Leafy greens and cardiovascular health: Benefits of plant-based diet for heart | Health - Hindustan Times

Leafy greens and cardiovascular function: Reduced risk of heart diseases, other benefits of plant-based diet

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 26, 2024 06:22 PM IST

Leafy greens contribute to optimal cardiovascular function. Here are benefits of plant-based diet in promoting heart health, reducing chronic diseases risk etc

A world where health-conscious choices intersect with environmental awareness, adopting a green diet has emerged as a powerful way to nourish both your body and the Earth. This lifestyle shift involves choosing foods that are not only beneficial for your well-being but also sustainable for the planet.

Leafy greens and cardiovascular function: Reduced risk of heart diseases, other benefits of plant-based diet (Photo by Pinterest)
Leafy greens and cardiovascular function: Reduced risk of heart diseases, other benefits of plant-based diet (Photo by Pinterest)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Mukesh Kwatra, Founder of Smiling Tree, shared, “The goal of green eating is to minimise the negative impact of food production and consumption on the planet while promoting sustainable agricultural practices and ethical treatment of workers. It encompasses a range of principles and practices that prioritise environmental stewardship, biodiversity conservation and the well-being of both present and future generations.”

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Nutrient-Rich Greens and Health Benefits

It is no secret that one of the primary advantages of embracing a green plant based diet is the abundance of nutrient-rich foods it includes. Dr Mukesh Kwatra said, “Green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health. These leafy greens are known to boost the immune system, improve digestion and contribute to optimal cardiovascular function. Numerous studies have shown that plant-based diet is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and hypertension. It is also lower in calorie density and higher in fiber, which can support weight management and help reduce the risk of obesity.”

Plant-Powered Proteins for Heart and Overall Health

Dr Mukesh Kwatra said, “Eating green often means incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet. Legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu are excellent sources of protein that can replace or complement animal-derived proteins. Plant-based proteins not only support muscle health but also tend to be lower in saturated fats, promoting heart health and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases.”

Talking about the other benefits of a plant-based diet, he highlighted -

  • Environmental Sustainability: Beyond personal health benefits, adopting a green diet has a positive impact on the environment. Livestock farming, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, requires vast amounts of land, water, and food resources. Shifting towards plant-based diets reduces the demand for animal agriculture, leading to a decrease in deforestation, water pollution, and carbon emissions.
  • Sustainable Sourcing: Choosing foods that are produced using environmentally sustainable practices, such as organic farming, agroecology, and permaculture. This can involve supporting local farmers, choosing products with certifications such as USDA Organic and seeking out foods that are grown or raised in ways that minimize harm to the environment.
  • Reducing Carbon Footprint: Choosing locally sourced and seasonal produce is another way to make your diet more eco-friendly. Transporting food over long distances contributes significantly to carbon emissions. By opting for locally grown fruits and vegetables, you support regional agriculture and help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation.
  • Minimising Food Waste: Eating green also involves being mindful of food waste. Plan your meals, use leftovers creatively, and compost organic waste to minimize the environmental impact of discarded food. By reducing food waste, you contribute to a more sustainable and efficient food production system, ultimately benefiting the environment.
  • Sustainable Seafood Choices: For those who include seafood in their diet, making sustainable choices is crucial. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices have led to declines in fish populations and harmed marine ecosystems. By choosing sustainably sourced seafood, you support responsible fishing practices and help maintain the health of our oceans.
  • Water Conservation: The production of animal-based foods typically requires more water compared to plant-based alternatives. Adopting a green diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains can contribute to water conservation. Additionally, being mindful of water usage in your daily life, such as reducing meat consumption, helps conserve this precious resource.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Favouring foods produced in ways that promote biodiversity and minimize the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides that can have negative impacts on ecosystems.

In context of non-vegetarians, Dr Mukesh Kwatra said, “It is possible to incorporate both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food into one's diet while prioritizing environmentally friendly practices. The eco-friendliness of non-vegetarian food is influenced by a range of factors, and there are opportunities to make more environmentally responsible choices within this category. Prioritizing sustainably sourced, locally produced, and ethically raised non-vegetarian foods, and consuming them in moderation, can help minimise the environmental impact associated with their production and consumption.”

He concluded, “Additionally, incorporating more plant-based foods into one's diet, even if not fully vegetarian, can also contribute to reducing the overall environmental footprint of one's food choices. Making conscious choices about what you eat and where your food comes from can create a positive ripple effect, fostering a healthier planet for future generations. Overall, green eating is a holistic approach to food consumption that takes into account the interconnectedness of our food choices with environmental, social, and ethical considerations.”

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