According to cardiologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a plant-based, oil-free diet can prevent heart disease and even reverse it. Although a vegan diet may be considered radical for some, Dr. Esselstyn says it can drastically reverse the tide of heart disease and other chronic diseases, which he says are a result of the high-fat, nutrient-void diet that so many Americans consume. "We need really a seismic revolution to change the health of this nation—we've got to make a seismic change in what we're eating," he says.
Dr. Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
, says he has the scientific data to back up his claims, too. In one of the most extensive studies of its kind, Dr. Esselstyn says he placed heart disease patients on his diet and followed their progress for 20 years. The results showed dramatic improvement in the condition of all his patients, including lower cholesterol levels, improved blood flow and no further cardiac events.
Dr. Oz talks to Dr. Esselstyn about the basic principles of his simple yet aggressive heart-healthy diet: What not to eat:
What you can eat:
- Oil of any kind: According to Dr. Esselstyn, all oils—including vegetable oils and even olive oil—are to be avoided because they lack nutritional value and contribute to heart disease.
- Dairy: Dr. Esselstyn says calcium and other nutrients found in dairy products can be found in the plant-based diet that he recommends.
- Anything "with a mother or a face": That means no meat, pork, poultry, shellfish or fish, Dr. Esselstyn says.
- Nuts: Generally speaking, Dr. Esselstyn says nuts are to be avoided.
- All vegetables, except avocadoes: Vegetables are rich in natural antioxidants, isoflavones and phytonutrients, Dr. Esselstyn says. Aim for colorful, nutrient-rich vegetables such as swiss chard, bok choy, kale, collard greens, beet greens, Napa cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Whole grain cereal, bread, pasta: Select complex carbohydrates with no added oils, Dr. Esselstyn.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas and other legumes are an excellent source of protein and contain essential nutrients, Dr. Esselstyn says.
- All fruits: Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, fruits have many health benefits, Dr. Esselstyn says.