I recently watched this video claiming that there is a cure for heart disease and heart attacks based on a simple diet.
This is a very bold statement considering heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US and an estimated 735,000 people have a heart attack each year in the US. With these statistics, this claim sounds more like a scam to me.
Heart Disease in America
First and foremost, the US has these statistics because of lifestyle. We eat an awful diet and we don’t get nearly enough exercise. We drive everywhere, we eat on the go from drive-thru’s, and we like our food processed and cheap. Knowing the cause makes it easy to guess that this video is going to discuss lifestyle changes. My sporadic food pictures are also a nice hint at where this is going 😉
Dr. Esselstyn and His Diet
What they describe is something called the Esselstyn Diet. Dr. Esselstyn “created” this diet and he is quoted as saying this diet will make you “heart-attack proof”. He not only states that this diet will prevent any future heart attacks, but it will reverse any blocked arteries you already have.
The Esselstyn diet involves not eating anything with a face or mother and limits oil consumption. Sound familiar? It should! He basically put his name on a vegan, or plant-based, diet. No animal products is the very basis of a plant-based diet. What he did was smart though. Meat eaters have long thought of the term vegan as having a negative connotation. By putting his name on the diet, he allows the patient to look at this diet from an unbiased view and with the excitement of being able to cure heart disease. I work in Oklahoma, can you imagine the looks I get when I even hint at vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based? I will absolutely begin using Esselstyn instead of vegan with the hope that patients will be more open to learning more!
Does it Work?
Taking out my annoyance that he is essentially promoting a plant-based diet as his own creation, I love that this is starting to become more mainstream. Plant-based diets are very well-known to have incredible health benefits, including the reduction of heart disease. Despite all of the known health benefits that have been proven, I have not heard of any study claiming that it can eliminate and reverse heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn’s claims are not based on large studies, instead he cites single cases and the success he personally sees. Don’t get me wrong, this diet will improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease. But I cannot find enough evidence to say his claims are accurate.
For those of you that think you could never eat completely plant-based, here are some tips to start incorporating the diet.
- Start by picking one day a week that is meatless, aka Meatless Monday! Pledging to not eat any animal products one day a week is not hard to do. It allows you to start exploring with recipes and finding restaurants that serve vegan friendly options. It also allows you to reflect on how much you are lacking in fruits and vegetables every day!
- Once you get the hang of one day a week, choose an additional meatless meal for all other days of the week. For instance, you have Meatless Monday but you also don’t eat any animal products for breakfast for the other 6 days.
- Find alternative products for foods that you just can’t give up. I love cheese, like love it unconditionally, and I have had the hardest time getting it out of my diet. I started trying several plant cheese alternatives and finally found one I liked at Trader Joe’s. These alternatives help me feel like I am not restricting what I like and I am better able to stick with a healthy lifestyle.
- You don’t have to be perfect, I only consider myself 90% plant-based. I still love seafood and eat salmon and scallops when we go out to eat. That cheese addiction I told you about, yes I still eat regular cheese from time-to-time. As you start to cut out animal products, it will become easier. Don’t expect to wake up one day and decide to be 100% plant-based.
- Find healthy eating-out options. Even in Oklahoma, I have been able to find two restaurants that serve an endless array of delicious plant-based foods. Finding somewhere you can grab a quick meal to-go prevents those hangry slip-ups!