Swap Some Animal Proteins with Plant Proteins to Lower Cardiovascular Disease

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 16, 2018
Lower Risk for Cardiovascular Disease by Replacing Some Animal Proteins with Plant Proteins

Plant-based diets are credited with preventing, treating and even reversing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. For a dedicated omnivore, plant-based proteins probably don’t sound very appealing. Who wants to swap a T-bone steak for a mushroom-lentil loaf? 

But a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that you can get the benefit of plant proteins while still eating some meat. You’ll need to replace one or two servings a day of an animal protein with a plant protein, but that can help you lower three cholesterol markers for cardiovascular disease. A serving of protein is generally considered: 

  • One ounce of meat, fish or poultry – for visual reference, it’s about the size of a matchbox
  • 1/4 cup of beans – imagine a golf ball
  • One egg 
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter – which is about the size of poker chip
  • 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds

“I’ve been preaching the value of plant-based diets for some time. But many people find a plant-based diet a little extreme. It’s difficult for them to give up their animal proteins, especially in Texas where Tex Mex cuisine and barbecue foods are engrained in the culture,” says Atul Sachdev, MD, MDVIP-affiliated physician in Baytown, TX. “Texas is the heart of the American meat industry, so, many of my patients eat meat – a lot of meat.”

Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 112 randomized studies that involved subjects who replaced animal proteins (meat, poultry, fish/seafood and dairy products) with plant proteins such as soy, nuts, dried peas and beans, lentils and chickpeas for at least three weeks. They found that eating just one or two servings of plant-based proteins in lieu of animal-based proteins a day can help reduce cholesterol markers, i.e., low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol), non-HDL-C (total cholesterol minus HDL) and adolipoprotein B (proteins in bad cholesterol that occlude arteries) by five percent. 

“This research is quite significant because it takes a lot of burden off a patient. To reap the value of plant-based proteins, you only need to swap a couple of servings of animal protein with a plant-based protein like nuts or beans every day. This is doable, even for the die-hard meat lover,” Sachdev says.

Results also found that combining plant proteins with cholesterol lowering foods - specifically soluble fibers from oats, barley and psyllium and plant sterols - help lower the cholesterol markers even further. Fiber is a plant-based carbohydrate that can’t be digested or absorbed by your body. It’s broken down into two categories – insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibers absorb water as they move through the digestive tract, turning into a gel-like substance that slows the digestive process including the absorption of blood sugar after a meal. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat brain, oatmeal, barley, legumes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, apricots, mangoes, oranges.

To learn more about preventing cardiovascular disease, talk to your MDVIP-affiliated physician. Looking for a primary care physician? Physicians in MDVIP-affiliated practices can customize a wellness plan for you that includes preventing and controlling cardiovascular disease. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »


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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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