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  • Writer's pictureTina Shiver

A Review of the Keto, Vegan and Mediterranean Diet to Lower Cardiovascular Risk

Fruit set up in the shape of a heart.

Which diet is best for lowering your cardiovascular risk? There are three different diets on the market that claim to help with lowering your risk. Keto, Vegan and Mediterranean. I thought this blog would be a great way to explore the diets and look at the science behind each one.

The Keto Diet

Let’s start with the Keto diet. The Keto diet is 77% fat, 5-7% carbohydrate and 15-18% protein. This diet is not really new in that it was recommended about 100 years ago to help treat epilepsy. Dr. Adkins also followed a similar plan recommending a keto diet for the first two weeks of his plan.

How does the keto diet work?

It causes the body to release ketones into the bloodstream. In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we start breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies also called ketosis. Once you are in ketosis the cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until we start eating carbohydrates again.

The diet consists of meats, eggs, sausages, cheese, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds and fibrous vegetables. As far as helping with cholesterol there are no long-term studies showing the keto diet helps with lowering cholesterol. There is a more recent small study out of India that shows a reduction in blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1C.

Coconut oil and/or MCT oil is also used during the keto diet to help with cravings and to stop you from getting the “flu like symptoms”. Research indicates that using coconut oil can contribute to increased LDL and increased HDL-C. The other downside of the Keto diet is some people gain weight on it which would not be good for cardiovascular health and it is difficult for some to sustain.

The Vegan Diet

A vegan diet has been shown to reverse cardiovascular symptoms. Dr. Dean Ornish has been practicing and researching reversing heart disease with a vegan diet for over 20 years. He has sound research and studies that prove that damage of aging at a cellular level can be stopped, slowed or even reversed by following his lifestyle plan. The vegan diet consists of very low fat and plenty of vegetables, grains, legumes and starchy vegetables.

With a vegan diet it’s important to make sure you have a balanced diet and include omega 3-fatty acids by adding chia seed, hemp seed or possibly soy products that have not been processed.

You also want to make sure you include plenty of vegetables with a lot of color to support phytonutrient support which in turn can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. is another physician that has written and published studies on preventing and reversing heart disease by following a low-fat vegan diet. In his recommendations he includes beans, lentils, flax and chia seed, lots of vegetables and whole grain products mainly made from sprouts.

The Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean diet has been shown to contribute to reduced weight, lowering blood sugar as well as decreasing cardiovascular risk. Studies have been conducted on older individuals as well as a group of firefighters that showed in the study a reduction in metabolic syndrome as well as an increase in HDL (Healthy Cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL (lousy cholesterol).

The Mediterranean diet advocates high fiber, omega 3-fatty acids through fish and a lot of color from fruits and vegetables. The diet also includes whole grains with a lower glycemic index. This particular diet has consistently shown in studies reduction in cardiovascular disease.

A registered dietitian who is certified in functional medicine can help you explore what is the best diet for you to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease or can help you heal if you were diagnosed with heart issues.

Next week, we will talk about specific foods, vitamins and minerals, and how these nutrients can help support your health requirements for lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Until next time… remember to eat healthy and move.


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