Heart Healthy Diets: The Vegetarian Way
Heart Healthy Diets
Heart healthy diets are low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol, low to moderate in fat, and high in fiber. A vegetarian diet can easily meet these guidelines. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry.
* Here are guidlelines for heart-healthy cooking:
- Sauté in water instead of oil or use small amounts of olive or canola oil.
- Use low-fat cooking methods like:
- stir-frying with little or no oil.
- When baking, cut the oil, butter, or margarine in half and
replace it with water, juice, applesauce, or puréed prunes.
- Replace whole eggs with bananas, tofu, applesauce, or egg replacers (such
as Ener-G Egg Replacer).
* Here are guidelines for heart-healthy shopping:
- Buy more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and, if desired, fat-free milk products.
- Buy snacks like popcorn (air pop and serve plain or with a drizzle of olive oil or melted margarine), fresh fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, and pretzels instead of chips, crackers, and cookies that are high in hydrogenated fats.
- Buy whole grain breads and cereals that are high fiber. Limit low fiber refined breads and cereals and high fat products like most croissants, muffins, and granola cereal.
- Buy fat-free or low-fat milk instead of reduced fat (2%) or whole milk, if you use milk.
- Buy plain fresh or frozen vegetables instead of vegetables in cheese, cream, or butter sauces.
- Use nutrition labels to help choose foods lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and fat.
Heart Healthy Eating Out
* Here are guidelines for heart-healthy eating out:
- Choose foods like pizza without cheese, stir-fried dinners (request that they be made with little oil), steamed vegetables, pasta and tomato sauce, plain baked potatoes, vegetable-based soups, low-fat cottage cheese, and fruit or sorbet for dessert. At salad bars, choose lots of fresh vegetables and fruits; avoid mayonnaise-based salads such as most potato salads and coleslaw, salad dressings unless low-fat, cheese, and regular creamed cottage cheese.
- Ask that dressings and sauces be served on the side so you
can control the amount you eat.
- Talk to the chef and explain that you want foods prepared with little fat.
Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fats
Saturated fats and trans fatty acids are the kinds of fats most likely to cause heart disease. Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products (eggs, butter, cheese, whole milk, and whole milk products), and in coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil. Trans fatty acids appear in foods containing hydrogenated fats like margarine and crackers. To reduce the risk of heart disease, replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats like canola oil, olive oil, flax seed oil, nuts, avocado, soy products, and nut butters. Choose margarine, cookies, crackers, and snack foods that do not contain hydro-genated fats (read the label).
Is Cholesterol Found in Foods Vegetarians Eat?
Cholesterol is found in foods from animals. Eggs and dairy products do have cholesterol. Grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and vegetable oils do not have cholesterol or only contain insignificant amounts. We do not need any cholesterol in our diets since our bodies can make all the cholesterol we need. High blood cholesterol levels are associated with diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Fiber is found only in plant foods. A vege-tarian diet featuring fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and dried beans will be high in fiber. Oats, carrots, fruits, and beans are especially high in one kind of fiber that helps to lower blood cholesterol.
Saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber — Does this sound like too much to think about? Try to make food choices that emphasize whole grains, dried beans, vegetables, and fruit. If you do this and follow a vegetarian diet, you'll find that, without much effort, your diet will be low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.
How Much Fat Should We Eat?
Experts do not agree about the ideal level of dietary fat and, in fact, there may not be just one ideal level. A reasonable goal for most people would be to have saturated fat pro-viding no more than 8-10% of calories and a total fat intake between 15 and 30% of total calories. Fat intakes at the higher end of this range, when the fat is monounsaturated fat (nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, avocado), may be a better choice than restriction of all types of dietary fat. Fat should not be limited in children less than 2 years. After 2 years, children should gradually limit dietary fat so that by around age 5, between 20 and 30 per-cent of calories come from fat. This type of diet should be used throughout childhood and adolescence.
In practical terms, what does 30% or less of calories from fat mean?
|If you usually eat this many calories:
||Your fat intake should be no more than:
||Your saturated fat intake should be no more than:(gms)
|1600 ||53 grams ||17 grams|
|2000 ||66 grams ||22 grams|
|2200 ||73 grams ||24 grams|
The following table shows the amount of fat in many
foods vegetarians eat. To find out how much fat is in other
foods you buy, you will need to read labels.
Keep a record of how much fat you eat for a week or two. Do
you need to change your eating habits?
FAT IN SELECTED VEGETARIAN FOODS
||Saturated fat (gm)
|Butter, 1 pat||2.5||4|
|Margarine, soft, 1 pat|| 0-1|| 4|
|Salad dressing, creamy, 2 Tbsp || 1-2|| 10|
|Vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp|| 1|| 14|
|Nuts and Seeds, 1 oz|| 2|| 16|
|Peanut butter, 1 Tbsp|| 1|| 8|
|Cooked beans, 1 cup || 0|| 1|
|Egg, 1 large || 1.5|| 5|
|Fat-free milk, 1 cup|| Trace || Trace|
|Soy milk, 1 cup || 0|| 3-5|
|Whole milk, 1 cup || 5 || 8|
|Cheese, 3 ounces || 18|| 28|
|Fruit, 1 medium|| 0|| 0|
|Grains, cooked, 1 cup|| 0|| 1|
|Vegetables, 1 cup || 0 || 0-1|
|Bread, 1 slice|| Trace || 1|
|Potato Chips, 1 oz || 3|| 10|
|French fries, 10|| 2|| 8|
|Olive, 1 large|| Trace || <1|
|Avocado, half|| 2|| 15|
CHOLESTEROL IN VEGETARIAN FOODS
|Food|| Cholesterol (mg) |
|Butter, 1 pat|| 11|
|Egg, 1 large|| 212|
|Nonfat milk, 1 cup || 4|
|Whole milk, 1 cup|| 33|
|Cheese, 3 oz|| 90|
|Soy milk, fruit, vegetables, grains
dried beans, nuts || 0|
What About Soy?
Soy foods like tofu, tempeh, meat analogs, soy milk, and other products appear to help reduce the risk of heart disease. This may be because of plant estrogens, called isoflavones, found in soy products or may be due to the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy protein. In any case, in-cluding a serving or two of soy products daily can enhance a heart healthy vegetarian diet.
and Heart Disease
Adequacy of vitamin B12 appears to be important in reducing heart disease risk. Vegetarians with low blood vitamin B12 levels appear to have higher levels of a substance called homocysteine, associated with in-creased risk of heart disease. To insure adequate intakes of vitamin B12, vegetarians who eat little or no animal-derived products should use a reliable source of vitamin B12 like fortified soymilk, Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereal, or a vitamin B12 supplement daily.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and flavonoids also appear to be important in the prevention of heart disease. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, broccoli, and tomatoes. Vegetable oils, dark green vegetables, nuts, avocados, and whole grains provide generous amounts of vitamin E. Good sources of beta-carotene include orange and dark yellow vegetables like carrots, winter squash, and pumpkin. Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, grape juice, and tea. Nuts appear to reduce risk of heart disease.
Simply Vegan by Debra Wasserman and Reed Mangels,
Ph.D., R.D., The Vegetarian Resource Group, 1999.
Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish: 150 Easy,
Low Fat, High Flavor Recipes by Dean Ornish, M.D.,
Harper Collins, 1997.
The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook by Debra
Wasserman, The Vegetarian Resource Group, 1994.
No Cholesterol Passover Recipes by Debra Wasserman
and Charles Stahler, The Vegetarian Resource Group,
Delicious Food for a Healthy Heart, by Joanne Stepan-
iak, Book Publishing Company, 1999.
Lean, Luscious, and Meatless by Bobbie Hinman, Prima
Publishing, revised 1997.
So You Have High Blood Cholesterol..., NHLBI Infor-
mation Center, PO Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824.
For additional information and our full publication list write to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; call us at (410) 366-8343.
Guide to Natural Foods Restaurants in the United States and Canada
I am trying to eat healthier, but what do I do when traveling?
The Vegetarian Resource Group answers this question in
Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Natural Foods Restaurants in the
United States and Canada -expanded third edition- from Avery Publishing Group. The
371-page book, with an introduction by Lindsay Wagner,
describes over 2,000 restaurants and vacation spots.
Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Natural Foods
Restaurants in the United States and Canada, send $16 to The
Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.
Call (410) 366-VEGE to charge your order on a Visa or Mastercard. Or better yet, order online.
Brochure "reprint" from The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box
1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; (410) 366-VEGE. Via email:
|| © 1996-2014
The Vegetarian Resource Group
PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-8343 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 2, 2000
The contents of this web site, as with
all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not
intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical
advice should be obtained from a qualified health
Any pages on this site may be
reproduced for non-commercial use if left intact
and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.
Web site questions or comments? Please email