuts, legumes and whole grains like brown rice and cooked oatmeal. Those who ranked in the top 10 percent in terms of healthy plant food diets had an impressive 25 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than the people in the bottom 10 percent when it comes to diet quality.
Meanwhile, the opposite effect was seen among those whose diets consisted of a lot of less-healthy plant foods like pasta, crackers, white bread, potatoes, and sugary fruit juices. In fact, these people were 33 percent more likely to develop heart disease.
While the study did not take a specific look at vegan or vegetarian diets, past studies have linked those ways of eating with a lower risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Nevertheless, it’s possible to approach such a diet the wrong way and put your health at risk.